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Overview

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Silent Hill is a third-person survival horror game developed by Team Silent and originally published by Konami for PlayStation in 1999. Set in the eponymous fictional American town of Silent Hill, the game follows author Harry Mason as he searches for his missing adopted daughter and unravels the small town's darkest secrets along the way. Unlike prior survival horror titles such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill shifts its focus away from jump scares and "B movie" elements to emphasize the game's foreboding atmosphere and psychological horror aspects. The original Silent Hill was a critical and commercial success and went on to spawn a long-running game franchise, as well as a film adaptation released in 2006.

A reboot/reimagining of the original Silent Hill titled Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was released for Wii, PS2 and PSP in December 2009. While the reimagined game's plot is different and features several new characters, Shattered Memories also retains the familiar cast of characters seen in the original Silent Hill.

Gameplay

Silent Hill uses the survival horror template popularized by the Resident Evil franchise for its basic gameplay; players must keep Harry Mason alive through a series of hostile environments by making effective use of limited resources such as ammunition and healing items. Harry must also solve puzzles and defeat several boss characters to progress through the game's story, which is mostly presented through both in-engine and pre-rendered cutscenes.

Controls

Players use tank controls to maneuver Harry from a third-person perspective as he explores the town of Silent Hill; however, the game's environments are modeled in full polygonal 3D as opposed to the pre-rendered backgrounds which were more common among its contemporaries in the genre. Thanks to its 3D engine, the player also has limited camera control and can press L2 in most areas to reorient the camera angle towards the direction Harry is currently facing. Like many later PlayStation titles, Silent Hill also supports the DualShock controller's left analog thumbstick for character movement.

Taking aim at an
Taking aim at an "Air Screamer"

Holding the Square button while moving allows Harry to run; he will become short of breath after sprinting for an extended duration, but this has no effect on gameplay. Harry can side-step left and right with L1 and R1 or perform a quick 180-degree turn by pressing both buttons at once. Pressing Down and Square simultaneously causes Harry to hop backwards a short distance, which can be useful for dodging certain enemy attacks. The X button examines objects of interest near Harry, including items and weapons that can be picked up and stored in the player's inventory; this button also allows Harry to kick damaged and prone enemies in order to finish them off.

If Harry has a weapon equipped, holding R2 readies the weapon and (if auto-aim is enabled) locks-on to the closest nearby enemy, after which pressing X will execute an attack. As a civilian with no formal combat training, Harry's accuracy with firearms is far from flawless and he will sometimes miss his target. The player's ability to accurately shoot enemies is affected by several factors, such as visibility and whether Harry is moving or standing still.

The Circle button is used both to cancel out of menus and to toggle the flashlight in Harry's chest pocket on or off. Although being able to see in dark areas is obviously important, keeping the flashlight turned off minimizes enemies' awareness of Harry, potentially allowing players to avoid unwanted encounters. Once the map of a particular area has been acquired, pressing Triangle allows players to view that area's map. Finally, the Select button opens Harry's inventory, while the Start button pauses the game. Silent Hill's default controls can be reconfigured in the Options menu.

Story

A gore-splattered alleyway
A gore-splattered alleyway

"The fear of blood tends to create fear for the flesh."

-Silent Hill's opening FMV

Silent Hill begins with an introductory full-motion video presented in the style of a television series' opening credits. The video displays various scenes and characters that appear over the course of the game; these are intercut with shots of author Harry Mason and his young daughter Cheryl as they travel by car along a dark and winding hillside road towards the small town of Silent Hill, Cheryl's favorite vacation spot.

As Cheryl naps in the car's passenger seat, Harry notices a police motorcycle unit driven by a female officer as it overtakes and passes his car. A few minutes later, Harry spots the officer's motorcycle abandoned along the road. After catching a sideways glance at the bike, Harry turns forward just in time to see the figure of a young woman step into the middle of the road and directly into the path of his car. Harry frantically swerves to avoid her, causing his vehicle to spin out before careening off the road and down the hillside.

Old Silent Hill

Some time later, Harry awakens inside his crashed car with the passenger door ajar and Cheryl nowhere to be seen. Collecting himself, Harry exits the vehicle and stumbles out into the foggy streets of Silent Hill to find his daughter. He immediately notices that snow is falling out of season and that the town itself appears to be completely abandoned. Following the sound of footsteps, Harry spots Cheryl through the fog and calls out to her, but she fails to respond and runs off into a residential alley. A confused Harry pursues Cheryl into the alleyway as the town suddenly turns very dark, forcing him to strike a match for light. His immediate surroundings soon become twisted and hellish as he winds between segments of rusted barb-wire fence caked with gore and what appear to be human remains. Realizing that he and his daughter are in grave danger, Harry tries to escape the alley only to be set upon by a group of diminutive knife-wielding creatures that trap him and repeatedly slash his flesh until Harry succumbs to his wounds.

Harry meets Cybil inside the diner
Harry meets Cybil inside the diner

The next scene shows Harry awakening inside a diner from what appears to have been a nightmare. Also present in the diner is the female police officer Harry saw earlier on the road, who approaches Harry and questions him about what he knows regarding Silent Hill's current bizarre state. After Harry pleads his ignorance as a simple tourist, the woman introduces herself as Cybil Bennett, a patrol officer stationed in the nearby town of Brahms. Harry asks Cybil about his missing daughter, but unfortunately Harry is the only other person Cybil has encountered within Silent Hill. She also confirms that all telephone lines in town are dead and even radios appear to be non-functional, prompting her to return to Brahms for additional reinforcements. Cybil warns Harry to stay indoors for his own safety, but he refuses to leave Cheryl alone to fend for herself. The officer lends Harry one of her service pistols for protection before leaving the diner, promising to return to Silent Hill with help as soon as possible.

Before heading out into the streets himself, Harry hears unusual static emanating from a pocket radio sitting on one of the diner's tables. When he approaches the radio, the windows suddenly shatter and a human-sized flying creature swoops inside to attack Harry, who manages to kill the abomination with his new handgun. Recognizing a link between the monster's presence and the sound of static, Harry grabs the radio along with a few other useful items before striking out to find Cheryl.

Map of Old Silent Hill
Map of Old Silent Hill

Harry first decides to check the residential alley from his "dream" for possible leads on Cheryl's whereabouts. More hostile creatures roam Silent Hill's fog-shrouded streets, requiring Harry to avoid or kill the monsters as he makes his way north to the alley. Here he discovers Cheryl's sketchbook and the words "To School" scrawled upon one of its pages. Consulting a town map he acquired at the diner, Harry concludes Cheryl has traveled to nearby Midwich Elementary School. He soon discovers the road leading south towards the school is inaccessible except by passing through one particular townhouse on Levin Street; however, its back door is secured by three peculiar locks which can only be opened with three keys scattered around the "Old Silent Hill" district of town.

Harry locates each of the three "Keys for Eclipse" by referring to a marked map pinned to the townhouse's wall and exits through the dwelling's rear door, only to witness Silent Hill once again suddenly grow very dark. Making sparing use of his flashlight, Harry picks his way through the monster-infested darkness and finally reaches the school.

Midwich Elementary School

Midwich Elementary's pitch-dark interior offers little respite for Harry as he searches its classrooms, which are occupied by the same unsettling "Grey Children" that attacked Harry earlier in his dream. After solving the school's resident puzzles, Harry retrieves two medallions that open the doors of a clock tower located in the school's courtyard. He descends a ladder inside leading to an underground tunnel, where he climbs a second ladder on the opposite side leading back above ground. After emerging from the clock tower's basement, Harry finds himself seemingly back in the school's courtyard during a rain shower. However, he soon notices a strange circular symbol inscribed on the ground that wasn't present before.

Reentering the school hallways confirms Harry's suspicions: just as in his dream, he has somehow crossed into an "alternate" Midwich Elementary that has been twisted into a rusted and blood-spattered nightmare version of itself, complete with deadlier insect-like enemies. Though he is disoriented by the strange-yet-familiar area, Harry weaves through the reality-bending hallways of the alternate school and eventually encounters a ringing telephone. Lifting the receiver, Harry briefly hears Cheryl's panicked voice on the other end before the line goes dead. He steels his resolve and presses ahead before finally reaching the school's boiler room; here he fights the Split Head, a large man-eating creature resembling a lizard. Once the monster has been dispatched, Harry suddenly finds himself back inside the "normal" school's boiler room, where he catches a brief glimpse of the young woman he saw during his car accident before she vanishes like a ghost.

Still no closer to finding his daughter, Harry exits the school and hears a ringing church bell. He decides to follow the sound of the bell to its source at the nearby Balkan Church, where he is greeted by a strange-looking woman named Dahlia Gillespie. Dahlia claims his arrival was foretold and asks Harry if he wants to find "the girl". After dispensing some very cryptic advice, Dahlia hands over a pyramid-shaped artifact she refers to as the "Flauros," telling Harry to "make haste to the hospital" before exiting the church herself. Though he is perplexed by Dahlia's words, Harry is able to reach Silent Hill's central shopping district by using a key to the drawbridge leading east across the river.

Several humanoid monsters terrorize Harry as he explores Central Silent Hill, including its police station; based on some case files found inside the station, it becomes clear the local police had been investigating an illegal drug operation in town involving a hallucinogenic plant known as "White Claudia," as well as the recent mysterious death of an officer. Directly south of the police station, Harry enters the front gate of Alchemilla Hospital, his next destination.

Alchemilla Hospital

Harry scarcely steps foot into the hospital's foyer before hearing a gunshot ring out from very close by. Following the source of the noise, Harry enters the adjacent room and discovers a man dressed in a business suit holding a revolver, sitting over the fresh corpse of a flying creature. He raises his gun and fires a warning shot in Harry's direction, but Harry's panicked reaction manages to convince the man that he is not a threat.

Dr. Kaufmann
Dr. Kaufmann

The suit-wearing man introduces himself as Dr. Michael Kaufmann but claims he knows nothing about the current state of Silent Hill, explaining that he was asleep when the town's population suddenly disappeared. Harry once again inquires about his daughter, but Kaufmann only remarks on her slim chances for survival in such a dangerous place. After apologizing for his callousness, the doctor asks Harry if his wife also accompanied him to Silent Hill, prompting Harry to mention that his wife Jodie passed away four years prior. Kaufmann leaves Harry alone inside the examination room shortly afterward, stating that he "can't just sit around here doing nothing."

The hospital's interior appears relatively safe as Harry begins investigating its ground floor. Inside the hospital director's office, a strange red liquid can be found splattered on the floor among several shards of glass; this substance can be gathered into an empty water bottle from the kitchen and serves an important purpose later in the game. By locating the key to the basement, Harry gains access to the hospital's backup generator, which re-enables the elevators; unfortunately, the main hallway doors on both the second and third floors are barred. However, as Harry prepares to exit the building, a button labeled "4F" suddenly appears on the elevator's control panel. Harry presses the button, and the elevator doors open to reveal the dark "alternate" version of Alchemilla Hospital.

Endings

As Harry delves deeper into the mysteries of Silent Hill, it becomes clear that the quaint vacation town has a dark history - an apocalyptic cult and brisk drug trade control everything behind the scenes. It is revealed that Cheryl is actually the reincarnated half of a girl named Alessa, Dahlia's daughter, a child of vast supernatural powers who had been tortured by her mother and the cult for years so that her agony could nurture their God her womb. Alessa was understandably displeased with getting the short end of the stick in this situation and thus used her powers to destroy the town and manifest the monsters that stalk Harry throughout the game.

In the game's climax, Harry must fight Alessa and the deity inside her, whereupon their defeat the player sees one of the games five endings based upon their actions.

  • "BAD" Ending: Both Cybil and Kaufmann die, with the entire game revealed to be a dying dream of Harry's.
  • "BAD+" Ending: Kaufmann dies and Cybil lives, with Cybil and Harry escaping the town after Alessa disappears.
  • "GOOD" Ending: Kaufmann lives and Cybil dies, where Kaufmann is revealed to have been partners with Dahlia. Harry finds Alessa/Cheryl reborn again and decides to raise her a second time. This is the canonical ending.
  • "GOOD+" Ending: Both Cybil and Kaufmann live, identical to the GOOD ending but featuring Cybil going off with Harry and the reborn Alessa.
  • And a Joke Ending where Harry gets abducted by aliens.

In both "good" endings, a monstrous Lisa appears to drag Kaufmann down into a pit.

Setting

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Just as significant as its characters and story are the environments contained within the town itself. The town’s many environments range from city streets, an elementary school, a hospital, and much more. Future games explore more areas of the town.

Perhaps most importantly to the game's atmosphere is the “Hell” side of Silent Hill, known as the Otherworld. Triggered by certain events, and heralded by a siren, this version of Silent Hill is practically the same area but with a far darker overtone that transforms before the player's eyes. Walls can be seen seemingly melting and/or rusting away, exposing horrific sights ranging from blood to the silhouettes of creatures not present before.

Development & Re-Releases

The game was shown for the first time in 1998's E3 show held in Atlanta, GA in the form of a trailer.

Outside of Japan, Silent Hill had problems passing censors due to a specific monster design of the "Grey Child". The questionable design that caused the controversy was the killing of a nude, knife wielding, child monster found in the school areas of the game. To pass censors, the "Grey Child" went through two design changes in the North American release, resulting in a larger, faceless version of the creature. It took four design edits before the European version would see a release, with the "Grey Child" eventually just being taken out of the game entirely, and replaced with the "Mumbler" monster.

On March 19, 2009, Silent Hill became available for download from the European PlayStation Network store of the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Portable. However, the game was removed two days later due to unknown reasons. It was re-released on October 26, 2011. Silent Hill was released on the North American PlayStation Network on September 10, 2009.

Silent Hill was a success with critics and players alike upon release, leading to sales that warranted inclusion in PlayStation’s Greatest Hits line of re-printed titles.

Soundtrack

The Original Soundtrack cover.
The Original Soundtrack cover.

The Silent Hill Original Soundtrack is composed by Akira Yamaoka.

Tracklist:

01. Silent HIll (2:47)

02. All (2:06)

03. The Wait (0:09)

04. Until Death (0:51)

05. Over (2:04)

06. Devil's Lyric (1:26)

07. Rising Sun (0:57)

08. For All (2:39)

09. Follow the Leader (0:52)

10. Claw Finger (1:32)

11. Hear Nothing (1:33)

12. Children Kill (0:19)

13. Killed by Death (1:25)

14. Don't Cry (1:29)

15. The Bitter Season (1:26)

16. Moonchild (2:48)

17. Never Again (0:45)

18. Fear of the Dark (1:13)

19. Half Day (0:39)

20. Heaven Give Me Say (1:47)

21. Far (1:14)

22. I'll Kill You (2:52)

23. My Justice for You (1:21)

24. Devil's Lyric 2 (0:25)

25. Dead End (0:17)

26. Ain't Gonna Rain (1:12)

27. Nothing Else (0:51)

28. Alive (0:33)

29. Ever Again (1:01)

30. Die (0:56)

31. Never End, Never End, Never End (0:46)

32. Down Time (1:38)

33. Kill Angels (1:16)

34. Only You (1:16)

35. Not Tomorrow (0:48)

36. Not Tomorrow 2 (1:38)

37. My Heaven (3:17)

38. Tears Of... (3:14)

39. Killing Time (2:52)

40. She (2:33)

41. Esperandote (6:24)

42. Silent Hill (Otherside) (1:38)

43. Silent Hill Bloopers (1:33)

44. UFO Ending (2:29)

45. Silent Hill Pianissimo (3:05)

46. Not Tomorrow (Extended) (1:19)

Trivia

  • Lisa Garland's last name is taken from the famous Wizard of Oz actress, Judy Garland.
  • Cheryl Mason's first name was taken from Twin Peaks actress Sheryl Lee.
  • The name for the character of Dr. Michael Kaufmann is actually a combination of Lloyd Kaufmann and Michael Herz, both are founders of Troma Entertainment which is an American independent film production and distribution company.
  • In the resort area, there is a motel, and the owner's name is "Norman," being also the name of the motel owner in the movie " Psycho".
  • The word REDRUM (Murder spelled backwards) can be found on a garage door, a reference to the movie the " The Shining."
  • Most, if not all of the roads in the town are named after famous horror and mystery authors, including Richard Bachman (Steven King's pseudonym), Dean Koontz, Richard Matheson, Michael Crichton, Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan, F. Paul Wilson, Jack Finney, and Robert Bloch.

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