"Thank God. Another human being."
May 2, 2015 7:14 AM   Subscribe

You couldn’t control the camera, I mean. The Silent Hill video games were blunt and herky-jerky—you, backed into a corner, swinging a plywood board clumsily at two sets of mannequin hips bolted horrifically together, flailing at you. Clay-colored, faceless children grabbed at you in the dark as you tap-tap-jogged awkwardly in circles, desperate to regain some kind of control. The world fell silent for cutscenes, PlayStation glory-era wax-lipped women with empty eyes mouthing hollow dialogue at you from the mist and shadows.

It was all really bad and scary, and kind of broken, and everyone loved it, especially me.
Why Silent Hill mattered.
posted by Artw (57 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I remember watching a friend play the first Silent Hill in his sunny living room in St. Paul. There were about four of us there on that Saturday afternoon, and we were all shaking and whispering "oh shit" and "that can't be good" to each other, and no one was making any jokes. It was pretty magical. Upsetting and unhappy and compelling.

I didn't feel anything similar until, years later, my jaded film aficionado roommate and I got to the climax of Ringu and nearly soiled our living room in horrified amazement.

Each time, it was like the world had changed forever.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:26 AM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

"On the other, I don’t think it’s just tireless nostalgia-as-usual. There’s something more to the reverence of Silent Hill, the particular enthusiasm for the idea of Hideo Kojima as custodian of the bizarre and long-languishing brand..."

posted by Fizz at 7:27 AM on May 2, 2015

Definitely play Silent Hill 2 again. Track down a copy. Wait till the sun's down. Play it alone, or with somebody you can share that sort of thing with.

There were two Silent Hill movies: Visually impeccable, disappointingly literal interpretations of the canon.

I have to disagree with this. The Silent Hill movies captured the audiovisual feel of the games, but virtually every change they made to the plot was an obviously, staggeringly wrong choice that made the film Silent Hills so much more mundane and pedestrian and boring. Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2 means something. He's a visual and behavioral metaphor that is as important as every other element to the grand psychodrama of the game, and he is violent and terrifying and frightening not only because it's scary but because what he represents is also. In the film, he's just a big scary violent thing that's there because he's iconic, but with no understanding of why he's iconic.

Skip the movies. But play Silent Hill 2.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:42 AM on May 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

Vice had an appreciation of SH2 a month or so ago. Good article, lots of spoilers.
posted by jbickers at 7:43 AM on May 2, 2015

I'll miss the ps2 era. It seemed to be that point where dev costs and console ability overlapped in just the right way. Then again, there's no need to cry over this. Maybe we won't get a new silent hill from a big name japanese studio, but there's a million people out there slaving away over a game they need to get out of them in their basement; those people played these games and they'll stay with them.
posted by Ferreous at 7:45 AM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am kind of relieved Silent Hills is no more. P.T. was interesting, but also trollish and odd and apparently not-representative of the final game, which would have required a degree of subtlety del Toro reserves only for his own personal projects and Kojima has never had. It probably would have been a mess.

Silent Hill needed to die with SH2. Keiichiro Toyama (director) had left to do Siren (aka Universe B Silent Hill) and Takayoshi Sato (creator/animator) had left to pursue a career that never actually materialized. And it showed: SH3 is gorgeous and it sounds wonderful, but its story and atmosphere are very flat. The most the series has managed without Sato and Toyama is "interesting," and always only when it's explicitly trying to divorce itself from its own Silent Hillness. Somehow SH3 set the bar, and that was exactly what didn't need to happen. SH3 is kind of boring.

So: I loved these games--they did very interesting things that furthered the medium. They have fantastic atmosphere and music and art direction. They are still some of the most adult games--but I don't need them. I don't miss them. I missed them a long time ago. There's nothing to miss anymore. Things should die.

There was a hole here; it's gone now.
posted by byanyothername at 7:51 AM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll miss the ps2 era. It seemed to be that point where dev costs and console ability overlapped in just the right way.

Reminds me of the original Half-Life- the engine was strong enough to support a lot of experimenting and vision but weak enough that the demands of creating visuals for it, particularly in terms of how detailed maps were, were low enough that a hobbyist could make progress at a reasonable rate. Half-Life saw an absolutely ridiculous amount of modding activity because of these two factors; when Half-Life 2 came out with its shiny new Source Engine, it proved too shiny to be easy to make stuff for without it looking crap, and the mod scene took much longer to ramp up and never produced nearly as much work as Half-Life's mod scene turned out.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:52 AM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I played Silent Hill 2, alone, at night, up until the first time James slips into the parallel universe. One of the first things I saw was a fresco of the Virgin Mary with a hand that breached the surface of the wall and became a sculpture. I NOPE'D so hard. Haven't played it since, don't have a PS2 anymore.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:25 AM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I never played any of the SH games. I've tried Resident Evil 2, but didn't find it that fun. Years later I tried Fatal Frame and didn't find it that scary or fun. I've also tried Amnesia (again - didn't do much, though maybe just a little more scary for a few minutes than the others). System Shock 2, I have, but... Didn't play it at the time so the controls are weird compared to the standard systems these days - and just never got back into it, though I think I'd like it, but wouldn't necessarily feel "scared".

So... If I didn't like these others - would I like SH2? Or is it the case that I just don't get into horror games very much and they don't seem to have an effect on me?
posted by symbioid at 8:34 AM on May 2, 2015

I'll miss the ps2 era. It seemed to be that point where dev costs and console ability overlapped in just the right way.

Final Fantasy X

posted by Fizz at 8:41 AM on May 2, 2015

Silent Hill edges closer to David Lynch, Junji Ito, Jacob's Ladder, Lovecraft, Ligotti, Neco z Alenky, etc. than schlocky monster horror. If you like those things, you'd probably like Silent Hill. Just be careful in what you take on: most things after 4 aren't worth bothering with except for Shattered Memories, SH3 isn't very interesting and the movie is...

Don't watch the movie. Please, just don't. You actually will feel robbed of two hours of your very mortal life.

Silent Hill 2 is probably the best game, and the best place to start. Shattered Memories also wouldn't be a poor place to begin, but it's a very self-conscious deliberate non-remake of the first game. Which has aged like a fine wine--it smells bad, you will laugh at the hammy silly awful voice acting, but you will be cowering in dizzy terror ten minutes later wondering what the hell is coming toward you and why it has no skin and such weird geometric anatomy, holding onto a sliver of diminishing hope that it is friendly. Silent Hill is still very interesting from a design standpoint, too, because of how open worldish it is; it plays like a genuinely unsettling Zelda, rather than a monster hallway. You miss so many things on your first playthrough.

If you end up liking Silent Hill, the Siren series is basically where the main series forked off into. Those feel very similar to the first two Hills, but are as Japanese as their older cousins American, and claustrophobic as their relatives open. 10x more Lovecraftian, also. Cults, critters from between the stars and lots of cosmic pessimism, where Silent Hill is more about a quiet little town where something's just vaguely and increasingly wrong.
posted by byanyothername at 8:58 AM on May 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

I remember spending several days not sleeping much while trying to beat the first Silent Hill before my rental was up. I did it, but I'm not really sure that was the healthiest way to experience the game and my sanity was a little shaken for a while. But all in all completely worth it.

By the time the second game came out I was in high school and didn't play video games so much, but I bought it and played it for a few hours before getting distracted by other things. It's around here somewhere though, so I think I figured out my weekend plans.
posted by downtohisturtles at 9:18 AM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've heard the games are awesome.
I enjoyed the movies.
posted by Mezentian at 9:18 AM on May 2, 2015

Favorite moment (or did I dream this?): walking into a bathroom (never a good idea in a SH game), and seeing my character's reflection in a mirror. Not a problem, but when I moved away, my reflection stayed put.
posted by Mogur at 9:23 AM on May 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Which is more Lynchian though, Silent Hill or Deadly Premonition?
posted by LogicalDash at 9:24 AM on May 2, 2015

Bloodborne has had a number of moments of awe inspiring cosmic dread, even if it is a markedly different game.
posted by codacorolla at 9:37 AM on May 2, 2015

Oh, this series. This wonderful, doomed, mistreated thing. I was excited about Silent Hills but it was so early and the series has been such a heartbreak that I hadn't gotten too hopeful about it, so at least the news hasn't been a big let down.

I came to Silent Hill 2 in 2001, a few years after cutting my survival horror teeth on the early Resident Evil games, and I think it made a big difference for how I approached the game. You couldn't hope to play through RE1-3 without making your peace with the tank-style turn-and-walk-forward controls and developing a healthy miserliness with ammo and health. I jumped in to my first playthrough of Resident Evil while my friend who owned the game and the Playstation was out out of the house for a bit; I was taken aback when, after playing it on my own for an hour or so and feeling stuck, I asked him when he got back how to get past the no spare ammo, no spare health spot I was in and he said "you should just start over." Just throw away your save game, you've skunked it.

I was used to games being hard in a way that lead to clear, definitive failure—if you run out of lives, if the blocks stack too high, if the checkpoint isn't reached, then it's game over, simple as that—but I hadn't really been playing anything that took that approach of giving you enough rope to hang yourself with and then waiting for you to affirmatively decide to step into the noose. Resident Evil didn't give a shit about you; you could either respect the very designed-in scarcity of supplies and play cleaner and leaner, or you could hide in a closet forever because there's zombies outside and nothing to kill them with. It wasn't a nice game, that way, but once you learned to accept it on its own terms you got a certain satisfaction from playing by its rules and winning.

I've never really recovered from the lesson of resource conservation I learned from Resident Evil; any video game with exhaustible supplies and an inventory box is a game I will beat with a inventory box that is crammed full of supplies. Supplies I could have used piecemeal during the game to make things easier on myself, but the value of knowing that I had something to fall back on was greater than the value of getting through the short term challenge more easily. RE made me a hoarder, the perverse video game protagonist who ends up more interested in having bullets than in firing them at monsters.

And so, Silent Hill 2 comes along; I rented it on a whim, having heard of the series but not really knowing anything about it. Hadn't played the original. Hadn't had any specific expectations beyond maybe knowing that it was survival horror, that it was a little Resident Evilish.

It's not Resident Evil, though the heritage is very much there; and more to the point, as a Playstation 2 game, it didn't look like RE 1-3. That was one of those big generational jumps, that was at the time still pretty fresh to me, when graphics took a great big leap with the new console, and so Silent Hill 2 seemed unbelievably visually lush. It looked great. It sounded great. The camera was clever and menacing rather than just pointedly inconvenient. The fog, the silence. It was creepy in a believable way, a horror movie way that for all my love of those original RE games they just never were.

And because I'd been trained by RE to be a grudging packrat, my SH2 experience had a couple distinct aspects to it:

1. I searched goddam everywhere, and figured out just how much I could get away with running away from things instead of fighting them.

2. Because I wasn't busy actively, crisis-level worried about ammo and health supplies, I could concentrate on being worried by the actual content of the game.

And SH2 is a better story and atmosphere when you can pay a little bit of attention to all the stuff that isn't firing in a panic at zombie nurses stumbling out of a darkened hospital corridor. When you can direct your full attention to just being creeped the fuck out, when you have enough of an idea of how to maybe turn a bad situation into a survivable one by tactically fuckin' booking it instead of trying to rambo a crowd and fucking your future progress over in the process.

That's not to say that training on RE is some sort of mandatory aspect of enjoying the game. I just think it may make an interesting difference, to approach SH2 as something informed by the weird influence of survival horror resource management anxieties vs. how it would feel approaching it as a newcomer to that design philosophy. I wonder how exactly it felt for folks who came to SH2 as raw as I came to Resident Evil.

In any case, Silent Hill 2 is definitely the desert island entry in the franchise; I've since played most of the other games they've released, and some are better than others and I'd argue that the first three are all very worth playing. The first one is foundational and is interesting, as a PS1 release, to compare more directly to the early RE games, and illustrates by comparison just how well they used the PS2 to make the second game shine; the third one suffers from being sort of more-of-the-same re: SH2 but still has some great design stuff in it, some creative locations, and makes for a bookend on the story elements from SH1 that SH2 essentially and to its own benefit ignores.

Of the remainders, Silent Hill 4: The Room in particular is interesting to play while understanding going in that it wasn't designed as a SH game at all and was retrofitted for marketing reasons; it's an interesting riff on some of the horror ideas established by the earlier games, and because of its origins has some distinct combat and gameplay mechanics that are refreshing if you're willing to look at them as their own new thing. It's the strongest I think of the post-trilogy games, as much as anything because it's not just a cargo cult rehash of the first three. The halting momentum of the rest of the franchise seems entirely to be defined by a fear of really boldly doing new things with the setting combined with an inability to actually recapture the magic of, in particular, SH2.
posted by cortex at 9:48 AM on May 2, 2015 [12 favorites]

The Silent Hill movies captured the audiovisual feel of the games, but virtually every change they made to the plot was an obviously, staggeringly wrong choice that made the film Silent Hills so much more mundane and pedestrian and boring.

I agree and disagree. I think the plots of the movies, especially the (far worse) second one, do absolutely suffer from missing the point of and strengths of the original games, but I think you can say the same thing for the actual plots of the first and third games, which when looked at too closely in separation from the wonderful zeitgeist of creepiness and existential horror that make the games so appealing are in fact pretty muddled and nonsensical.

Silent Hill 2 is the zenith of the series for a bunch of reasons, but one of them is that it had the sense to tell a self-contained story about a few people's private demons as interpreted through the fractured geography and dream logic of Silent Hill as a location. It's a story about a man struggling with guilt and loss, and the monsters and menace of the town serve that story, rather than demanding attention to the details of some cultish plot to spawn a boss monster.

So I think it's fair to criticize the plots as being overly literal about canon, even if they deviate from the details of that canon in significant ways; it's the general attitude of the stories and scripts of the films that fall into that same trap of thinking that cultish nonsense and cult figures are the more interesting thing going on in foggy old Silent Hill.

Anyway, neither of the movies gets as far as being good, but I think the first one is worth watching for folks who enjoy creepy horror visuals, as it really does do a nice job of capturing some of the better visual notes of the games. There's a few bits where the CGI falls down on the job a bit, but all in all it's a good looking if surprisingly plodding and full-of-dumb-decisions story. I talked about it (and the Silent Hill franchise in general) a bunch with griphus in this podcast episode.

And the second film, Silent Hill: Revelation, is worth a watch specifically for anyone who has played Silent Hill 3 in particular; it draws very heavily on that game for much of its character design and set design notes and is a sort of bizzaro alternate take on that game's plot and the plot of the original game that has all kinds of weird resonances and blatant, unconvincing attempts to shoehorn the game series plots into a sequel to a film that itself wasn't overly worried about the games' specific story details. Plus its got Jon Snow in it! And the dumbest fucking anti-hero redemption set piece ever, with Pyramid Head showing up to save the day for just who fucking knows what is going on there. If you are invested in (rightfully) resenting the use of Pyramid Head in any post-SH2 entry as just That Cool Bad Guy In The Series, you will have few purer hate-watching opportunities than the last ten minutes of Silent Hill: Revelation.
posted by cortex at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

Fully agreed with cortex re the movies. The first one was written and directed by a fan of the game series, and shows remarkable fidelity to the source material while also managing to form a coherent enough story for conventional film narrative. Arguably the incoherence and jankiness of the games are part of their appeal, but I don't think you could preserve those in a movie adaptation and come up with anything remotely satisfying.

I'll concede that Pyramid Head was misused and absolutely did not belong in them, though.
posted by trunk muffins at 10:49 AM on May 2, 2015

I actually kind if liked the first movie, or at least rank it fairly high on my personal ranking of game-based movies, which i guess isn't too high as praise goes.
posted by Artw at 10:58 AM on May 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

My ex-girlfriend, who was normally all about boundaries, would not go to the bathroom by herself for days after watching me play Silent Hill 2. It was awkward as Hell, and both of us were pretty embarrassed by the whole thing, but watching me play that game left her terrified of being alone in a small space.

That, in short, is art.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:09 AM on May 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

As I was watching the PT video in the article, I heard my cat door flip open. Both my cats were with me already. Even beyond Konami's clutches, Kojima's still finding ways to mess with me. I just know he's responsible.
posted by hoboscratch at 11:30 AM on May 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Resident Evil and Silent Hill are such different animals. The only time I was ever really scared playing Resident Evil was when I had to check out an interrogation room in the police HQ. When you get to the back of the room, one of the lizard looking, wall crawling zombies with the long tongue jumps through the two-way mirror. The rest of the time was pretty normal video game stuff.

Silent Hill made me jump once too. The first time night falls and you're in the school a cat jumps out of a locker. The rest of the time I felt like a noose was slowly closing around my neck and was about to suddenly tighten and the trap door was going to drop but it never did AND THAT MADE IT WORSE!. The things that attacked you never felt especially sudden or dangerous but they looked creepy as hell. You knew they were coming but dreaded what fresh horror this thing would be and either the fog or the darkness made things so claustrophobic that you'd be reacting to whatever it was as it was attacking you. The environment started out as "WFT this is not good" and just steadily got worse. But then the other shoe just never dropped but the constantly building tension would freak me out.

My wife was making fun of one of her girlfriend's boyfriend because he was all freaked out after playing this game (we were all in our 20's, mind you). I had to defend him and told her that playing that game will eff you up and his reaction is totally understandable. The first two games were such a crazy experience, "game" doesn't quite capture it.
posted by VTX at 11:45 AM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Okay, well you guys asked for it.

The first movie is quite possibly the worst film I've ever seen. It lifts tons of imagery and music from the games without giving credit, utterly mangles the plot and (not outstanding) writing. It honestly baffled me for a time: there are enough nods to the first game to show that Avery/Gans at least had exposure to it up to the Foggy School, but the writing is so consistently and considerably poorer that I had no idea what happened there. It eventually dawned on me that they probably just skipped the cutscenes.

Silent Hill should've been easy to adapt to film. Just take the existing imagery, music and cinematography, replace the combat with slow, dreamy wordless sequences and polish the script for maximum surreality. Most videogames aren't well suited to film, but Silent Hill is! That's why it's so disappointing that Avery/Gans just treated it like a Video Game Movie and poured on a bunch of genre cliches and utterly nonsensical writing.

There's a platforming scene, for goodness' sake! There isn't even any platforming in Silent Hill! Argh. Don't even get my started on movie!Cybil. She immediately wants to arrest Rose because everyone knows comforting your kid after a nightmare is a sure-fire sign of child abuse. She sacrifices herself in a fight she is winning. And the screaming. And "action." And gratuitous trottings-out of familiar monsters with all the subtlety of, "Hey, remember this guy!" None of it works, on any level at all beyond the lowest-bar fan bait.

Ugh. Silent Hill should be about quietly "off" people who never react to all the weird shit they're drowning in.
posted by byanyothername at 12:02 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Or: at best, the movie and most of the Western games are bad Hellraisers, but Silent Hill was never that and always had much more promise.
posted by byanyothername at 12:04 PM on May 2, 2015

I have yet to see anything in another game that measures up to "...they look like monsters to you?"
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:15 PM on May 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

My younger brother would always try to get the baby of the family to "play Silent Hill with me! It'll be awesome!" because he was too terrified to play it by himself.
Baby Brother always responded "You want me to play this one player game with you? HOW?"
posted by Lemmy Caution at 12:21 PM on May 2, 2015

I'd returned to school for my graphic design degree when SH3 came out, and played it in the dorm over winter break. Everyone else left for vacation, so I was pretty much the only person on the floor. Round about 2 am I paused the game, deciding to go downstairs to the lobby Coke machine.

The brick hallway was lit with fluorescents, of course. The one at my room was the only one not working properly. It fizzed and buzzed, flickered on and off. I walked down the hall to the stairwell, turned the door handle. It clicked and rattled uselessly. "The lock is broken," I thought. "I can't open this door."

I spent the next several hours with every light on, watching Powerpuff Girls dvds.
posted by rifflesby at 1:49 PM on May 2, 2015 [10 favorites]

Silent Hill edges closer to...Ligotti

Yes! They both fill me with the same sense of oppressive dread, a feeling I would not necessarily describe as "scary" as much as "life sapping". I played all the way through the first game, alone and in the dark. Some time later, I bought the second one, brought it home and popped it in, and I only got ten minutes into it (and felt that oppressive dread begin to rise) when I realized I just didn't want to do that to myself anymore and turned it off. Never went back.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:51 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

but the writing is so consistently and considerably poorer that I had no idea what happened there.

This is what happened there
. Unless you're one of the big name auteurs you cannot get a film produced in Hollywood that deviates from the outline of Save the Cat! Studios will not even read your script. If you're going to adapt a video game into a movie you'd better stick to the formula exactly if you want so much as a dime of investment.
posted by clarknova at 1:55 PM on May 2, 2015

"Resident Evil and Silent Hill are such different animals. The only time I was ever really scared playing Resident Evil was when I had to check out an interrogation room in the police HQ. When you get to the back of the room, one of the lizard looking, wall crawling zombies with the long tongue jumps through the two-way mirror. The rest of the time was pretty normal video game stuff."

I didn't play any of the RE games until after I'd played SH 1 and 2. The first one, I remember my roommate playing it and me coming out to see what all the static was and just being delightfully creeped out. The second one was genuinely scary too. But the RE games never did that for me — they were more frustrating than anything else. I think the first RE I liked was RE 4 and even that isn't very scary overall. It's involving and fun to play, but it's not full of knife-wielding babies or grisly terror toilets.
posted by klangklangston at 4:34 PM on May 2, 2015

Silent Hill 1 & 3 are both good games. The town is haunted by a spooOOooky cult, and the setting is indeed spooky.

In Silent Hill 2 though, the town is mostly haunted by you, you piece of shit. That's way more spooky.
posted by Winnemac at 5:17 PM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

My biggest problem with the movies is that, as noted in the article, the games are defined by the weird feeling of isolation and claustrophobic emptiness of the town of Silent Hill-- you wander around down the middle of the frickin' street, following a map you plucked from a hotel and on which you are feverishly hand-noting impossible changes to the geography, and then up ahead in the fog you hear some kind of sound which may or may not be a voice, and you have no idea whether you are terrified of it or not. Whereas in the movies there's maybe three minutes of isolation/fog-wandering and the rest is chock-full of characters conflicting with one another like it's just some dumb ol' story.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:29 PM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Damn, recently there was another thread about games and I wrote a long, impassioned comment about the brilliance of SH2 before I realized it was too much of a derail and deleted it. That game was art.

The graphics have dated, but the story is just so powerful and odd. The woman who played Mary/Maria was amazing. The scene near the end where James is walking down the endless corridor and we can overhear Mary ranting at him during her final days is such wrenching stuff. So real and heartbreaking, in a way you do NOT expect in a video game. My understanding is that the American actors were fighting the game's creators over the script, insisting on changes to make the dialogue sound more natural. I wonder if that has something to do with why the game works so well. SH3 is a good game, but the dialogue is... off. It sounds translated. There's also a lot of stuff about the mythology and the cult, while Silent Hill 2 was powerful because it was all about James and this breakdown he's having.

Those sexualized monsters were just BEYOND creepy, too. A lot of horror monsters have a sexual subtext, but in this game that stuff was straight up text. Remember the first time you stumbled into town and encountered the foreskin zombie, spewing acid? Or those goddamn lady-leg monsters? Remember when you realized Pyramid Head was raping another monster, and you were like, "OK, there is no place this fucking game won't go"?

I always felt like the "In Water" ending (the one where James kills himself by driving into the lake) was the true ending. That was the one I got first, and when I saw the others they felt like deleted scenes. James never gets better, and he never leaves that town. Oh God, with the bubbles in the dark, and Mary's voice breaking as she reads that endless final letter. I get chills, even now.

(No, I didn't RTFA. If I start reading about Silent Hill 2 now, I'll end up clicking around on a bunch of fansites from 2004 and I'll never get to bed.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:40 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

OK, I couldn't resist and I R'd TFA. It was pretty good.

If you'll permit me a moment of supreme self-indulgence, here's my Livejournal story from 2007 about the night I found myself wandering through Silent Hill 2 for real.

(I also went to E3 the year Silent Hill 4 came out, and they had a full-sized recreation of Henry's room with the chains on the door and everything. So I guess I can say I've been inside Silent Hill 4, too!)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:59 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

No joke, I played through Silent Hill 1, 2, 3, and 4 with a friend who wouldn't play them: he'd just watch. I couldn't play alone, and he couldn't stand to play them, so it worked out.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:33 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

In 2001, I read Andrew "zarf" Plotkin's review of Silent HIll 2 and decided that, despite not liking horror as a genre and despite never having played a horror game, I should probably play this one. My dorm room had a tiny little TV and a PlayStation 2, and that was a fucking catastrophe.

Silent Hill 3 can best be experienced just by watching this trailer: the awful characters and the conventional game design are abstracted away into contextless scenes for a music video. The game itself was a poor successor to the months of anticipation before the game's release.

Twelve years later, my wife watched me play through Shattered Memories, 2, 3, and 4. She actually 3 the least, but she actually liked 4 the most, probably for its novelty as much as anything. I think 2 got an unfair representation because, like always, I spent hour after hour beating my head against the walls of the apartment complex because I couldn't figure out where I'd overlooked a puzzle component.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 7:16 AM on May 3, 2015

Also, we have the original Silent Hill, but to this day I have not gotten more than 2 hours in before those goddamn flying monsters drive me away again.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 7:20 AM on May 3, 2015

SH2. Empire. Not a coincidence...
posted by mikelieman at 8:15 AM on May 3, 2015

That only works if Empire Strikes Back was the story of a depressed bogwing wandering through the swamps of Dagobah in a sort of dissociative liminal state, trying to sort out its guilt and remorse and resentment in a fugue of setpieces, and then every once in a while you catch a glimpse of Yoda in the background but you can't quite hear what he's saying and then suddenly a tentacle reaches out of the swamp and pulls the bogwing under and everything goes black and it wakes up in the interior of an impossible tree and there's a transistor radio there.

I mean, I'd watch it, but.
posted by cortex at 8:26 AM on May 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

That wasn't where I was going ( exceptions to the Second System Effect ) but... Yeah, I'd watch that...
posted by mikelieman at 8:33 AM on May 3, 2015

Don't forget Centralia, Pennsylvania, the abandoned PA mining town slowly destroyed by an underground coal fire, which inspired the "feel" of Silent Hill.
posted by jonp72 at 8:47 AM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I need to find a decent way to play Silent Hill 2 again. My disc is scratched, and the game freezes a few hours in. There's that HD collection, but I heard so much bad stuff about it. Like from what I hear they removed that oh-so-important grain filter, removed a bunch of the fog, and went high-definition in a way that significantly ruins the visual intent of the game. That sounds like the exact opposite way to experience this game.
posted by naju at 12:55 PM on May 3, 2015

PS2 emulation is very possible even on fairly mediocre machines now-a-days. I was running a few games successfully on a middling GFX card and six gigs of RAM.
posted by codacorolla at 1:06 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

My laptop is about eight years old and it's juuuuust a bit too weak for PCSX2 to run smoothly. Anything modern should run it just fine.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:09 AM on May 4, 2015

My brother and I played Silent Hill together, I think we were about 14 and 16. He played and I directed. We got to a point, early in, when these goddamn blue babies were crawling towards us, and I freaked out. I slammed my hand down on the Playstation to make it stop, and we both walked down to the library to use the Internet and look up spoilers before we could play it again. I haven't played a horror game or enjoyed a horror film since, and my brother hasn't stopped.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:10 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

As this thread sets slowly in the west, I thought I'd drop in two bits of kind of awesome Silent Hill 2 trivia I didn't learn until years after the game came out.

First, Maria's outfit was totally ripped off from something Christina Aguilera wore to an awards show. (So much so that it totally looks like Aguilera is doing Silent Hill cosplay!)

Second, the appearance of the characters was based on the actors playing them. (Heather from Silent Hill 3 was also closely based on the actress playing her.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:15 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, Kindergarten Cop was set in Silent Hill, or possibly vice versa.
posted by cortex at 3:41 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Pyramid Head is one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen.
posted by maxsparber at 11:44 AM on May 5, 2015

Is there a good plan through video that gives a good idea of the game and atmosphere?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 12:39 PM on May 5, 2015

The genre appeals to me but I couldn't enjoy Silent Hill 2 past finding my way into a dark apartment building and not knowing if I was walking forward or just walking in place against a wall or corner for minutes and getting nowhere. I get that the game needs darkness to work, but. Does it get better from that point? As in, knowing whether you are actually doing something or just pushing buttons in the dark? This reads a lot snarkier than I intend.
posted by rahnefan at 2:24 PM on May 5, 2015

Is there a good plan through video that gives a good idea of the game and atmosphere?

I don't have any specific recs, but I think you'd want to search youtube for "no commentary" let's plays.
posted by naju at 2:24 PM on May 5, 2015

This article goes over why Silent Hill 2 is great and what devs don't understand about it that makes the games that came later mostly bad.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:55 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

TheLittlePrince, I don't know if a play-through is a great way to experience the game. Part of what makes it powerful is the sense of confusion and disorientation you can really only get as you're playing it yourself. For instance, there's a scene in the game where you start walking down this slanted corridor, and it goes on... and on... and on. As the player, this is kind of funny and kind of terrifying. It's just not how games are supposed to work, and the tension builds as you keep going and going. But if you were just watching it on Youtube, you'd probably be like, "Jesus, when is he gonna get to the end of this damn thing?" There a number of places where you're lost or plunged into darkness, and just watching that wouldn't be nearly as creepy.

One of the things that makes the game date badly is that the graphics look especially 2003 right at the beginning, when we're following James through the woods from a great distance. The game looks a lot better when you get up close, with atmospheric lightning. But you've got this kind of flat, blocky, Pitfall Harry look for the first few minutes, and it's crude enough to be alienating. It gets better.

rahnefan, you DID have the flashlight, right? Was your TV contrast too dark? The game is sometimes very dark and that's part of what makes it scary, but I don't think you should be bouncing against walls all the time. Were you using the map? Even in the dark, it will show you where you are and where the doors are.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:01 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Playing it, or even watching someone you know play it (you're basically playing it with them) are totally different experiences than just watching someone playing it on youtube. You get way more invested in the character and the the atmosphere affects you more as a result.

The funny thing is that by making the fog and the darkness so dense they had a crazy short draw distance making it one of the most highly detailed games on the system. You couldn't ever see a lot of stuff at once so what you could see had a lot of detail compared to other games of the time.
posted by VTX at 7:01 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

So, apparently Konami has unlocked Total Dick Mode and has completely delisted the superb Silent Hills "playable teaser" demo P.T., which has been widely praised as one of the most innovative and horrifying video games ever made. Not only can you no longer find it in the Playstation Store, but you cannot even re-download it, even if you've already added it to your account previously. Since the PS4 has not (yet) been cracked, that means existing installations are the only ones still available to play (and there's rumors Konami may force Sony to disable those, too). Consoles with copies of the demo on their hard drives are going for ~$1000 on eBay right now.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:07 AM on May 6, 2015

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