E3 09: Hands-on with Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Don’t act like you didn’t see that coming.

Yes — Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the combat-light, Wii-only next installment in the Silent Hill franchise, was playable on the show floor.

And I played it.

Hit the jump for my impressions.

First things first — the E3 show floor is literally the worst place imaginable in which to play a survival horror game. Whatever suspense or atmosphere Shattered Memories attempted to build was utterly destroyed by Gwen Stefani’s voice blasting out of an unseen speaker at eighty decibels several feet behind me. It is very difficult to feel truly terrified while you’re subconsciously trying to shut out the sounds of No Doubt.

That said, though, Shattered Memories did actually provide a couple of suspenseful moments. Since Harry Mason has literally no weapons of any sort, everytime I saw an enemy I tensed up just a bit. I found myself looking around, trying to find a way to run around the enemy, or looking for an individually-activated place to hide like a bed you can hide under, or a closet you can crawl into. 

Most of the demo took place in a half-frozen house that almost seemed to be housed within a glacier or something. The Konami rep wasn’t offering too much narrative summary or context, so I can only imagine that the ice is either metaphorical, or there’s some forgotten area of Silent Hill that’s basically just a huge goddamned fridge.

Running away from the monsters was pretty interesting, save for two issues: firstly, that I only found two monsters throughout the entire demo, and secondly, that when they grabbed me, they just sort of hugged me around the neck and hung there limply until I tossed them off with a Wiimote gesture. No thrashing, no snarling, no movement at all — they just gave me a big ol’ bearhug until I either died or knocked them off.

Most of the gameplay revolved around navigating through the icy home, either walking slowly by default or running by holding down the Z button. I thought there might be some sort of downside to using the Z button — whether that downside be Harry noisily attracting enemies, or getting progressively more tired and thus slower — but I more or less sprinted through most of the demo with almost no negative consequences (I do think you gradually lose stamina, but I can’t be sure as no onscreen meter indicated this). 

Harry Mason’s flashlight is controlled via the Wiimote, and is pretty much the only source of artificial light in the game. You’ll need to use it not necessarily to navigate the environment — doors and necessary passageways are subtly lit so you can always tell where they are — but to find the monsters in the environment so you can avoid them. Yet, again, I didn’t actually end up finding any monsters, and thus didn’t necessarily feel like I was getting the most out of the flashlight mechanic.

At the end of the demo — which was activated by Harry unceremoniously passing through a door — I felt like I’d seen the basic seeds of a really suspenseful, atmospheric game. Unfortunately, either the level I’d played or the environment I was in didn’t showcase the mechanics as well as they seemingly deserved.

Here’s to hoping that the full game includes more monsters to spot and hide from, and a tangible lack of Gwen Stefani.

Anthony Burch