By busted1der 0 Comments
After hearing Giant Bomb's Game of the Year 2009 Deliberations (or rather hearing Brad sway the whole panel on the Wii Game of the Year discussions by spoling the ending), I knew I had to play the game. About a year ago, I picked up the game for eight dollars at my local game store (Gamecycle, pictured on the right) and it immediately got thrown on the shelf, where many games sit to never be played. I had never intended to play the game until three weekends ago.
For a little context here, I moved away from home about six months ago to take a job in a city two hours from my hometown. I come home about 1-2 weekends, so I actually acquired a second Xbox 360 from a friend who was selling it on the cheap ($220 for a 4GB system with Kinect and 5 games that only been used a few times). I was playing through Tomb Raider at the time and had placed my save game on Xbox 360 Cloud Saves. As many of you have probably experienced, the service is sometimes unreliable in spots and when I went to pick up where I left off in Tomb Raider on my "hometown" Xbox, the save that was loaded by Cloud Saves was hours behind where I had left off. I guess I wasn't playing Tomb Raider that weekend! I usually don't play a ton of games on my weekends back home, but there's usually 2-3 hours of games played on Saturday mornings, when my folks are out doing their Saturday morning routines immediately after I wake up.
So with the wind removed from my sails, I looked for a game to play. Most of my newer/unplayed 360 games and PS3 games are at my new place, so I had Wii and previous generation games to play. As I stared at my Wii Library (I think I have about 25 games for the Wii, mostly first-party), I couldn't help but remember Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Brad (I actually thought it was Patrick at first - but remembered he didn't join the site until much later) had urged the crew to take some time off-mic to discuss the big twist at the end (before GOTY deliberations were as spolier-ific as they are now) and that's something that I didn't forget. I popped in the game and started playing.
The 2009, Climax Studios-developed Shattered Memories is a re-imagining of the original Silent Hill and my first entry into the franchise. I literally hate horror. I don't watch horror films/TV and I usually stay away from horror games (although I really did enjoy Dead Space 1 & 2 and Resident Evil 4) but Patrick's new mantra of stepping outside of your "gaming comfort zone" was the last push I needed to jump into the game.
I started playing and I didn't know what to think. I didn't realize that the visual style was an artistic choice and immediately said: "...man, this game looks so shitty." I didn't know that the game was actually more of an adventure game, so was a little bit disappointed (although, of late I have given adventure games a try as well). To top it all off, the chase sequences were clunky and the absolute worst part of the game. By the back half of the game, I was just doing them without looking at the map, just hoping that I would find the path to get to the next objective. During the course of playing, I literally heard my good friend, Mike (roofy on GiantBomb), in the back of my head saying: "Jacob, you are such a mainstream gamer! Give it a shot!" But over the course of the next three weekends I was back in my hometown, I would play Silent Hill: Shattered Memories despite feeling like I was wasting my time.
The biggest upside to me, was the interactive bits of the narrative. Sitting in the psychiatrist's chair, playing the "mind-games" with the good doctor was great. The one that spoke to me the most was the sex minigame. The good doctor asks you to separate a set of images into sexual and non-sexual. Once you do so, he draws a line of comparison between sex and death. In my game, he did it by grabbing a circular card from the table, but in this clip, he pulls an entirely different card that looks like a crashed car.
I finished the game yesterday and up until the last fifteen minutes of the game, I was just clawing through a mediocre game to get to the "big payoff" at the end. As Harry Mason swims towards the lighthouse, it's then I realized that the game was coming to an end. It felt very much like one of the final scenes in God of War 3 (you know, that weird sequence near the end where he's running around the dark with the lantern). I honestly wasn't prepared for the big twist that was coming.
Throughout the whole game, there were certain pieces of information that were foreshadowing the ending: the car crash at the beginning, when the police officer, Cybil, tells you that the real Harry Mason died in a car crash eighteen years ago and even two minutes before the end sequence when you were swimming and saw a limp body outside of a car crash under the water near the lighthouse. I didn't see the ending coming. As my flashlight shone on the front window of the psychiatrist's office, my jaw literally hit the floor. "You mean, this whole time I wasn't actually playing as Harry Mason... but as the daughter... the one that I have been chasing after for the whole game?" Holy shit. That's so meta.
Right after I beat the game I spent about an hour yesterday, watching YouTube clips, reading forum posts and watching the GiantBomb Quick Looks of the game to try and find out more about it. It's there I learned that every single thing I did in the game had an effect on even the smallest pieces of the game. This point is solidified by Brad in the GOTY Quick Look of the SH:SM.
A few minutes in, he realizes that the front door scene with the older couple that's living in Harry Mason's old house is actually way different than the first time he played the game. I laughed when I first saw this before the game's title screen, but I guess the game wasn't kidding:
This piece of the Dale North's review on Destructoid kind of summarizes my feelings about this game (especially the part about glazing over the gameplay decision):
"While Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a total departure in every way from what Konami proper had started, it manages to reinvigorate the series. This "re-imagining" could have been a story rehash, instead we get a brilliantly deep game with subtle subtext and surprising symbolism. It's deep enough that some may glaze over the reasons behind the game play decisions and story elements, which were, again, brilliant. It focuses on the horrors of the human mind and gets away from the tired ghost story, making for a story much more involving and disturbing than recent Silent Hill titles. A lovingly crafted story draws you in and then wows you with a surprise ending that leaves a lingering fascination. And chills. I'm still thinking about it. From one die-hard Silent Hill fan to another, this is a true Silent Hill game. A better Silent Hill game. Do not miss this game."
How did you feel about Silent Hill: Shattered Memories if you played it?