|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Resident Evil, Capcom's action-adventure series, took the gaming world by storm, yet there have been few "me-too"'s since then. With Silent Hill for the Sony PlayStation, Konami is one of the first to produce such a clone.
While Harry Mason is driving through the resort town of Silent Hill, he swerves to avoid a woman in the road, and crashes. When he comes to, he finds not only is his daughter missing, but the town is deserted, and overrun by strange monsters. In his quest to save his daughter, Harry will lose himself between this dimension and another, a dark mirror of our own world, as the line between the two realities begins to blur and fade.
The main difference between Silent Hill and Resident Evil is the camera work: whereas Evil's was fixed, Hill's is dynamic, following the action wherever it may go. There is no manual control, and though it sometimes still automatically jumps from one spot to another, it creates the environment effectively.
Rampant fogging and darkness obscure much of the game; when running along the street, day or night, Harry can barely see a few feet in front of him. But when visible, the graphics are good — not quite as picturesque as Resident Evil, but more gritty and realistic.
Many locales are unlit and require Harry's flashlight to be explored. This feature plays freakishly on the gamer's worst nightmares of what is just beyond the light's range, hearing something without seeing it… The flashlight does not effectively reveal what is overhead, making it difficult to protect oneself from unseen flying monsters.
Some top-notch computer-generated video sequences introduce new characters. Though little of significance occurs in these too-short moments, they are of remarkably high quality.
The music plays to the game's dark mood, but often remains silent and letting distant footsteps, dripping water, or chiming clocks creating the atmosphere. The voice acting is hokey — better than Resident Evil, but not as good as its sequel.
Gamers familiar with Resident Evil's controls will pick up Hill's almost immediately, as the two are nearly identical. Our hero walks, runs, strafes, aims, fires, and examines with ease. All functions can be configured from the options screen. When shooting enemies, Harry sometimes targets those nearby, but it's difficult to tell when, or to choose a specific target from a horde.
And hordes they are! Later in the game, the grotesque appear in numbers, while ammunition becomes more and more sparse. Discretion is often the better part of valor.
Not all threats are so direct. Hill uses some insidious, and often, downright twisted, tactics to scare the player and produce paranoia.
Progress can be saved only at specific points, but as often as one wishes. It shouldn't take a skilled adventurer anymore than 8-10 hours to finish his quest.
To be brutally honest, Silent Hill is a Resident Evil rip-off — one that's just as good as its predecessor, only with a more horrific theme. Next time you're looking for a good fright, turn out the lights, but instead of "Poltergeist", pop in Silent Hill — it's a scream.
This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 01-Mar-99