The year 1996, just around when the Sony PlayStation was gaining ground against its competitors in the videogame market, saw the release of Capcom’s Resident Evil, the game many claim to have started the survival horror subgenre of action-adventure titles. Given the game’s success, it was only natural for other companies to make their own attempts at games in the new subgenre, such as Konami with the first installment of their own flagship survival horror series, Silent Hill. While it does have its flaws, it proves a good beginning to the series.
The first chapter follows Harry Mason as he searches for his missing daughter in the titular American town, during which he comes into contact with and must battle various abnormal creatures. Harry obtains a few melee and ranged weapons throughout the game to take care of the enemy, and while firearm bullets are in some instances difficult to come across (although there seem to be plenty for the handgun, at least on the easiest difficulty), some melee weapons prove effective against foes, as well. Combat works well for the most part, with only a few bosses requiring some special strategy other than dodging their attacks and counterattacking, although it would have been nice, for instance, to see how much life Harry has without needing to go into the menus, and while it doesn’t break the game, the movement system where up moves Harry forward, down backward, and left or right turns him, takes some getting used to, with an option for traditional movement unfortunately unavailable.
Control is superficially decent, with an easy menu system and generous save system with save journals placed at decent locations, not to mention seemingly unlimited inventory for items that’s a nice break from other titles in the subgenre that limit item space, and while the player can ultimately acquire handy maps for most locales, there are many instances where the player must navigate their way through the three-dimensional dungeons without such assistance. There’s also occasional poor direction, especially early in the game, on how to advance the main plot, and in the end, interaction with Silent Hill could have been better.
The first game has a nice story with an excellent dark atmosphere and different endings depending upon actions the player takes throughout the game, the only real hangup being the aforementioned poor direction on how to advance the main storyline. The translation is mostly adequate, although some lines are occasionally bad; for instance, “Huh? Radio? What’s going on with that radio?” could have easily just been “Huh, what’s going on with that radio?” Still, an enjoyable plot.
There really isn’t too much memorable music in Silent Hill, and plenty of quiet moments, although the ambient noise that is occasionally audible is nice. The voice acting is adequate, as well, though the poor script at times contributes to some awkward voiced moments. Still, the aurals aren’t a repellent, but neither are they a draw to the game.
Given that the original PlayStation saw plenty of fully-three-dimensional titles before its release, the first Silent Hill naturally had much room to produce adequate graphics making nice use of the PSX’s visual capabilities, given anatomically-correct character models and nice environments, with the fogginess of most areas adding to the superb ambience the game creates. The textures do show plenty pixilation, but the visuals are nonetheless one of the game’s high points.
Finally, the original game is fairly short, taking around five hours to complete, with a New Game+ enhancing replayability and allowing the player the chance to view other endings. Ultimately, Silent Hill was a fairly enjoyable start to the series, with solid gameplay, an enjoyable plot, and a nice ambience. It does have its flaws such as the lack of maps at times and the poor direction at points on how to advance, but makes for a good retro experience.
+Decent combat and control.
+Great story with different endings.
+Nice replay value.
-Frequent poor direction on how to advance.
-Maps aren’t always available.
-Script is bad at times.
-Quiet most of the time.
The Bottom Line:
Okay start to the series.
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours