It's hard to believe that it's been a little more than 10 years since Konami first introduced players to the creepy world of Silent Hill on the original PlayStation. The game was first released in March of 1999 and offered a different take on the burgeoning survival horror genre by tossing in some trippy psychological horror. Konami is going back to the series' roots with its latest game, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a revamp of the first game for the Wii, PlayStation 2, and PSP.
If you're not familiar with the original Silent Hill, here's a quick primer: You'll play as Harry Mason, a father searching for his lost daughter in the town of Silent Hill. Although this may sound straightforward, it's not. Silent Hill is a freaky place and the locals are a bit off. There are also more supernatural monsters in the town than you'd expect. Shattered Memories developer Climax Studios--the studio behind Silent Hill: Origins for the PSP--is looking at the original storyline as a basic framework. The game is being described as a "reimagining" of the original game rather than a remake. So even if you played the original game, you shouldn't assume that you know how Shattered Memories is going to play out.
The presentation at Konami's recent press event showed off various scenes from the Wii version of the game that offered some hints as to what to expect. The game's interface has been spread out to Harry's cell phone, which lets you access game features such as a town map. You can also make phone calls (yes, you can call 911, but don't expect a ton of help), as well as receive them (from what we saw so far, don't expect good news when you get calls), and take pictures of locales to reveal supernatural clues. We got to see a montage of Harry interacting with some familiar faces from the original game as well as doing some exploring, which highlighted the game's Wii Remote and Nunchuk-powered control scheme.
For those who don't remember, the original Silent Hill focused on the everyman's experience with the supernatural. As a result, Harry didn't have the training or arsenal available to Resident Evil's S.T.A.R.S. agents. Though you were able to get a gun during the course of the game, you were light on weaponry for the most part. This time out, it looks like you'll be deprived of the best friend you could have when exploring a spooky town filled with monsters: a lead pipe. Although a gun is obviously handy, a lead pipe proved to be a key part of your arsenal when you engaged in combat in the original game. The reps on hand weren't offering too much information on that aspect of the game, but they noted that Shattered Memories won't be making use of pipes for combat. The game will instead focus on the survival experience and Harry trying to outthink and outmaneuver the unsettling creatures eager to gut him. The footage that was shown depicted Harry running away from enemies and, when grabbed, shaking them off and escaping. Although we can see how this fits with the game's core "everyman" approach, we're hoping there's more to combat than running away.
The most interesting aspect of the presentation was the discussion on the city and its reaction to how you play. The game will be keeping tabs on your actions in a number of different ways, such as character interactions and various choices you make, and it will alter the city to reflect that. The effect shown in the demo was impressive; the whole city morphed around Harry as he explored the town.
As far as how you'll be exploring the town, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories seems to be tailor-made for the Wii. The remote will serve as your cell phone and flashlight, whereas the Nunchuk will be used for moving Harry around. The remote's speaker will also serve to deliver the creepy static that you'll hear, which denotes trouble coming. The demo also showed some motion-control bits that are to be expected.
The graphics in Shattered Memories are an obvious upgrade to the original and offer a much sharper look. Characters and enemies are rendered in higher detail, and the environments feature some promising stabs at atmospheric lighting. There were some nice ambient weather affects such as snow and the series' trademark fog. The most intriguing visuals bits that we've seen so far are the lack of interface on the Wii and the menacing way that the city morphs around Harry. Despite all of the above, the game seems to be running pretty smoothly, which bodes well as development continues.
The audio in the game should be a highlight for fans of the original thanks to an all-new score from original composer Akira Yamaoka. We didn't hear much music in the presentation but we're hopeful, albeit a little worried, about the new stuff. The first game's soundtrack had some pretty choice moments on it, so we're very curious to see where the music goes. The other interesting addition is the use of audio cues from Harry as you examine various objects, which is another part of the whole immersive angle that the team is taking with the game.
Based on what we've seen, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories seems like an interesting way to revisit the game that started it all for the series. The gameplay seems to be making smart use of the Wii, although we're curious to see how some of that translates to the PS2 and PSP versions of the game. We're especially anxious to see what gets done with the story and soundtrack. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is slated to ship later this year for the Wii, PS2, and PSP. Look for more on the game in the coming months.