A few months ago a teaser trailer was released for a PS5 Silent Hill game. Simply titled “SILENT HILL,” the trailer revealed little information about this game, causing rumors and speculation to begin almost immediately.
Silent Hill and why it matters
Silent Hill may be an established franchise, but it is certainly at a low point in its history. It’s hard to imagine (or remember) that Silent Hill was once one of the most critically and commercially acclaimed games on the Playstation, with Silent Hill 2 remaining arguably one of the best horror games ever made to this day.
Silent Hill inspired and influenced so many new horror games, including Outlast, Alan Wake, Dead by Daylight, The Evil Within, Lost in Vivo, and even Bloodborne, but the series itself has struggled with its own identity for years, often failing to capture the success of its first sequel, and as a result living the shadow of a masterpiece since 2001.
The Silent Hill 2 problem
Silent Hill 2’s incredible success didn’t come from the creation of a perfect game, but rather the creation of a tonally consistent and emotionally resonant game that players could experience on a personal level. Internal consistency involves every part of the game, and for Silent Hill 2 this is its biggest feature. Every enemy, every location, every NPC, all seem to relate in some way to the main character, James Sunderland, and his own personal arc.
But the game is not perfect. Strictly speaking, the game is full of negative gameplay experiences, most notably the controls sometimes feeling as though they are actively fighting the player, or how eliminating enemies can result in a negative outcome in the game. Silent Hill 2 is like a wonderful shattered mirror, beautiful because of its cracks and imperfections as much as what it shows.
But these experiences end up becoming part of the story and narrative of Silent Hill 2, making the game feel more rewarding in the long run. These aren’t the kinds of things that are easily recapturable in a modern context either, as players would scarcely tolerate a game where the controls are about as intuitive as driving a tank using only your feet, which has placed the rest of the Silent Hill games in a difficult position.
Silent Hill after 2
The third and fourth Silent Hill games were passable, with Silent Hill 4: The Room being a significant step down from its predecessors while still being at least playable and an overall positive experience. After 4, however, the games went through a lengthy period of lost identity where every game had to both reinvent the franchise while remaining true to Silent Hill 1, 2, and 3, an impossible task.
There was some hope for the series with the intriguing announcement of Silent Hills through the horror demo, P. T., especially knowing that the franchise would be helmed by known auteur game developer, Hideo Kojima, and critically acclaimed filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro.
The Playable Teaser ended up being hugely successful, and incredibly scary, and generated an unprecedented amount of goodwill and anticipation for a new Silent Hill game before Konami suddenly cancelled the game and severed its relationship with Hideo Kojima, resulting in an impromptu anti-Konami campaign conducted by fans.
Since then, the franchise seemed to be stuck in limbo, and unfortunately plagued by bad luck. Even the remake of two of the franchise’s most successful games, Silent Hill 2 and 3, ended up being negatively received when the game ended up being an inferior version of both games as a result of the code for both games being lost and needing to be recreated almost entirely from scratch.
A new entry in the Silent Hill franchise, or a new beginning?
The teaser for a new Silent Hill game seems to hit all the marks of what Silent Hill has, but provides no information about what this game is, and that is actually more worrying than it sounds.
The teaser features a foggy American mountain town, rusted buildings, an enemy from Silent Hill 3, a rabbit from Silent Hill 3 and 4, the nurses from Silent Hill 2 and onward, and Pyramid Head who arguably only belongs in Silent Hill 2, and it becomes obvious why there are some concerns.
If this game is a new entry, it seems to be falling into the shadow of Silent Hill 2, using old enemies and ideas that were directly tied to James Sunderland and copying them into a new experience without considering the implications.
If this game is a reimagining or soft reboot of the series instead, then the biggest concern would be how much the game seems to be banking on its old ideas, and whether or not a new story using old characters can live up to its predecessors. The reason P. T. inspired anticipation was because it felt like it had its own identity, whereas this teaser simply seems to present us with the objects of previous games without the substance behind them.
I hope this game ends up being successful, both for fans of the Silent Hill series and the developers who worked to make it, but at this moment all I can offer is my word of caution.