Horror is, without a doubt, my favorite genre of most media. I grew up watching tons of horror movies on repeat, most likely to the ire of my parents, the likes of Friday the 13th and Halloween. Even when I had got a little older, I'd still sneak some looks into the living room when I knew they were watching something scary. This really did influence my tastes in movies and games, as nowadays, I still enjoy horror as much as I did then, possibly even more.
I've known for ages that most people consider Silent Hill to be THE holy grail of horror video games, and even horror in general. I spent time very heavily with the PS1 and PS2 as well, so the fact I had never once played a game for myself mystified me. I could never really tell if the games deserved the praise on the surface alone, so for quite a few years, it existed in the back of my mind.
Once October rolled around this year, however, I started craving something scary harder than I ever had in years. In recent times I've been using my PS3 again as a medium to play a ton of PS1 games, and in my browsing at some point, I had noticed the original Silent Hill was on the store for only 6 dollars. At that moment I had decided to stop letting it evade me, and bought it on the spot, hoping it was as good as people say.
Unfortunately, because of the massively popular status of the series, I've heard and seen a massive amount of some games in the series, but the original game I had somehow managed to stay completely blind with. Having this working in my favor, when I first started the game, the intro FMV had me totally sucked in. It had the soundtrack able to make it quite unsettling, but at the same time, weirdly calming. All I saw flashing by in it made me very, very curious, and I wanted to start ASAP.
I initially started the game in a very tired state, so I didn't get to play much in my first session, only right up to Midwich, but what I saw in that brief half hour was enough to get me hooked INSTANTLY. I've never been hateful towards tank controls at all, but having not used them in ages made me take a while to readjust. In the midst of my readjustment, in the cafe, the first real encounter of the game starts, and boy oh boy did it catch me off guard. Barely having all that much of a grip on the controls and being put within arm's reach of a monster, while the scarring industrial sounds this game calls music blared ever so loudly, that was already enough to raise my heart rate by a fair bit.
I do not want to sound like a "tough guy" in any way whatsoever, but most horror released in recent years does very little for me. I respect and enjoy tons of it still, absolutely, but fewer titles rank high for me compared to older ones. Jumpscares will get anyone with a working heart, myself included, even if there's no tension to back them up, and that's precisely what I feel not too many people focus on. There is practically nothing to get your heart going without making sudden split-second loud noises. Horror that is able to scare you without explicit actions, and keep you scared, is exactly what I want and look for. For the first time in years, Silent Hill was able to present me with scenarios where I felt genuinely unsettled, worried, or otherwise scared for extended periods of time. It's not just "Be scared, move on, repeat", it forms an atmosphere that does nothing less than oppress you at it's worst, but still offers you vague moments of reprieve, with an air of uncertainty still very much present.
For almost the entirety of the school section, I had kept my ears wide open in anticipation for the sound of the radio to signal nearby danger. As a direct result, there were times I swore it was going off, but was in fact just my own mind being paranoid. I was hardly calm when I should've been, and even when there was nothing, I was scared because I THOUGHT there was something. That is perfect horror, in my eyes, and the gameplay does nothing but compliment this idea. I had a valid reason to be afraid of enemy encounters, despite having plenty resources to deal with said enemies the actual means of doing so were far from easy to perform, and could very well do me more harm than anything. There are only two choices, do something or do nothing. You are not in a position where your only option is to run, you are not defenseless, but you are not out here to slay all of your opposition.
Many people I've seen talking about it call the game clunky and at times frustrating to play, but I simply did not see it. I can understand and even agree that it's clunky, but frustrating is very much not true for me. I'm aware people most likely say so due to the later games being overall much smoother and generally easier (for the most part, anyways) but to be fair I didn't have those games to compare with. Call it bias, but I honestly can't think of a major flaw or annoyance that I feel takes away from the experience. Most people weren't specific with their criticisms anyways, so it's hard for me to tell what some people didn't exactly like about it. I've got some nitpicks here and there, such as wishing for an exact health bar to better indicate how effective health items truly are, and some items being straight up useless (looking at you, kitchen knife/axe) due to others you get right after or before them, but overall no super huge complaints.
In the end, I value Silent Hill extremely high, and seriously wish I had pulled the trigger on the series sooner. It's safe to say I'm absolutely going to be playing the others at some point, with Silent Hill 3 being the one I'm most interested in so far. I would go as far as to say that Silent Hill is, without doubt, an essential experience for anyone who enjoys the anxiety and fear induced by horror games, or anyone who just wants to be scared in general, and to anyone on the fence or not giving it much mind as I was, I absolutely encourage at least giving it a shot if you have the means to play it. Easily 10/10, if I had to give a number rating to it.
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