Back to the fog again, for the first time.
MattMattson wrote this review on .
The Bad: Consists of slow combat; Weapons break too easily; The story tends to raise more questions than it answers; Pretty straight-forward and simple boss battles; Character's have lame reactions to what's going on around them; Some game hurting glitches; Weird dialogue and voice acting; Questionable animations.
From Climax Studios and Konami comes the fifth installment to the Silent Hill franchise and the first in the series for Sony's PlayStation Portable under the title of Silent Hill: Origins. This portable tale serves as a prequel to the series, and takes players back to the fog filled streets of Silent Hill, before the events of the first game with intent on showing the reason for all the madness that has plagued this town for so long, and some reason you shall find. You'll discover dark town secrets, some of the towns history and also learn some interesting things about the series' new protagonist. Amongst all of that, there will be a mysterious town to explore, puzzles to solve, along with weapon's to smash, bash, and blow your way through the creepy creatures you'll encounter. While this is a great game, not everything works out quite the way it should, though it does bring some new stuff to the table.
From the beginning, to the end, the story is quite interesting, as it offers a new look at the twisted series' history. Played from the role of Travis Grady, a truck driver who is passing through the small town of Silent Hill late one night, with the intent of reaching the next town over. All is going well until he see's a mysterious girl out in the middle of the road, causing him to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting her. Upon exiting his truck the girl is caught running off and a heavy fog start's to come through. From here on, you'll discover the reason to her appearance, along with many other thing's all leading up to the first Silent Hill game. A lot is told, which is good because you learn more, but bad because the more you learn, the more questions that tend to be raised, leaving you wanting more. Some of the tale also fills out of place or just nonsensical, as some things are left unexplained and almost unnoticed by the characters, as if they are incurious and see nothing out of the ordinary such as the strange creatures encountered, huge holes blocking your path on almost every street you encounter, and certain event's that take place, all of which doesn't really takes away from the mood the game is trying to set. There isn't much of an impact left on the story by Travis like seen from other protagonists in other Silent hill games, despite to coming to some interesting revelations about the character, they just don't feel as epic with him, and maybe even somewhat out of place.
At first glance everything seems to handle well in the game play department on this portable adventure, the combat is satisfying, and the puzzles are how they should be, puzzling and creepy, true to the Silent Hill name. Though not everything is perfect and problems do expose themselves in this category, they are easy to look past. As you explore the town the game is played from the third person perspective, with a camera usually set behind Travis's back. Sometimes the camera will move around from that position, but with the click of a button, the camera shifts back into place with there being only a couple issues every now and then. Sometimes the camera switches between the free camera, to set cameras in the environments, similar to old Resident Evil games, but the camera never really becomes a big problem as in other PSP games that are harmed due to the absent of a second analog stick. Movement is controlled via the PSP's analog stick and is a lot simpler thanks to a more free movement style control scheme similar to other games, rather than the "tank" controls seen in older Silent Hill games. As you progress, you will encounter a number of creatures that can be dealt with through three ways which are, fighting, running away from them, or sneaking past them, and they all work, but not quite as well as they should.
Just like other games in the series, combat is handled in two ways, through the use of melee weapons and firearms. Both areas containing numerous weapons for the players disposal ranging from the knuckles of your fists, to steel pipes and 2x4's, tv's and typewriters, and handguns and shotguns. Melee is overall handled better compared to previous games in the series, as it seems to have a higher focus on that area now with melee weapons lying all about. It would have been nice to include some more moves to use at your disposal. Doing the same moves with the weapons only satisfies for so long before getting repetitious, but it is quite fun to break a typewriter over a monsters head. Though it's the breaking of certain weapons that proves to be annoying.
Melee weapons in the game all have a health bar that depletes from each attack eventually causing the weapon to break and disappear, and the weapons break after not many hits. Lighter weapons like pipes last a little longer then others, while heavy weapons such as type-writers and T.V's are one shot weapon. If you hit or miss your target with a one shot weapon they break. There are guns, and while useful, they're also hard to come by and discarded as soon as the ammo is gone, rather than carrying the gun around and looking for ammo. I'm guessing they did this to keep things fresh by having you always search for new weapons to help aid in your survival, but it's annoying and doesn't fit right because weapons don't break how they should, or even weapons that shouldn't break do, like a Katana or a fire poker. Also, the melee aspect is handled quite slowly, which does not help in the heat of combat as it leaves you open for attack, and there's no way to defend against attacks that you should be able to and no real dodge mechanic but to run. Which movement can sometimes feel poor, as character movement when walking or running is really slow, and Travis's run is more of a slow jog, and he also get's tired after only a few feet away, leaving the enemy on your tail.
One thing worth mentioning is the gun-play, and the finishing attacks that can be performed in a different way to downed foes, with each attack depending on the weapon you are carrying at the time. Gun-play is handled nicely allowing you to walk while aiming at your enemies, as it does an auto lock-on allowing free movement from strafing side to side, along with moving forwards and backwards. Now onto the finishers, which are both a bit more compelling and annoying this time around. As in previous games of the series, when you knock down an enemy, it will lie there on the ground stunned and awaiting to be finished off, if you don't do so it will get back up and attack again. When equipped with nothing, Travis will finish the enemy off with the stomp of his boot to the body, or if your carrying a melee weapon or gun, he'll do one final strike or shot with that weapon. All of this seems more cool as the camera zooms in to put more emphasis on the final attacks. Though while these moves do look cooler this time, like it's predecessors, they also prove to be problematic.
For starters, you usually have to pull off a finishing move to kill an enemy. So it's beneficial to just use the boot stomp so no weapons are further damaged, as no matter which method the move is performed, it only takes one to make a kill. Also what doesn't help is some of the finishing moves tend to look less effective then the ways you'll actually bring them down with. This makes things quite annoying if you just unloaded a crap load of shots into a creature, then watched it get up because you didn't finish it off in time, forcing you to bring them down again. One of the real problems with this when numerous enemies are around. When this happens you'll sometimes be unable to use the finishing attack because glitches occur sometimes which don't let you. What ends up happening from that is, you tend to be left open to enemy attacks while then the downed enemy rises back up, because you did not finish it in time.
As an alternate attack from an enemy, it may grab you if it's close enough. If this happens, it will then open up a quick time event similar to Resident Evil 4's quick times, where you grapple with the enemy pressing the on-screen buttons as they pop up. Press it accordingly and you fight the enemy off and escape un-harmed, but fail and you'll take damage for it. Though this proves to be annoying, as they tend to grab you a lot, forcing you to repeat the same animation and button sequences you just got done doing. Being attacked by enemies causes your health to drop. Thankfully though, unlike previous games in the series, keeping an eye on your health is a lot easier this time around. When health is brought down, the screen tends to vibrate and pulse the more you are hurt, and Travis will tend to look weaker.
When hurt, you can take the chance of dieing, or heal. When death is met, you can either, return to the main menu, load one of your save files to restart from, or continue. Though to continue pretty much just loads your last save file as selecting to load could do, making it kind of pointless and misleading. Save points are spread out through the game through weird symbol markers. To prevent death, health items can be used, any obtained health packs will be in the game's item screen.
There are two types of item screen, regular and in-game. When the regular item screen is accessed, the game is paused, allowing you to go through your items, weapons, and health, and select or equip them as desired, and everything is sorted into appropriate categories. During this screen, you are safe from the possibility of being harmed by enemies, allowing you to navigate it easily. But if that doesn't suit you and you want something a little more faster and on the fly, you can use the quick item system. This works through use of the directional buttons, which then brings up a small screen of your inventory in-game. This allows you to select things while moving through the game, while also having vulnerable to attacks, creating a heightened state of awareness.
If the fighting approach doesn't work out for you, then you can always sneak your way through the area. As a series regular, the flash light and the radio make a return, both having the same effect as in previous installments. Having the flashlight on in dark areas will allow you to see your way through the dark and to see items you can pick up, but at a cost. Having the light on attracts the attention of any near by enemies, causing them to come after you. Turn the light off however, and your able to sneak by them as they're blind to your presence, so long as you don't try to walk to close to them.
However, having light off comes at a couple costs. For starters, it's harder to see your way through the environment. Also, Travis can't see items to pick up even if you can, which can be annoying but makes some sense I guess, even if he should be able to see what you see. To help out with situations where enemies lurk about is the radio. For whatever reason, whenever you approach an enemy your radio emits static. The closer you are and the more enemies around determines the volume of the static, but don't worry, enemies for whatever reason can't hear this noise.
Throughout your adventure you will deal with different kinds of freakish enemies, though sadly there's not much of, and all of which you may find more convenient to just run from, rather than stay and deal with them. However, you'll encounter a handful of boss battles, all of which are creepy, scary, and inescapable. They all give a creepy presence and do a good job to put you in high alert when facing them, until you actually start to deal with them. These big scary baddies are dropped like a bad habit. Their easy to defeat and only slow you down, which is a shame because the battles could have had more to them, but they don't.
You can pretty much get by firing at the boss's the whole time without much worry. These battles are the most hyped, from the way they look, and from the purpose of them being there, which is a shame though. They all end up just being a big disappointment, as you tend get more of a challenge from fighting the 5 or 6 standard enemies encountered in the game. Besides fighting, you'll be exploring. To help with that, the good old map system from previous games makes a return. Still used the same way as in it's predecessors, pretty much everything you do in regarding to going through doors, dealing with puzzles, and finding objectives, all being marked down.
There are about four or five main areas you will explore in this game, and in it, besides the above mentioned, you will stumble across one of the best aspects of the game, the puzzles. Like previous games in the series, the puzzles are usually required to get a key to gain entrance to the next area. They are handled really well and are set up nicely, and they can be appropriately challenging too, making you feel that much more satisfied when you figure it out. It's all works good, with the only drawback being that they will have you doing some back tracking. However to help with this, the mysterious rust plagued alternate world that the Silent Hill series is known for makes a return, with a slightly different take on it.
"The Otherworld" as it is called, is now freely traversed at your own will, all through the use of mirrors, rather than being randomly thrown into the dark nightmare of a world as before. When you encounter a mirror, the reflection of the environment will resemble the opposite world you are currently in, and with the push of a button, that world can be entered. This helps to make back tracking feel less like a chore and makes puzzle solving more interesting. For instance, when in the normal world you may encounter a locked door, however enter "The Otherworld" through a mirror, and you may then be able to get through that door. This system allows you to get to the next area and maybe eventually unlocking the locked doors encountered back in the normal world and maybe more, thus creating more rooms to explore. It's an old formula that's slightly tweaked, and the game does however tend to feel a bit too linear, due to the shortage of environments compared to previous games, and the game it's self is quite short. Despite this though, it's still able mix things up enough to feel interesting for your first time through.
One thing that is still the same in this iteration is the sound, which is a great thing. From the static of the radio, to foot steps, to the sounds of monsters, and the music played as you go through the game, done brilliantly once again by famed Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka, almost everything works to complement the dark and anonymous world of Silent Hill from beginning to the end, with only one downfall. Voice acting is uninspired, and the voices themselves don't necessarily sound bad, they just sound as if they're bored to be there, and the dialogue they speak doesn't sound any better. They sound unsurprised by things going on in the town, like monsters for instance. I mean if there were monsters everywhere, I'd be terrified, and I'd probably sound it too, instead of making it sound like this is a normal everyday thing, treating it like a boring chore. I will say that some of the voice acting is done nicely, as sometimes throughout the game, weird moments will occur to expand on the story which sound really creepy, and a couple times they snuck up on me so well, that they literally made me jump.
Graphically, this game looks really nice, and I don't mean nice as in sunshine and rainbows, this game has the sick and twisted looks it should, keeping you on your toes. All the creatures are designed really well and look horribly creepy, lighting is superb, the fog as it floats through the streets present an mysterious look to them, and the environments look really well, and the very few FMV's look wonderful, all granted that this is on the PSP. Character models look ok, but could have used some work, as they look slightly blocky and their animations look too stiff. Really the only the complaint here is being the animations, such as when ever Travis moves it looks like he's trying not to and when he walks or run's, he can tend to appear like he trying to hold back a violent amount of diarrhea from spilling out of his bowels. Monsters however look great as they lumber and twitch their way towards you. That's right, the Silent Hill monster twitches are back, and no matter how many times it's seen, it does it job of looking incredibly creepy.
Another problem with this game is that it is really short. It's likely that you'll complete this game your first time through in under five hours, to put it's length in perspective, one of the games achievements requires you to finish the game in under two hours. However what helps save this game is that it has some replay value. As said, this game has it's own achievements, in the form of accolades as they are called, where you'll earn an accolade for completing certain tasks, which will also unlock little in-game extras like new costumes, different flashlight skins, and other things. Another cool thing is, this game, like its predecessors, includes a couple interesting endings, which occur based on your actions throughout the game, except for one odd thing, the game gives you a default ending your first time through, not allowing the other endings to be seen, unless you play through again. As weird as that is, it works ok I suppose, as the game does not really offer actual story choices to be made during its short length, as the endings are achieved by other means.
Overall, Silent Hill: Origins provides a fun portable adventure worth having, especially to any fans of the series or genre. It stays true to a well known formula, though not adding whole lot new, it doesn't take much away either. Despite it having some story issues, a really short length, and some little gameplay problems, there's still a great game here. It helps wrap up some long asked questions in regarding the plot and puts things into a better perspective, especially for the first entry in the series. If your looking for a quick scare and a good game on the PSP, then this is a game worth picking up.
8 out of 10