For fans of psychological horror, Silent Hill – at least during the early years of the franchise – symbolized the ultimate in videogame fear. Since its debut in 1999 so few survival-horror titles have managed to come close to the level of unrestrained fright that Silent Hill was capable of. As the series may no longer be at the forefront of the horror genre, Konami is poised to offer reluctant fans a myriad of reasons to return to gaming's famed haunting grounds all throughout March and even later this year. But is 2012 going to be a turning point for Silent Hill, or will the horror darling tourist town lose all but what's left of its dark attraction?
What is it: An HD compilation of Silent Hill 2 & Silent Hill 3 due to release for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Pros: Silent Hill 2 & 3 demonstrate what's best about Silent Hill – a palpable horror narrative told through a sensory assault of nightmarish imagery, and all to the tune of a woefully fitting and melancholy soundtrack. Considered not only to be the most haunting entry in the franchise but the quintessential videogame horror story, Silent Hill 2 is where the series peaked for many a Silent Hill fan. Silent Hill 3 on the other hand, set a noteworthy benchmark in the series' graphics department, an area which has yet to be bested by even its most recent additions. A chance to experience Silent Hill's most celebrated entries in full 1080p is well worth the price of admission – even if it comes at the cost of a decent night's sleep.
Cons: What, no Silent Hill 4? For reals? Silent Hill 2 & 3 might be the series best, but I'm sorry – a 'collection' this isn't.
The HD face-lift is accompanied by re-recorded voiceover work, a decision that has left half the series' fans depositing their insides into a dingy toilet bowl and the other half reaching for a dull kitchen knife. In all honesty, I just as much adore Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as anyone else – but as a singer, not as a voice actress. Her take on Mary/Maria is just a touch too apathetic, and falls short of the vulnerability and resonating frailty of Monica Horgan – the original voice actress' – performance that made James' lady loves so emotionally jarring. The anticipated outcries from fans no doubt pressured Konami into including an original voiceover option, although this is only true for Silent Hill 2 - Silent Hill 3 won't be as fortunate.
What is it: The eighth installment in the Silent Hill series, developed by Vatra Games, due to release for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Pros: Had Vatra Games been satisfied with releasing a clumsy, graphically inconsistent, and scare-less Silent Hill sequel, gamers would have had it months ago. Amidst a volley of not-so-favorable previews, Silent Hill: Downpour was pushed back an additional three months to take a number of well-founded and rightly pointed-out critiques into consideration. The result is a significant improvement over its 2011 incarnation: far less buggy, brilliantly polished, and much more akin to what a current generation Silent Hill title ought to be (sorry, Homecoming).
Cons: Well, Korn, for starters.
Seriously, it's difficult to knock a title that has been kept so tightly under wraps – and I guess that's a part of the problem. Aside from the game's introductory areas and showcased sections of the titular town that appear to be side quest-y in nature, there just isn't a whole lot to go on, and I don't know if it's an act of genius on the developers part or an act of cowardice. Monster reveals have been minimal and underwhelming at best (though I must admit, I am quite taken by the simple yet effective design of this platinum-haired beauty). For Heaven's (Night) sake, Silent Hill: Downpour's is a month shy of release and there has yet to be any details – let alone a single screenshot – indicating how its firearm mechanics will handle. I applaud Vatra Games for remaining as tight-lipped as it has on the stuff that matters (a far cry from the spoiler-ific Silent Hill trailers/coverage of years passed), but really, why so secretive? And is it just me, or does this game seem a wee bit too bright?
What is it: A top-down, cooperative multiplayer title, developed by WayForward Technologies, due to release for the Playstation Vita.
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Pros: I'm all for a change of pace, it’s probably why I rhapsodize over Silent Hill 4: The Room as often as I can; it was a very different type of Silent Hill. It's also why -'till this very day – I occasionally mull over never having gotten my hands on Silent Hill: The Arcade (I'm not going to knock it until I've tried it). Like these two SH entries, the latter being considerably more of a departure than the former, Silent Hill: Book of Memories is yet another world-altering shift in the Silent Hill paradigm. Recent previews praise the title for being satisfying in a Diablo-esque sort of way, and the premise of in-game notes and puzzles changing based on how one plays only adds to Book of Memories' appeal.
Cons: According to Series Producer Tomm Hulett, Book of Memories is a “big departure for the series, focusing on cooperative multiplayer action rather than traditional psychological horror." Should I go on?
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
What is it: A 3D horror film based on Silent Hill 3 and a sequel to the horror film Silent Hill, written and directed by Michael J. Bassett.
Release Date: TBA 2012
Pros: Unlike Silent Hill's 2006 silver-screen debut which was written by Roger Avary, Revelation's narrative attempts to follow its source material - Silent Hill 3 - a little more closely. Whereas Mr. Avary was gung-ho about turning Harry Mason into a woman, substituting The Order with a puritanical religious group, and bloating the film's length by pointlessly shoehorning in a side tale about a husband no one cared about (though this is admittedly the studio's fault for wanting a leading male presence), Bassett's focus seems to be primarily on the major players of Silent Hill 3: Heather, Douglas, Claudia, Vincent and of course, The Order. While very little has been released in terms of promotional material, Bassett's blog and set photos paint the portrait of a very faithful adaption of Heather's horrifying journey into her mysterious past.
Cons: If this spoiler of a thread is to be believed, then Revelation is in some serious trouble.
Say what you will about Silent Hill's plot/dialogue but director Christophe Gans absolutely outdid himself when it came to bringing the Silent Hill aesthetic to the big screen. I don't say this to put a damper on Bassett's talents, but let's face it – the baby-faced director has got some pretty big shoes to fill. Also, Bassett's sequel does not intend to retcon any of the original film's narrative, meaning that his script takes all of Gans' and Avary's plot blunders into consideration. How exactly Bassett intends to toss a second religious group into the story without turning the entire film into a convoluted mess is a but another Herculean feat to take on. And if the first film taught us anything it's that strong visuals won't be enough to carry a weak script.
Much to the chagrin of my fellow writers (I'm looking at you, Justin Belin), I haven't given up on Silent Hill, and a part of me feels that I never really will. As such, and given the mediocrity of recent memory, I cannot help but feel two ways about whatever comes scuttling out of the mist. There is definitely a hole here. Whether or not it is now gone remains to be seen. But like it or not, good or bad, there has never been a more restless time to be a Silent Hill fan.