Review by nintendosega

"If you can get past some frustrating chase scenes, you'll enjoy a very terrifying adventure well worth a playthrough or two"

Shattered Memories is the first time I really sat down to enter the Silent Hill universe. Aside from the movie and only the first few minutes of Silent Hill 3, I really hadn't gotten much time with the series. So it made sense that Shattered Memories, a re-imagining of the first game, was a good place to start.

But I wasn't prepared for how great this game ended up being. From the start I was drawn into the world by some unbelievably great graphics. I'm pretty sure this is the Wii's best-looking game so far. Everything's incredibly detailed and you have the ability to zoom in on anything, and amazingly, the environments don't lose this detail when up close. You can read signs and writing on the walls, you can even call numbers you see in the environment with your cel phone. The lighting system is pretty incredible as well. As you travel through the often dark and snowy environments, your only source of light is usually your flashlight, which you have full control over at all times with the Wiimote. The experience drew me into this world more than any other horror game I've played. Never has control felt so natural or (in my experience,) a game's environments felt so scary. I was sometimes holding my breath as I wandered down these hallways and through this deserted town: there's a sense of tension and mystery and dread in the air that's hard to describe. Shattered Memories has such a beautiful look to it and the controls work so well (for the most part) that I completely forgot I was playing on an "inferior console," and it's a feeling that I wish more Wii games offered.

It seems like every minute of gameplay, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories presents a cool new feature I hadn't seen before. Whenever Harry Mason, the main character, is a passenger in a car, the view turns into a first person perspective where you can look at anything, whether it be the scenery outside or the driver sitting next to you. Same goes when talking to most NPC characters, including your therapist. This seamless blend of gameplay and storytelling is yet another thing that makes this trip to Silent Hill feel so real. There's an incredibly well-done scene where you must escape from a car that's underwater in a lake that's beginning to freeze over, and it's a pretty great example of storytelling and gameplay merging seamlessly.

Pretty much at every turn, there's a cool new use for the Wiimote, whether it be solving the (admittedly simple, but fun) puzzles or the use of the speaker, this was definitely a game built to take full advantage of the Wii. The game uses the speaker in the controller more than most other Wii games, and it's to great effect. Not only does the speaker act as the earpiece for cel phone calls and messages, but as you explore the environments you'll often hear a static noise coming out of the controller. If you approach the place where the static hits its highest frequency, you'll unlock a "memory" of something that took place in the area. These are either in the form of a voice mail or text/picture message. Some of these are very unsettling, and they got under my skin in a very Bioshock-like way. For example, when in a forest, you might stumble across a memory where you hear a father forcing his scared son to shoot an animal. Creepy stuff.

The game is scary but it's not through over-the-top violence or tons of "jump" scares (though there are a few of them in there and I jumped out of my seat a few times while playing), the scariness comes from very psychologically-driven horror. The main character is looking for his daughter in this weird town, but he doesn't seem to know the woman who claims to be his wife, people he doesn't know are living in his house, and the huge blizzard cut off much of his communication. Things just don't seem to be making sense, and this fear of the unknown is much scarier than monsters jumping through windows. The game builds on this unease by throwing pictures of Harry and his daughter on the walls of places where they shouldn't be, or having people constantly seeming to be watching/contacting Harry who shouldn't be able to, I's scary. It becomes hard to tell how much of what we're seeing is real or if Harry's just completely losing his mind.

It's compelling stuff and to tell this story the developers have a very well-written script and top-notch voice acting, as well as some great cutscenes with a bunch of really likable characters who manage to leave a great impression, despite them not necessarily occupying a lot of screen time. The story builds and builds to a very satisfying and surprising (and pretty sad, too) ending that left a huge impact on me, and now I actually can't wait to play through this game again, something I never really felt compelled to do with Resident Evil 5.

What also helps Silent Hill: Shattered Memories' replay value is the fact that throughout the game, between each chapter, the game cuts to therapy sessions, where the events we're playing are being told to a therapist. Here you're asked questions, and you participate in various activities that alter the events of the game. Again, it's a very fresh new take on the genre and adds to the psychological feeling of the game.

So, I mean, pretty much, the game's, to this point, psychological horror excellence. It doesn't need monsters to be scary, the scares come from the incredible atmosphere and music, the great visuals and sound design, and the very eerie feeling of confusion and isolation. Unfortunately, though, eventually the monsters do arrive, and it's here where the game is knocked down a notch.

There's no combat in this game, instead, when the monsters arrive in the "Nightmare" segments as the world freezes over, Harry's only defense is to run. You can find flares scattered throughout the environment, and when you use these it'll hold the monsters off temporarily, but for the most part you'll be hauling ass, busting through doors, sliding under trucks and over fences, doing pretty much anything to avoid these monsters. It sounds great on paper. You're given a point on your map and must head there, facing very fast monsters and a very intense soundtrack, and at first these segments are really fun and terrifying. But as the game goes on, these get more and more annoying. The developers have clearly marked the doors you can bust through by highlighting them in blue, but unfortunately the environments in these nightmare sections become so maze-like later in the game (the hospital being the biggest offender and greatest annoyance) that you'll often find yourself running in circles until you get killed by the monsters, giving you no choice but to start the Nightmare over. (Thankfully you never lose a lot of progress, but it's still a chore.) The map does tell you a general idea of where to go, but unfortunately you have to bring this map up every time you want to look at it, and stopping to do this can be a big mistake, as the monsters will be on you in no time. Frustratingly, the game won't let you bring up the map when you're using a flare to hold off the monsters, so that's no good either. So without a map, I found myself constantly winging it, aimlessly busting through doors in hopes that I was heading in the right direction and not in a giant circle. This is also the one aspect of the game where the motion controls become a big pain, and shaking off the monsters when they grab onto you, as well as knocking shelves over onto their path, are two big areas where I wish the game allowed you a button press option. It's also the one area the game glitched up on me; in the final one of these, the environment for some reason didn't load in, leaving me stranded in darkness and forcing me to start it over. It was only a one-time thing but I have to mention it.

Despite a promising idea and offering a great feeling of intensity, sadly, you grow to dread these segments as the game goes on, mainly due to their increasingly frustrating level designs.

But, thankfully, there are only a handful of these. The majority of the game takes place in the parts that Shattered Memories does best, and there's a ton of stuff this game does such a great job in. It's a very scary experience, filled with interesting characters, a compelling and well-presented plot, a great merging of story and gameplay, and an adventure where you shape certain events with your own choices. It's very, very scary stuff and a lot of fun to play. It's a bit short, admittedly, but it's a game you'll likely want to play through twice, and there are a few different endings to view and some different choices to make. If you can get past some frustrating nightmare sections, chances are you'll really enjoy what's probably one of the most ambitious horror games we've seen in a long time. In an age where horror games are becoming more and more like action movies, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is actually not about the action or epic's about being really scary, and that alone is something worth your time.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/04/10

Game Release: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (US, 12/08/09)

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