Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Silent Hill

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chris-littlechild - February 4, 2015

Spare undercrackers at the ready, gentlemen. Silent Hill is coming at you.

The late nineties was a great time for the survival horror genre. It was, y'know, the time it began to damn well exist, with the advent of Resident Evil. Sure, purists consider the decrepit likes of Alone in the Dark as the true birth of the genre, but screw it. That was 1992. I've already typed late nineties, and I'm going to keep that original sentence intact like the stubborn bastard I am.

Besides, there's no doubt that Capcom's classic popularised the genre, and the idea itself. It's the defining game, the face of survival horror. And as far as runners up go, many of us in the gametastic world would go for Silent Hill.

This was Konami/Team Silent's first foray into the genre, hitting the PlayStation in 1999. It was a whole new kind of horror game. It was the artsy, Guillermo Del Torro-flavored lingering creeptastic to Resident Evil's straight-up shuffling zombies and in-your-face chewing of... your face. Psychological horror over cheap entrail-leaky slasher. Let's take a look.

This whole business begins with Harry Mason, a regular guy taking his daughter Cheryl to the town of Silent Hill on vacation. As their car approaches the place, they encounter a mysterious girl (demonic, natch), causing them to lose control and crash. Mason awakes in a hospital in Silent Hill to find his daughter gone, all kinds of creepy-ass characters talking about darkness enveloping everything, and goddamn monsters everywhere.

All in all, it's a bad time, and reminds us why we shouldn't just go for the cheapest vacation deals we can find on the Internet. It's like Hostel, but even shittier.

The key here is atmosphere. Of course, the Spencer Mansion has a foreboding spirit of its own, but this is something else. The unnatural snowfall and fog over the town is creepy enough to make all the hairs on your scrote stand on end. Handily, it also helps to hide the piss-poor limitations of nineties 3D.

The whole ‘survival' thing comes in with the main character himself. Our ol' buddy Harry isn't a special ops commando armed to the ass. He's a regular Joe, vulnerable, low on stamina and scavenging for equipment to make it past the monsters. This was the mistake that recent Resident Evils made, making us such unstoppable badasses that they felt more like TPS ghastly-ass mutant shooting galleries. But these monsters, you don't want to eff with.

Silent Hill was a success, I'd say, because it effectively melded the old and the new. There was no HUD to distract from the atmosphere, leaving you to do a lot of menu-wangling to check your health, inventory, maps and such. In that, and the general key-findin', bizarre-puzzle-solvin' action, it's so very Evil. But the nightmarish and supernatural quality of it all set this one apart. Zombies are all well and good, but Silent Hill has brought us a decade and a half of mystery, symbolism and all-round WTF.

What does Pyramid Head truly represent? Let's not get started on that one.

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