Silent Hill is back, but is it too much too soon?
At 10.02pm last night, alone in the kitchen, I screamed aloud in an empty room.
To be fair, screaming is something I do a lot when Silent Hill is involved. Shocked screams, scared screams, oh-shit-I-panicked-and-now-I’ve-gone-the-wrong-way screams; I’ve done them all. Last night was the very first time I think I’ve ever screamed in abject delight, though.
After a full decade of neglect – and eight years after the eye-watering decision to scorch the earth of Kojima’s seminal PT – Konami has resurrected the horror franchise. But rather than dip a cautious toe into the sea of public opinion, the Japanese publisher’s about-face was so abrupt it was dizzying. At 11pm on Tuesday night, Silent Hill was dead and had been for years. 24 hours later, we have a sequel, a remake, a new Hollywood movie, and an interactive streaming series (I’m not convinced I understand what that last one is yet) in the works.
Just in case the screaming didn’t make it clear: I’m deliriously excited about all this. I know some are cautious about the prospect of Bloober Team taking on Silent Hill 2. I know the studio’s own titles have sometimes made clumsy work of dealing with mental health issues, and some games were marred with tech and performance issues. But I firmly believe that the studio has evolved with every release, and whilst I still don’t quite understand why James’ face changes so dramatically throughout the course of last night’s teaser (tell me you noticed it too?!), I’m hopeful. It’s a quiet, trembling kind of hope that needs a little coaxing, sure, but I’ll take it. Quiet hope is better than no hope, right?
Silent Hill 2 is being remade alongside concept artist Masahiro Ito and sound designer Akira Yamaoka, both of whom worked on the original Silent Hill 2. Bloober CEO Piotr Babieno says “Silent Hill is the title that made [Bloober Team’s devs] fall in love with horror games”. We can only hope that ardent fans with that kind of insight will have the confidence to do that remake justice without damaging the game’s DNA. I think Motive’s Dead Space remake team just may pull it off; I desperately want Bloober to do so, too.
That said, I’m far more interested in the curiously titled Silent Hill: Townfall – developed by Scottish team No Code alongside Annapurna, which had its name attached to Silent Hill some time ago now – and Silent Hill f, the franchise’s first non-Western story set in 1960s Japan written by famed Japanese visual novelist, Ryūkishi07. It’s hard to be excited about the movie, though, given the last Silent Hill film – which, to be fair, the returning director of the original Christophe Gans was not involved in – was dreadful, but Ascension is undeniably intriguing, too. How strange it is to go from hoping for a sign of life – any sign, from anyone, at any time, I beg you – and finding there are not one but five Silent Hill projects in development.
For some of us, though, there’s an uneasy whiff of deja vu here. This is not the first time Konami has done this. Back in 2012, we had a “summer of Silent Hill” which saw three games and a movie release within weeks of each other: Silent Hill Downpour, Silent Hill Book of Memories, the Silent Hill HD Collection, and movie sequel, Silent Hill Revelations.
What should have been a celebration of all things Silent Hill backfired viciously when Revelations turned out to be appalling, the HD Collection was (and remains) hysterically broken, and PS Vita’s Book of Memories – whilst a noble effort to try something new – didn’t sell. Taken on its own merit Downpour was solid, and my top pick of the non-Japanese Silent Hill games thus far, but it too failed to get traction outside of the franchise’s dwindling, if passionate, fanbase. 2012’s “summer of Silent Hill” turned into the death of Silent Hill and it’s been that way ever since. Well, until yesterday, anyway.
It was weird last night, though. Really weird. At its peak, Silent Hill was a memorable but niche horror franchise and it lay dying in the middle of the road without any attempt from Konami to save it. Fast-forward ten years, though, and the publisher’s seemingly chasing every merchandise and licensing opportunity it can lay its hands on. No, I am not a Silent Hill purist who waxes endlessly about “Team Silent”. I don’t subscribe to the #FucKonami hashtag, either; I’ve spoken to some of the people inside the company over the years and know firsthand how hurt they were given their numerous attempts to breathe new life into the series. I also think Konami has a curiously open mind to embryonic tech, too, with the motion-controlled Shattered Memories – a “reimagining” of the first game modernised for the Wii that forced you to run away from, rather than fight, enemies – being a particularly delightful example.
I am cautious, though. Wary, even. But optimistic, too. Whether or not Konami was right to simultaneously launch five Silent Hill projects remains to be seen. For now, though, all I can think of is my scream of delight last night when the strings of Silent Hill 2’s main theme bounced off my kitchen walls.