Confront your darkest fears in 'Silent Hill'
February 26, 1999
(CNN) -- The creepy video game genre just got a little creepier with the release of "Silent Hill" for the Sony PlayStation. Set in a deserted midwestern town filled with lots of monsters and mutants, this is a game that will challenge and terrify you at the same time. Using shifty camera angles, dark environments, and eerie music, "Silent Hill" attempts to capture the look and feel of a horror movie.
The story behind "Silent Hill" begins with protagonist Harry Mason surviving a car crash only to wake up and discover his daughter Cheryl has disappeared into the night. As Harry enters the nearby town of Silent Hill, he finds that the town is completely deserted except for a strange female motorcycle cop named Cybil. After a short conversation with Cybil, Harry begins the search for his missing daughter.
The streets of "Silent Hill" are laden with thick fog that not only makes it difficult to see but also makes it seem like the monsters are attacking you out of nowhere. Monsters come in various shapes and sizes and strike quickly and furiously. You may find yourself face to face with a screeching prehistoric bird or a rabid dog or even a zombie nurse. It is often the case that it is wiser to run away rather than stick around and get mauled. Every level of the game is played once in the real world and then again in some evil dimension where things tend to get really weird, and really scary. Along with killing monsters, you will have to solve a number of puzzles in order to find out where to go or what you should be looking for.
Moving Harry around can be quite a challenge at times because the camera angles are constantly changing. Most of the time you will be looking at Harry from behind but as you enter certain areas, the camera angle will swing around so that you are looking at him from the front or even the side. The camera angles are used to good effect though and accurately represent the horror film style of presentation. Once you get used to the shifting camera angles, it really does make it feel like you are controlling the action in a dark horror flick.
Shoulder buttons are used to aim weapons, look around and walk sideways. If you are injured by one of the monsters and using a Dual Shock controller, the controller will begin to beat faster and faster like a heart if you are injured and will eventually slow to a stop if Harry is killed. Because there isn't a life meter on the screen, the beating of the controller is a good way to keep track of your remaining health.
Objects and weapons can be picked up and stored for use at a later time and save tablets are scattered throughout the game to record your progress. Because you can only save in certain areas, expect to repeat sections of the game over and over again until you find the next tablet. Items you can pick up include First Aid Kits and extra bullets, things that really come in handy when you are jumped from behind by knife-weilding mutant babies.
One item that is always available and quite possibly the coolest in the game is the flashlight. Casting a realistic, triangular beam of light, the flashlight will help you find your way through the eerie darkness of "Silent Hill". The lighting effects created by the flashlight are truly amazing. They include a beautifully rendered lens-flare effect that occurs if Harry is turned toward the camera. Using the flashlight also adds to the suspense because you can only see a few feet in front of you and the glare from the light will occasionally hide the presence of monsters lurking in the shadows.
Finding your way through "Silent Hill" is a snap thanks to a well-designed map that will often provide clues to help you find the items you're looking for. For example, if you try to go down a street that has been partially destroyed, a big red X will appear on the map to let you know not to try that way again. The map also lets you know where the accessible doors are located saving a lot of time and frustration.
Appropriately eerie music and sound effects match the game's pace and atmosphere perfectly. The music will change tempo and get louder as the level of danger increases. If you are playing on a stereo TV, the sounds of the monsters waiting in the distance will move from left to right helping you decide which way to run.
While the concept for "Silent Hill" is not entirely original, it does do a good job of furthering the horror/adventure game genre with a decent storyline and careful attention to just about every detail. The computer generated introduction movie, although disjoined, is something to behold with very natural looking facial expressions that almost convey emotion. The only real problems with "Silent Hill" are the lack of save points and the sometimes confusing camera angles. Fortunately, neither of the problems are too troublesome and as a whole this game is a real scream.
"Silent Hill" is published by Konami of America and is rated for Mature audiences (17+) by the ESRB. For more information on game ratings, click on the ESRB link below.
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