I’m pretty sure survival horror was disemboweled a long time ago in a back alley by Resident Evil 4 and left to bleed out and die. Resident Evil 4 made a horrendous mistake, though: No one ever stays dead. Hollywood set forth this golden rule of mortality, and it also happens to be an unforgettable virtue within the gaming verse, as remnants of the survival horror genre still lurk about. Silent Hill holds itself steady, prepared to remind you why brutally gutting entire genres is bad business ethic.
Silent Hill: Origins for the PlayStation 2 is a prequel to the entire Silent Hill story, with the focus on the town itself and not with the constant interlopers the individual games follow. Origins tries to give you a better understanding of what started Silent Hill’s downward spiral through the eyes of Travis Grady, a hapless truck driver unaware of how truly twisted the residents can be. The game allows for Travis’ psyche to be poked and prodded for our own fascination and his horrible expense.
All of the classic Silent Hill gameplay is accounted for. You have all of the creepy exploration, the chilling enemies that haunt you around every corner, and still the subtle nuance of psychological warfare the town recreates in the likeness of the main protagonists darkest fears coming to life. Everything is fine and dandy in Silent Hill, as always. The new twists include are intelligently remixed mechanics from the first titles, including the combat system and the Dark World, which play significantly into the main story.
The Dark World is tied quite nicely into how Silent Hill and the place Silent Hill is trying to spring forth from with all of its evil intent. Travis traverses between the two dimensions via mirrors, with all hell breaking loose despite the absence of the legendary Air Siren. When in these dark labyrinths, Travis must solve puzzles, investigate the town’s happenings and generally not choke on his own blood and die. Theses portions of the story were handled very well and ended up lending themselves to surprisingly well-done stealth. The Dark World portions ended up being a majority of not only the game, but the ambience that made the game creepy. The soundtrack stands as impressive, as the mood is never dull, and leads you along at a great pace with suspense maintained, whether you’re ready to take that next step or not.
The combat in Silent Hill is usually quite simple. Hit them, move. This time around, the combat system offers an improv style of weaponry, complete with an assortment of fire arms, knives, blunt objects and even portable TVs! While some of the choices are humorously oversized for pocket storage, with Travis being the obvious incarnation of Mary Poppins’ carry all, gameplay was given priority — and rightly so. I would have expected a little more style associated with the durability and storing of each weapon, but I’ll get to that a little later.
The controls are par for the course, and Silent Hill is known for some clunky ones. The dual analog makes little difference, but the inclusion of the PS2’s dual-shock controller is not taken for granted as far as comfort. The difficulty should have been multi-tiered, as the game felt too easy for me. The best way for me to experience survival horror is somewhere between gasping for air and bleeding to death, so they should have given the option between hard and easy.
Overall, the entire experience builds up to something rather anti-climactic, but this game serves as a lead in after all, so how unpredictable or satisfying could it have really ended? Hoping for a little more, but the anti-climax makes sense with the following games. Which leads me to the one nagging detail I had the entire time playing Origins. The entire play through is so much fun, why am I so put off? Well, I believe it’s porting.
In a very abbreviated version of the story, Silent Hill: Origins is another in long line of PSP ports. This means that the direct translation is directly good or bad. The controls were one of the only things improved upon in the porting process, and that’s because of the dual-shock controller itself. All of the PSP’s limitations become abundantly clear when played on the PS2. Even with all of the awesome enemies, intelligently put together puzzles or genuinely horrifying gameplay, the entire experience is knee capped in the rehash. There was no remodeling done, so even a comparison to another PS2 Silent Hill, like Silent Hill 4, will look depleted in comparison. The pros and cons of the PSP become even more magnified in the enlarging process, and the game will definitely suffer through the eyes of the less lenient.
At the end of the day, I thought Silent Hill: Origins was done very well. I loved it on the PSP, despite my qualms with obviously impossible immersion on a portable system and the fact I think it’s just as cool on the PS2. The game benefits little from the porting process, except to tether you to a dark room late at night. The point is that it’s a very fun game having little to offer people as a repackage is a rough sell yet still a representation of a bunch of good sit downs. I think anyone willing to overlook the cheap cash-in will find a lot of enjoyment in a franchise that still proves scares matter, even if no one is around to hear them.