© Lemon squeezer
It was 1996, the 16-bit players (understand Super Nintendo and Mega Drive) that we were were taking full force with the new 32-bit wave, embodied in particular by a certain Resident Evil on the brand new PlayStation, launched at the start of the 1995 school year. First emotions with the CD-ROM reader, first contacts with this strange (but essential) “15 block memory card“, first real loading screens on console… and first big scares with Capcom's game. Disturbing, scary, stressful, captivating… the genre quickly gained followers, notably at Konami, which offered “son” survival horror: Silent Hill.
Subscribe to Lemon Squeezer
In the small world of video games, the years pass… but the passion and memories remain! Re:Play looks back at the great classics of video game history. A little return to the future past, in search of your child or adolescent soul, the very one that has undoubtedly already made you (or will make you) pronounce the magic formula “it was better Before”. And if it was true…? So we blow into the cartridge, let's go for Re:Play !
Silent Hill, when you're in the fog (for 25 years)
Whether we like it or not, the first PlayStation will revolutionize the lives of many players, and even set new standards in video games. If it was once relegated to the rank of a child's activity, with the Sony console, video games are becoming more mature, more adult, more trendy, more desirable than ever. Just imagine, even before the launch of this Silent Hill, we are greeted by this warning: “This game includes violent and disturbing images“.
© Stéphane Ficca/Presse-citron.net
Very quickly, the border between video games and cinema becomes increasingly thin, and the PlayStation will quickly be covered with a few Hollywood-style nuggets.
Because yes, if Silent Hill was released at the end of January 1999 (in the United States) on the first PlayStation, the genesis of the project goes back at the end of 1996. Led by around fifteen people, the Silent Hill project aims to offer players a new 3D horror game. The title will be launched a little less than three years later, Silent Hill having benefited from a playable demo included in another “ ;small” game by Konami, launched at the beginning of 1999 in France: Metal Gear Solid. Sorry.
Since the death of his wife four years earlier, Harry has been a broken man, raising his (adopted) granddaughter Cheryl alone. So Harry said to himself that it might be nice to have a change of scenery, and on the advice of his daughter, to go and spend some quality time in a small town in the Maine (a region dear to Stephen King): Silent Hill. And too bad if the city was the scene of a terrible fire a few years earlier. We're like that at the Masons.
Barely arriving at the entrance to the city, our duo is the victim of a road accident. The bad luck… Harry gets out of the vehicle. Fog. Snow. A silhouette in the distance vaguely reminiscent of Cheryl. This is the starting point for an adventure that is as unhealthy as possible… and that we obviously all want to live with controller in hand at the time!
It must be said that during the months preceding its release, Silent Hill had benefited from a “ hype” particularly solid, and each image of the game was widely scrutinized and analyzed in the magazines of the time (which were still paid for in Francs).
To this was added a cover that was again very mature, very mysterious… a far cry from Nintendo game covers, which suddenly became “for children“.
That's a good situation, psychological experience?
We talked about the cinematic dimension of certain PlayStation video games, and this Silent Hill is no exception. If Resident Evil already stood out for its staging with its frozen 2D environments, Silent Hill was as for him the choice of 3D. Certainly, this resulted on the screen in much less flashy environments, but it also made it possible to integrate some long tracking shots and other techniques imported directly… of the 7th Art.
View this post on Instagram
And at the time, for many players, that's precisely what we were looking for with this “new generation” video games. In Silent Hill however, no heightened action, but a very psychological approach.
Deformed creatures. An omnipresent occult dimension. Sacrificial rites galore. A duality of environments visited. Realistic management of sound (the crackles in the radio which indicate the presence of an enemy, brrrrr…), light (Harry's torch which attracts enemies). It's simple, Silent Hill oozes unease through all its (big) pixels.
The camera angles are extremely diverse, and despite a city that seems as immense as it is labyrinthine, Harry (and therefore the player) seems cloistered in a constantly changing environment, leaving Harry (and the player always) in a form of weakness, of almost permanent vulnerability.
And what about the audio environment of this Silent Hill, with endlessly stressful music, terrifying sound effects and other repetitive sound effects, aimed at creating a climate of permanent tension. Whether silent or very noisy, Silent Hill never, ever puts the player at ease.
Due to its cinematic dimension, a big screen adaptation was quickly considered, which will be the case in 2006 with the feature film Silent Hill signed Christophe Gans, which will generate nearly 100 million dollars at the worldwide box office, despite a real duality here again, but at the level of the critics of the time. Today, many people consider that it is still one of the best adaptations of a video game work.
Back to when we were 16, PlayStation controller in hand, eyes glued to the cathode TV installed in the bedroom. Silent Hillis captivating, challenging. Every save is a relief. And even if we only want to progress a little more, each powering off of the console sounds like a form of deliverance… before returning to this cursed town. This duality even in our real life…
© Stéphane Ficca/Presse-citron.net
As successful and memorable as it is, no, Konami's game is not perfect. Far from it, and we will criticize it for slightly disappointing graphics, a sluggish pace (these cut scenesof hell…) and some hazardous gameplay mechanics… but hell, the experience is unique! From the first to the last minute, Konami plays on the player's senses brilliantly, and everything is good for morale. Silent Hill, it's this cursed place, where almost anything and (especially) anything can happen.
The French TV commercial for Silent Hill in 1999
Note that depending on the player's actions, Silent Hilloffered a total of four very distinct endings. The most seasoned players were thus able to discover the Good+ ending, the best of the four, full of hope. Other players, however, were able to experience the worst ending, completely changing the turn of events. Better yet, the game also offered a “bonus” ending, with comical overtones, under cover… of extra-terrestrials.
Modern in many ways despite a visual that is not always very flattering (already at the time), Silent Hill offered more than ;#8217;a simple video game, namely a true horrific and psychological experience, both heavy and unhealthy, going to dig deep into the player's fears. So test it if you have the chance.
Silent Hill in 2024, a dead and buried license ? Not at all !
When it was released, Silent Hillwas received in a rather mixed manner, with some appreciating its atmosphere, its depth and its pure survival-horror orientation, while others castigated its graphics and/or its handling. And we must admit that the game was very largely supported by artworks that were as disturbing as possible, facing which we remained blissfully admired in the specialist magazines of the time, as well as in #8217;an ultra-tortured and “realistic” universe, an aspect still quite unprecedented for the ’time.
Still, the game was a great commercial success, and called for a sequel in 2001, with a Silent Hill 2 (on PS2) absolutely masterful, which will make everyone agree.
It’s not entirely a coincidence that one of the most anticipated games of this year 2024 is a certain… Silent Hill 2. Bloober Team is at the helm of this highly (very) anticipated overhaul, the last “true” Silent Hill dating back to 2012, with the episode Downpour. A reboot which will also take place in cinemas, with a Return to Silent Hill signed (again) Christophe Gans, expected for this year.
Also note the immediate availability, on PS5, of Silent Hill The Short Message, a brand new game offered for free on PS Store. A Silent Hill that is both modern and experimental, which highlights the terrifying impact that the numerous messages, comments and other notifications from social networks received every day on our smartphones can have.
And you, have you been marked by the Silent Hill series ?
📍 To not miss any news from Presse-citron, follow us on Google News and WhatsApp.