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The Rise And Fall Of Silent Hill

Silent Hill has spooked gamers for years with its terrifying monsters, harsh survival horror gameplay, and eerie connections to the real world. However, being a Silent Hill fan isn't easy. The franchise has seen its own specific highs and lows throughout the years.

First released in 1999, Silent Hill started relatively strong. Silent Hill follows widower father Harry Mason, who must trek through the creepy town of Silent Hill, Maine in order to find his daughter, Cheryl. Naturally, the town of Silent Hill isn't what it seems to be, and Harry quickly becomes confused as the town shifts between the "real" world and a horrific other world, cued by the sound of a blaring siren that would become iconic to Silent Hill fans. While the series started with a critically-adored bang, it quickly became an emotional rollercoaster for fans. Each installment varied in quality and plot.

Silent Hill, as a franchise, has experienced remarkable highs and devastating lows. From the oppressive fog of fan favorite Silent Hill 2, which players and critics alike praised, to the disappointment fans felt when P.T. was removed from the PlayStation store, Silent Hill fans know how to weather the waves of video game success and failure.

Silent Hill 2 hits its stride

While the first Silent Hill was no slouch, Silent Hill 2 remains, even years later, one of the franchise's high points. The game follows James Sunderland, who receives a letter from his deceased wife Mary telling him to meet her in their "special place," otherwise known as the town of Silent Hill. Though Silent Hill still stands, it's not the same place James remembers, and he meets a dark cast of characters and loses himself in an oppressive, encroaching fog.

Vice's Andy Kelly compared Silent Hill 2 to Capcom's Resident Evil series, writing, "While Capcom's famous series is all B-movie zombies and cheap jump scares, this game is defined by its genuinely unsettling atmosphere, its bleak, psychological story, and its David Lynch-inspired marriage of the mundane and the horrifying." 

Silent Hill 2 made its protagonist weak and threw him into a world that didn't make sense. Much of the game's experience was, as Kelly observed, "shaped by your own anxiety, fear, and guilt," forcing players to have their own dark night of the soul.

The emotional story of Silent Hill 2 remains a high point for the series, even inspiring a book-length examination of the game.

Shattered Memories reinvents horror mechanics on the Wii

Ten years after Silent Hill first released, Konami debuted Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, a reimagining of the initial Silent Hill game for the Nintendo Wii. The game used a psychological profile to alter elements of the story, which change based on the answers players provide. Shattered Memories, though not the most positively received Silent Hill game, broke some boundaries in its playstyle and brought the famous horror franchise to the Wii for the first time.

IGN's review of Shattered Memories rightly pointed out that the game served as a departure for the series in terms of its gameplay. The review explained, "The game looks fabulous, the controls feel tailor made for Wii, the flashlight mechanic is stunningly atmospheric and useful, and the decision to omit weapons results in chilling chase sequences." The Wii's motion controls worked in tandem with Shattered Memories' story to create an immersive experience, one that put players right in the thick of the action.

Credit must be given where it's due, and Shattered Memories stands out as a highlight not because it was a perfect installment into a beloved franchise, but because it attempted to do something different and almost pulled it off. Shattered Memories tried something new, illustrating how Silent Hill could reinvent itself as a series.

Downpour was a real downer

Every franchise has low spots, but Silent Hill's are remarkably low. In 2012, the release of Downpour disappointed the Silent Hill community, earning the worst reviews the franchise had seen in years. IGN gave Downpour two stars, saying that Silent Hill fans will "keep with it, remembering the good days, and in the case of Silent Hill, recognizing the key strengths of the franchise, and hoping that some capable developer will put the series on top of the survival horror heap where it belongs."

The plot of the game promised fans something new, at least. Playing as convict Murphy Pendleton, gamers get transported to Silent Hill after a bus transporting Murphy crashes mysteriously. The idea of slowly learning why Murphy was in prison and who he is as a character sounds interesting, but the mechanics of the game and sloppy story execution ruined any promise of excitement from fans.

Polygon's review explained that though Downpour's incarcerated protagonist and complex puzzles seemed like a saving grace early on, the game ultimately fails in combat. The review noted that "Konami seems to be trapped in some horrifying nightmare of its own design," doomed to regressing just as soon as it experiences a possible breakthrough in the series.

P.T. and the cancellation of Silent Hills

P.T., an interactive demo for a then-upcoming Silent Hill game, could have been something magnificent. However, after P.T. was released in 2014, and Konami announced Silent Hills, fans had to experience one of the most disappointing lows of the Silent Hill franchise.

P.T. unceremoniously disappeared from PlayStation's online storefront after Silent Hills was cancelled, but it left a lasting imprint on Silent Hill fans hearts. While no one knows exactly what happened, sources seem to point to the fact that Hideo Kojima's messy split from Konami affected the fate of Silent Hills, and therefore P.T.. Kojima's games are big, weird, and incredibly expensive to make. Because Konami is more focused on mobile games these days, it's possible it simply didn't want to make Silent Hills due to costs. 

Silent Hills would have seen Kojima, horror director Guillermo del Toro, and iconic horror manga author Junji Ito combining forces to create perhaps the scariest Silent Hill yet. Konami's decision to ultimately cancel the game led fans to one of the lowest points in the franchise.