Silent Hill has always been one of a very few series I hold dear to my heart. I stumbled upon it accidentally while picking up Silent Hill 2 copy back in my early Playstation 2 days when gaming magazines and demo discs were my only source of information. Even though I had known very little about it I vaguely remembered a video teaser that pigued my interest. I quickly became obsessed with the story, setting, characters, themes, soundtrack and level design. Hence I hurried to purchase all the remaining titles at that time right away (the original Silent Hill, and then 3 and 4: The Room) and I ended up playing them for hours until there was nothing left to explore or unlock. Even though they were all great it was Silent Hill 2 that in my opinion has been one of the most complex, clever and thought provoking titles out there. When I think of my second favourite The Room might be the one. Eerie is the right word to describe the atmosphere best. It might differ a lot to the think and heavy undertones in Silent Hill 2 and it does take a contrasting approach to gameplay mechanics and storytelling but it somehow manages to preserve the Silent Hill vibe. Nevertheless I always feel like it does not get enough recognition for what it is.
When it comes to Origins I remember having mixed feelings towards it. I think it took me two playthroughs to eventually admit I adored the game. While I still think the protagonist, his personal journey and the overall plot itself take a major backseat, many other aspects like level design, puzzles and gameplay are done incredibly well. Areas like sanitarium, motel and plenty of others are fun to explore and the combat is challenging and rewarding. Breakable weapons did not bother me since there is always a good deal to collect and use so if you are an obsessive hoarder you will enjoy it.
The issue I have had with Homecoming is that I find it forgettable. There is not a lot to the game that would make me want to replay and/or discuss and certainly the infamous Scarless boss battle everyone always seem to mention (as I do too because it definitely is a highlight) is not enough. I found it overly straighforward, lacking mystery and ambiguity. It did gameplay better than the first two or three games yes but I did not see it as a huge advantage. I would rather have the quality of the plot and characters rivaled instead since this is where I aways my attention on. The level design is the most bland and lazy out of the whole series in my eyes so I found it very disappointing in comparison to the distinctive design of the early games and after a suprisingly detailed Origins. For instance, how painfully flat and vacant Grand Hotel is when compared to the Lakeview Hotel interiors?
Shattered Memories is an odd title and I still cannot decide how I feel about it. For a long time I had refused to take it seriously. I could not see the point of following a what-if path of events that never took place. However, I kind of like it now. I grew to appreciate the bizarre or surreal atmosphere and interactions with the characters. If it was not for the dreadful chase sequences that do not add anything to the game other than frustration and a very weak way of implementing psychology I would have praised it more.
Finally, I have been seeing mainly tons of positive feedback in regards to Downpour. I would say it is actually getting slightly too much credit for what it is and in my opinion is the weakest in the series. I was not a fan of the gameplay. I did not mind the weapons but the inventory was frustrating. Healing yourself while being chased or in battle is a pain, map could have been more accessible and I lost count on how many times I accidentally launched my weapons in the air. That however is not the main root of the problem. What’s more important is the plot and characters being less than engaging. It almost feels like there is a decent beginning and an ending while nothing fascinating is going on in between. In consequence it did feel like a chore and for that reason I never bothered to replay it.
Overall I really have not been impressed nor fully satisfied with the quality of the recent Silent Hill titles. As you may know a new entry has been announced and I both wish and hope for it to craft levels with more care and style and not neglect the plot in favour of the gameplay. Judging by the playable demo (PT) from last year it might be likely to come true at least in the atmosphere department.
How do you feel about the series? What titles are your favourite and why?