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Playing Silent Hill in 2020: 5 Realisations

Written by Ryan Noble

So, here’s the thing… I’m about to temporarily lose some horror cred, but I hope I can win you back round by the end of my explanation. Until 2020, I had never played the original Silent HillI know, I know… What right do I even have to be talking to you about Silent Hill?

My excuse is that when the first game in this beloved psychological horror series first came out, I was 6. Not only did I not have a PlayStation yet, but I hadn’t even discovered my life-long love affair with horror. Even when we did get a PlayStation shortly after, it was a chipped console and I could only play the copied selection of games I’d originally been given. Luckily, this included Resident Evil 2 and Dino Crisis, so my life was changed forever; it also meant that Capcom got their claws and teeth into me before Konami did.

I fell in love with the Silent Hill franchise much later, through Silent Hill 3 and the 2006 Silent Hill film. So, I got there in the end, but it’s taken me until the age of 28 in 2020 to finally get around to playing the game that started it all. Here are my main five realisations after completing this masterpiece.

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1. Silent Hill has aged like a fine wine.

Even now, over 20 years after the game’s release, the experience absolutely holds up by today’s high expectations. I knew I was going to love getting into the world of the game that started it all, but what I wasn’t expecting as a game that so easily captured and held my attention throughout.

At its core, a good story just doesn’t age, and the dark, in-depth narrative of Silent Hill’s world and its unfortunate characters sets the foundation for the beloved franchise that followed. Each character plays an important part in the events of this doomed town, but it keeps you guessing about just how they fit into the puzzle right up until the end – and even then, I still had a few questions I wanted to dive into the depths of Silent Hill forums to explore.

Add onto this compelling story an incredibly tense atmosphere, aided by the game’s signature fog, familiar environments changing around into something new and unexpected, a captivating soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka -- a soundtrack I'm listening to as I type these very words -- and creature designs worthy of the feature role in your nightmares, it’s no wonder that Silent Hill became the success that it did.

2. Holy camera angles, Harry.

Let’s take a second to talk about Silent Hill’s camera angles, because… damn. For a game released in 1999, Silent Hill took it to the next level. Unlike the Resident Evil series, which used fixed camera angles, Konami opted to give control to the player. This meant that the game had to render the environment in real time based on the direction the player was looking and this is where the famous fog was included, covering for the lack of power the PlayStation had in rendering faraway objects. That worked out pretty well for the franchise, didn’t it?

Also, I need to mention one of the few times in the game where the camera angle is fixed, because it’s done so well and captures the trippy nature of the game so perfectly. I was in awe. If you’ve played the game, you’ll know the one I mean…

It might look quite simple now, in the shiny future of 2020, but this is such impactful cinematography and probably quite groundbreaking in 1999.

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3. The film really does it justice.

Video game movie adaptations are dangerous territory and are so easy to get wrong, but after playing Silent Hill, I was impressed by just how well the locations, characters, and overall vibe are captured in the 2006 film of the same name. Sure, the film took some creative liberties, but you can tell it was a passion project for Christophe Gans, and it even includes the blessed camera angle from above. Score.

4. Midwich School is based on the school in Kindergarten Cop.

The terrifying Midwich School, where Alessa Gillespie was bullied by her classmates and ignored by her teachers, is actually based on the school from the comedy film, Kindergarten Cop, released nine years before. Isn’t that strange? I'd love to have been in the room when this decision was made because it feels like a crazy film to model the school on, since it features as such a foreboding presence in Alessa's life.

There are a few examples below from The Silent Hill Forum, but there are even more if you search for them. It’s uncanny. I’ll never be able to see that film in the same light again. In fact, I think I like it more now.

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Click images to enlarge.

5. The world needs another Silent Hill.

I doubt this is a surprise for anyone, but the world needs another Silent Hill game. Even though the more recent games in the franchise haven’t quite hit the mark --infamously terrifying PT demo very much not included in that statement -- there’s so much promise here.

It’s a dark, psychologically trippy tale of the occult and human failings, and the people who suffer from its results. We. Want. More. At this point, with the popularity of the recent Resident Evil remakes, I think people would even settle for a remake rather than a continuation of the story, but for many, myself included, we’re also still hurting from the void left behind by the cancelled Silent Hills.

Rather than focus on that hurt, why not go back to where it all started? I can guarantee that, even now, you’ll be impressed… and scared.

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About The Author
Ryan Noble
Staff Reviewer
If Ryan isn't watching, reading or playing some form of horror, he's probably writing about it. He used to be an Editor at Indie Game Magazine so he has a soft spot for independent creators, especially when they're creating fear. Whether you're one such creator, or a fellow horror fan, let's speak about spooks on Twitter or email.
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