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Silent Hill changed the landscape of survival horror gaming. And it hasn’t finished yet…

It’s nine years since Konami released the first Silent Hill game on the Sony PlayStation. Doom and Resident Evil preceded Silent Hill, but the approach to survival horror had become a little stagnant. A solid story seemed to take a backseat to the shooting and blowing things up that ranked as the most important component of the survival game market.

Thankfully, the Silent Hill creative team changed the rules of survival horror gaming, by bringing what was a traditional narrative to the table. When Harry Mason’s adopted daughter Cheryl goes missing in the creepy old town of Silent Hill, he sets out to retrieve her and bring her to safety. He discovers that the origins of his daughter emanate from the town; she has a dark past and the town to want her back. Unlike some run-of-the-mill titles, survival isn’t guaranteed and the struggle to save her becomes a visceral experience during the game.

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The game has a heavy reliance on its usage of sound and that aural experience creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, full of tension and suspense. Players don’t just get one specific location or a certain level that progresses onto the next stage – in Silent Hill, they delve into something much deeper. Something more sinister. The streets (and particularly the abandoned houses), add their own unique, ahem, charm. The town becomes a character in itself, creating its own mythology.

With the 10th anniversary coming up, Silent Hill has grown into a major franchise, with comic books, five follow up games, mobile phone adaptations, a Sean Bean-bothering movie in 2006 and a sequel expected for sometime in 2010.

The latest game in the series, Silent Hill: Homecoming, places the gamer in the role of Alex Shepherd; a soldier returning home to Shepherd’s Glenn. True to form, his younger brother Josh has miraculously disappeared and Alex must venture to Silent Hill to try and find him. All signs point to a freshness for the format, including a choice between a traditional third person view and a new first person view. Gamers will also be keen to hear there’s a choice of path, which can effectively change the outcome of the ending. Now that’s definitely worth another trek up the Hill…

So it’s shotguns at the ready as Silent Hill: Homecoming gets ready for its UK release in February 09.

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