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A long-running series of Playstation survival horror games. Pretty much a rival to the Resident Evil series, Silent Hill has a reputation for focusing on creepy backgrounds, "fearful mystery" (you never know too much about what the FUCK is going on, hence, scares, since you can't put anything into proper context) and introspection over RE's focus on creepy monsters, gore and jump scares. In fact, Silent Hill differs from Resident Evil in that it focuses heavily on evasion rather than combat. Indeed, one game even makes fighting too much a cause for you to get the bad ending. Combat is still mandatory at some points, but routinely difficult and clumsy, making running much better.
Yeah, this is vidya stuff, but this series is da shit if you want to run a horror campaign. D20 Modern, Dungeons & Dragons, World of Darkness... hell, even Ravenloft DMs could pick up a few interesting tips for designing creepy locales, stories, mood setting motifs... Even the creatures from this game could be lifted and re-used to great effect.
Interesting to note; the original quartet of games rely heavily on a theme of the occult and of cultic horror. The first and third games directly involve the player being forced to confront a cult that is directly involved with - if not responsible for - the madness plaguing Silent Hill, and in particular its attempts to force the birth of its dark messiah into the world. The second and fourth instead having you taking the role of a character who has unwittingly been caught up in the cult's influence; James in SH2 is attacked by monsters because of what the cult did to Silent Hill back in the first game, and in one ending directly joins the cult to achieve his goal, whilst Henry in SH4: The Room has the misfortune of moving into the room of a crazed, undead cultist and being ensnared in his ritual magic. Most of the games after the original quartet drop the machinations of "The Order" and just present Silent Hill as a generic "bad place", which doesn't necessarily do it any favors.
Silent Hill 1
Harry Mason, a widowed author, is at his wits end. His adopted daughter, Cheryl, has been having recurring nightmares about a town named Silent Hill. Driven to desperation, he finally decides to drive her there and see if they can find the cause behind her nightmares. A mysterious figure causes his car to crash, and when he regains consciousness, his little girl is missing. Determined to find her, he sets off to explore the town, wandering through eerie, fog-shrouded streets and evading twisted monsters. All the while, he becomes deeper and deeper involved with a mysterious cult that lurks behind everything...
This is generally remembered as a bit more of a fun romp than something inspirational like most first games are in popular series, mostly because 2 blew it out of the water and many of the staples in the series were not established yet, mostly because it's more or less a self contained story if left on its own. The biggest thing was that everything could be explained by bad cult magic and the town was more a setting for the evil that went down as opposed to the mythical, thinking force seen in later games. A good game, but most fans started with its sequel.
Silent Hill 2
James Sunderland receives a letter from his wife Mary, begging him to come to Silent Hill, where they had vacationed. Naturally, James immediately follows to investigate what's happening and how he got such a letter. After all, Mary has been dead for three years...
Regarded as the best by far and single handily made Silent Hill a well known franchise. It invented many of the staples in the series today such as enemies being metaphors, a protagonist who must face the harsh truth of their actions and Silent Hill being an almost living, breathing creature who sucks in people from the outside in order to confront them about the crimes they committed. While many claim it's overrated, it generally comes down to how deeply you look into it. If you just burn though it you'll find it a poorly designed, spooky haunted house of a game with bad voice acting. If you like to look into the symbolism of the world and meanings behind actions and designs then this game will blow your mind.
In fact, there are fans who argue that this psychological horror, whilst done masterfully, has led directly to the franchise's downfall; post-SH4 games have tried to clumsily ape the symbolism and psychological horror of Silent Hill 2, but failed to provide any hint as to why this is happening. This straying from the series' roots, combined with standard flaws like bad dubs, clunky controls and nonsensical plots, have caused the infamous sequel rot.
Silent Hill 3
Heather Mason thought that she was done with Silent Hill, and the mad cult that lurks within. But when her dad, Harry Mason, is spirited away, she cannot leave him in their clutches and she returns to confront the darkness within the fog-shrouded town.
More of a love letter to the first game while keeping aspects of the second, it's generally accepted as the second best. If you liked the second or the first you'll like this. If you liked both you'll love this.
Silent Hill 4: The Room
Henry Townshend thought that Room 302 of the South Ashfield Heights apartment complex was a nice enough place to live. Until the day he woke up and he was trapped inside, unable to make contact with the outside world in any way, shape or form. And then a hole in the wall opened up, leading him to twisted, nightmarish versions of places throughout his hometown of Silent Hill. See, turns out Henry's room used to belong to Walter Sullivan, a serial killing lunatic occultist with a mother complex the size of an apartment building and a really bad case of anthropmorphisizing. And he wants his room - or, rather, his mother back...
Black sheep of the family, a few find it quirky and neat but most despise the game, in no small part thanks to the game symbolizing a turning point for the franchise suddenly making good Silent Hill games a rarity. Despite rumors that the game wasn't originally meant to be a Silent Hill title, it was confirmed that the game was always intended to be a Silent Hill game, at least as a spinoff.
Introduced the idea of the "evil" from Silent Hill leaking into other cities and people are split on this. It IS more terrifying to think what happens in Silent Hill could suddenly happen everywhere but your view might change depending on how you see the town. If you see the mind behind the town as some Cthulhu style monster who loves seeing people suffer while giving a evil laugh then you probably like the idea. If you think it's some neutral force that brings people in to help them get over their problems and move on, even if it puts their lives in danger, then you would find the "evil" spreading to be out of character. It's differs from person to person.
For what it's worth, it does actually make consistent internal sense with lore established in the first and third game that "Silent Hill's" monsters and otherworldly nature are significantly affected by the rituals of the Order, which Walter Sullivan belonged to before he got caught as a serial killer and danced the hemp fandango.
Silent Hill Origins
Seven years before the events of the first game, a wandering vagrant named Travis Grady saves a badly burned girl from a burning house, only to pass out and wake up in a twisted, nightmarish city called Silent Hill.
Generally seen as a good, quirky side story and talked about rather positively. Detractors will mention that it's pretty forgettable, especially the protagonist despite him appearing in later games.
Silent Hill Homecoming
Alex Shepherd, a Special Forces soldier who has been discharged from the hospital and sent home after being wounded in battle, arrives in his hometown of Shepherd's Glen and finds that all is not right with the world: the town is covered in fog, people (including his younger brother Josh) are disappearing, his father has left to look for his brother, and his mother is catatonic. The dark forces of Silent Hill soon infect the town proper, transforming it into a nightmarish otherworld where Alex must struggle to survive against hordes of monsters and waves of increasingly obtuse symbolism... as well as a group of mysterious cultists who seem to bear a grudge against him.
It was released so the movie could have something to run along with and it reeks of a tie in game. Not terrible, but below average; many consider the gameplay to be boring and/or uncharacteristically combat focused, the combat mechanics are awkward, and the story is, even for a Silent Hill game, often held up as being illogical and hard to follow.
For what it's worth, its storyline improves a lot when you realise it's a throwback to the first four games, both in the underlying theme of "you're a bystander caught up in the horrors of Silent Hill" and in approach of letting you piece together the true story after you've played the game, rather than making all straight-forward. In fact, it's the last game to make any reference to the existence of The Order, the cult who were heavily to blame for everything in Silent Hill being so crazy in the first four games.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
A reimagining of the first game that ends up being framed as a result of psycho-therapy that Heather Mason is undergoing. No Cult exists, the entire game is played as Harry Mason in winter version of Silent Hill, which is still lived in like any other normal town...when not in the Otherworld of the game where a disaster movie style mass freeze has occurred. In the Otherworld, Harry has to run from pale naked humanoids intent on freezing him to death. The game tracks your actions, like how much you press the button to call for your daughter and what kinds of things you stop to look at to determine the progression of the story, what the monsters look like, and the ending. The game is only canon to itself, and is not intended to be part of the main series.
Another rather liked side game built up like a good movie reboot, same story and cast but with a new spin on things. If you like alternate world stories or just like to see the first game done differently, give it a shot. Those who don't like it point out that it feels more like a mystery than horror game and doesn't mesh well with the other games, which is probably why it didn't receive a sequel.
Silent Hill Downpour
During a routine transfer to a new prison, the bus transporting prisoner Murphy Pendleton crashes and leaves him a free man. With a security officer from the transport on his tail, Murphy - desperate for an escape route and an escape from ever-worsening weather - follows a worn-down road through the woods and into the world's least desirable holiday destination ever: the rain-drenched, monster-infested city known as Silent Hill.
Seen as the middle of the road, not bad but pretty forgettable. Did some things right, did some things wrong, can be fun at times and boring in others. A mixed bag. Calls back to Silent Hill 2 by having little connection to the other games besides the town itself and is a story focused on its characters and their personal demons.
Originally introduced as an Indie-looking demo simply called "P.T.", the player is stuck in a hallway of a house which leads to a small concrete room. The player continually walks this same hall and room over and over and over, the exit always leading back to the beginning with some small changes...plus the ghost of a grinning woman with an eye gouged out, and a bloody fetus that sometimes wails or speaks in the voice of an adult male. Players cannot interact with anything other than through looking at things, and the game became a massive scavanger hunt of a community online trying to figure out what to do to progress such as looking at shreds of paper to restore their original photograph form, or entering a doorway then waiting five seconds for a phone to ring. Do something wrong or be too slow and the ghost kills you with a jumpscare. The story revealed is that someone killed their cheating wife and unborn baby, and someone was unable to save their wife and unborn baby. Which, if either, you are is unclear. At the end of a long and complex path, the front door is finally open. Exiting the house begins a cutscene where Norman Reedus of Walking Dead fame is revealed to be the model for your character, then the "P.T." title becomes "Silent Hill: Playable Teaser".
The genius marketing campaign generated MASSIVE interest, only enhanced when it was announced that monster and horror designer Guillermo del Toro as well as Japanese horror legend Junji Ito were both involved. The game was to be called Silent Hills and would be a complete return to Silent Hill 2 style psychological horror and symbolism from an unconnected protagonist. Then...#fuckkonami happened. Konami pulled Games Workshop tier business decisions by allowing an expose revealing their horrible business practices and treatment of employees to come to light, and publicly fired and insulted one of the most popular men in the video game industry despite still using his name to sell his last game for them. They then chose to leave all of their many beloved franchises dead by announcing that from that point onwards, Konami would only be making Pachinko and cellphone games. Yes, this really all happened...del Toro was left so disappointed by the process that he said he would never work in an industry as toxic as video games again. Konami attempted to hide from the massive backlash by trying to bury P.T. (which had quite the opposite effect), with del Toro eventually confirming it was canceled since Konami wouldn't. It was pulled from the market, leaving any memory card with it installed as a VERY valuable collector's item. Fans attempted to make spiritual successors, which were mostly either bad cash grabs or canceled as well in development.
So ends Silent Hills and for the most part the entire Silent Hill franchise for good.
Silent Hill Comics
Silent Hill had multiple comic runs from IDW Publishing, like the other survival horror games of the era. Likewise, they are largely seen as non-canon.
Particular criticism is the sketchy artstyle and chaotic panel layout, which was intended to give a feeling of unease but unfortunately made it hard to tell what was going on when one of the Picasso-esque faces of a main character was not shown. The comics were also disjointed and featured things such as the ghost of a little girl who speaks like a South Park character, a bus full of cheerleaders with guns shooting monsters, a stoner artist lured by the town to paint its surreal nature in order to spread its influence which monsters posed for when he needed models, and a "chosen one" exorcist teenage girl.
Each series can be taken as its own thing and judged on its own merits, but as a whole are left unmentioned in continuity.
Silent Hill Movies
The first movie followed most of the plot of the first game, although with Dahlia split between an insane cult leader and an insane broken homeless woman while good Cheryl and evil Cheryl were far more seperate entities. In the ending, evil Cheryl takes control of the town Dark World to torture and kill the inhabitants of Silent Hill involved in her sacrifice while good Cheryl is trapped in the fog of the Otherworld, which extends worldwide now as the protagonist is able to return home in another dimension from the one her husband exists in. The sequel starts to follow the plot of Silent Hill 3, but instead veers off the rails like a Uwe Boll movie into a disaster of a plot with too many screwups to list in a brief manner.
Although the first movie was a grade above arguably all other video game movies ever produced, it was hindered by executive decisions like making the protagonist a woman because "the audiance can't relate to a father searching for his missing daughter like they would a mother in the same situation", making Alessia's trauma partially come from being raped by the elementary school janitor, reusing all monsters from Silent Hill 2 without any symbolic meaning because they were more iconic, and a single ambiguous ending. The sequel was a desperate cash grab, made in 3D which was underused and had an extremely limited budget to maximize profit off the trust in quality the first movie had inspired among the community. It attempted to mix the fad of movies like Hunger Games and Twilight to create a faux-dramatic and awkward teenage romance rebellion plot. Most of the visual effects were in the trailer, leaving the audiance with a long and very badly paced movie.
Some enterprising Storytellers put together a fan source-book for running Silent Hill games under the 1st edition New World of Darkness mechanics, which you can find here: http://mrgone.rocksolidshells.com/pdf/NWOD/Silent_Hill.pdf