By now you’ve probably heard about the teaser/demo for P.T. Revealed and released during Gamescom, P.T. was a mysterious bit of marketing brilliance teasing a new project from MGS mastermind Hideo Kojima and Hellboy director, Guillermo del Toro. Immediately, fans began suspecting something crazy and the big reveal was a new Silent Hill game on the horizon.
So what exactly is this next chapter in the horror franchise?
Weeeeeeeeel, we don’t really know… yet. Still, that won’t stop me from making a few suggestions for the series. But first let’s talk about P.T. for a sec.
I usually refer to them as “Scary Hallway Mysteries” or “Theme Park Horror” in that they play more like a somewhat guided tour in a haunted house. I like them in theory. My main complaint is that they quickly become tiresome as you run around looking for the magical switch to advance the game all while having scripted scares leaping out at you. There are some merits to these type of games, though. The format and focus on discovery fabricates personal and engaging play which can be quite rewarding. Furthermore, the level of detail can also enhance your immersion in their worlds.
With P.T., you get much of the same feel. Walking and looking are your only actions and the teaser plays like a creepy Easter egg hunt. The story is appropriately nightmarish and the jump scares come fast. While discovering the “real” ending or whatever ultimately becomes a chore as whatever trigger that advances the game lacks clarity.
While I have my reservations about these games I’m interested to see how Konami might have in store for Silent Hill.
Creepy, Disturbing, Askew, Bizarre vs. OMG So Scary
The town of Silent Hill is a living entity that calls out to those who are lost. Culling broken souls into their personalized hell – the evil power consumes all who enter. This darkness manifests as a reflection of the personal sins one keeps secret. This feeling of oppression and dread is paramount opposed to straight horror.
Silent Hill is more Jacob’s Ladder or In The Mouth of Madness than Paranormal Activity or Halloween H20. Yeah, there are traditional terror elements, but the overall feeling should induce anxiety through apprehension and fear.
It’s like the preamble for when your SO initiates “having the talk” with you. You begin to sweat bullets as you delve into your mind about how you fucked up and how it might impact your future together. It’s the ultimate dread and a heavy feeling of guilt and fear. Silent Hill is one big “having the talk” between the protagonist, the devs, and the player.
Reinvent the Fiction
The Silent Hill series is deep with rich lore. Look up any wiki about the story and you’ll lost in the tidal wave of myth. However, the games often become mired within the fiction and suffer from it. Toss it all. Or at least keep it in the background. Subtle hints at the machinations of the pagan cult would drive interest in exploration but too much becomes a crutch on design. Ideally the story in the new game would spotlight the main protagonists and other characters and their relationships over anything else.
The reason Silent Hill 2 is regarded as the best of the series is that it pushes the religion behind the curtain while reducing the the threat onto a personal level. It was James’ tale. His sins, his hell, his total recall of the truth about his dead wife. And you grow attached to him and slowly begin to understand why things are happening the way they do. The plot is actually fairly subdued compared to many games. It’s not about saving the world from some big bad and winning the day. Keep it personal and keep it simple.
Take Cues From Shattered Memories
Arguably one of the better SH games is the lone entry for Nintendo Wii. Shattered Memories offered up a unique look into the world of Silent Hill and brought forth some interesting concepts for players. The psyche tests played into the overall story organically drawing from player choices. I’d love to see this pushed into Silent Hills. The first person perspective creates an intimate connection with the game and having players make key choices in line with the narrative rather than as a lame button prompt.
On that note, make choices ambiguous. Protagonists in Silent Hill can even be irredeemable if it plays into the story because it’s not about doing the right thing. Instead, it’s about living through this nightmare and self discovery.
Multiple Plots, Maybe Even Slightly Open World
Bear with me for a moment. What if we were able to explore the town? Previous games had some exploration but do to limitations – either hardware or development timeline – quickly funneled players into the world. I’m not asking for Silent Skyrim but I think opening up the town for larger inspection may invite some real neat moments. Players have never been really able to wander about the sleepy town. Sure, some games allowed a few buildings to be quickly explored but usually it was to get some random plot element. We’ve never see the town as a real town, and that could bust open a lot of opportunity for some gameplay.
With that in mind, maybe it’s time to also try multiple viewpoints in a game. Differences in character development or revealing how each different players react to event is very appealing. Also, it’s great for replayability. I think fans would also be open for a tailored story that changes as they play. It’s certainly something that many of these survival FPSs have attempted recently and there’s a something to that. I gather it would be incredibly difficult to predict so many varied plots, but in a dream scenario it might offer a new way of playing and experiencing horror.
Lord, I can actually hear your screaming. Before you crucify me, let me explain.
Let’s get some community play in the series. Why not? Asymmetrical gameplay might present some very interesting interactions. I’m thinking along the lines of Demon’s Souls whereby aspects of the game might change depending what others are doing. Perhaps Silent Hill‘s infamous otherworld might take on new faces based upon community input It possibly allow a type of active gameplay experience similar to a dungeon master’s influence over the horror elements.
It’s an idea that hasn’t been deeply explored in horror games. I know it sounds a bit contradictory to what I mentioned about keeping things simple and intimate, but I also wish to evolve the gameplay. Often, community input can as insightful as the developer and can serve to make a more solid experience.
Keep Kojima At Arms Length
Let’s keep Metal Gear and all the cinematic garbage and anime bullshit to itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some MGS but Kojima’s directorial eye should focus on other aspects rather than story. He’s offered up brilliant and novel gameplay mechanics and I’d love to see what he’ll bring to the table regarding how we’ll play Silent Hills but stay the hell away from the narrative.
Right now, it’s debatable about how much Kojima (or even del Toro) might be involved in the project so I can only speculate. But I’m glad some new blood is being introduced. Guillermo del Toro can help keep the plot, pace, and visuals in line with what make Silent Hill so great, while Kojima can work on videogame stuff and make it an interesting and engaging game.
I could go on an on about what I think Silent Hill needs to reinvigorate the franchise. I’m usually one to just write off even making a sequel and letting the series stay underground for a few years. Instead fans have been given some new hope that maybe the series will make a turn for the better. I’ll always remain cautiously optimistic, but P.T. has at least made me exciteed for what could be waiting around the corner for Silent Hill.