Kind of interesting that there is a blog today about retiring the Silent Hill series. My girlfriend picked up a copy of Silent Hill 3 and we started into it last night, the latest of our creepy adventures through the series after tackling Downpour and Homecoming earlier this year.
I've always had a kind of love/hate relationship with the SH games. I love the ideas and themes they deal with. Heavy topics like guilt, selfishness, sexual frustration, parental abandonment, themes that you don't see explored much in other games are brought to the forefront in SH. The creature design is some of the best in the business. Creepy, threatening, and loaded with symbolism. I've always loved Silent Hill as a town, the foreboding atmosphere is spot on.
But then there is everything else.
All the usual irritating survival horror suspects rear their grotesque heads - movement, camera, combat, all crazy awkward and not a lot of fun. It would be churlish to harp on SH3 for these problems if not for the fact that the same difficulties persist right up through Homecoming and Downpour. C'mon guys! I can understand the original PS and PS2 games having some rough edges, but the fact that Konami has never bothered to really address any of those problems is aggravating. You do start to wonder if the team behind these titles really care about making a game. Maybe they just want to make creepy places and ideas? Maybe they would be better suited to making movies or books? That's cool, no problem. But maybe they should just go make those instead then.
I'd love to get the creative team of these games hooked up with a different studio. Take the beautiful music, the nuanced themes and symbolism, the familiar hooks of the series (which I believe are still relevant and worth further entries) and pair them up with gameplay that is actually fun (or at least not blatantly frustrating).
Or maybe just change the direction of the series. If combat is always going to be this begrudging afterthought, just get rid of it. There are plenty of horror games out there that do just fine with a minimum or absence of fighting.
And I know my girlfriend will hate me for it, but if I were in charge of the Silent Hill series, I might start edging away from the Alessa/cult/demon back-story. To me, that story seems to have run its course. Already a convoluted and confusing tale given the number of retcons and alternate character interpretations (Shattered Memories really throws some wrenches into the works there) adding anymore stuff might just make the whole thing cave in on itself. Besides, to me, that story was never the star of the show anyway.
To me Silent Hill works best as an allegory for mental distress. A kind of personal hell manifested by the protagonists trauma and issues. A torn open wound on the psyche that takes all the nasty things you try and hide from yourself and puts it on display, forcing you to deal with your shit. Maybe Silent Hill is a type of purgatory, a trial a person has to pass before moving on. Let's get some Jacobs Ladder stuff going here!
I want to see the series continue. I think these games occupy a place in the industry that needs to be filled. I just want to see them become something I would rather play through then watch on YouTube.