The franchise of Silent Hill has generally fallen under the responsibility of Konami's Japanese development team, Team Silent. This team was actually split up between Silent Hills 1 and 3, and Silent Hills 2 and 4. If you're knowledgeable about the SH universe, the first and third titles tell an ongoing story about the town, Alessa, and the lineage of Harry Mason. The second and fourth were more abstract concepts, the second game exploring what exactly the town of Silent Hill is and the fourth was just a bit more wild in ideas, loosely connected to Silent Hill by the villain: Walter Sullivan. The fourth title wasn't originally a Silent Hill game, but that's moot. Now the US team Climax has taken the effort to bring the Silent Hill universe to the PSP with Origins, a tale preceding Harry's quest in the first game and meant to tie together the stories of the games and the story of the movie -- that is, focusing on Alessa once more.
With that giant narrative introducing you into the land of Silent Hill, how does Origins stack up in the franchise? It's regrettable, but it finds its way near the bottom of the pile. However, don't dismiss the game -- it's a really good Silent Hill game, but Climax approached it the way American film generally approaches sequels (Saw): more of the same, with little innovation or thought outside of the box. If you're a fan of SH, you'll enjoy the game for its familiarity but will sigh at the lack of much new. If you're new to the series, you'll probably really dig the game. Let's go a little further into this and help you decide.
Gallery: Silent Hill Origins
As I previously mentioned, SHO strings together the story and characters introduced in the first and third games in the series. You play Travis Grady, a trucker who is driving by the town of Silent Hill, almost hits a mysterious girl (a trick used at least three times by the franchise), then decides to saunter into town after said girl. That's the first issue -- unlike Henry Townshend from SH4: The Room, Travis entered Silent Hill on his own. He wasn't drawn like the characters in the first, second, and third games and he wasn't forced into town by an inhabitant (Henry was forced in due to Walter Sullivan). He has no real reason for going there except to confront his past through Alessa.
Even without a reason for initially entering the town, Travis does rediscover bits of his past in Silent Hill -- culminating in ... well, I'd rather not spoil it for you. The story doesn't deliver any dramatic twists or thrills aside from an occasional nod in bemused surprise, but it does successfully tie together four games that were otherwise connected loosely through a common theme and similar character names. So kudos for doing that.
Speaking of common themes, Climax nailed the atmosphere pretty well. A fog-riddled town and a rusted chain-link hell are both faithfully replicated to mimic the other titles in the series. The lighting effects in the game are spectacularly rendered on the PSP and bring a great sense of suspense to the game along with fairly detailed environments and character designs. Even when you start the game up, you're told that in order to fully enjoy the game, to turn your lights off and stick some headphones on. I fully recommend doing that, as I tried to play it on the bus one day and it was ... well ... it sucked. Help the game scare you, guys!
Two more notes about the atmosphere. First, when walking around the town, sometimes sound effects would just cut out on me. It sort of took me out of the moment. Second, and this is just a nitpicky personal detail, but I'm not sure how well games like this can travel from a console to a portable. Portable gaming is meant to be pick-up-and-go, but Silent Hill Origins demands you to get sucked into the game. This is tough to do outside of laying in bed at night. As I said, it's just a nitpicky thing, but if you try to get the most out of your games, you do need to set aside chunks of time instead of a quick five or ten minute progression. It's your call.
Silent Hill has never been a strong contender for excellent gameplay. Climax continued to mimic the previous entries by keeping the battle mechanics simple and blah. Mostly taken from the fourth title, your melee weapons eventually break, you can charge up for a powerful attack, and that's really it. It's nothing special, but in all honesty, you aren't really supposed to fight in these games much aside from boss battles. It is neat that you can pick up a ton of random things for weapons -- bits of wood, hospital drip stands, screwdrivers, portable TVs, etc. However, it would've been nice to have a limited inventory. I finished up the game with over twenty melee weapons in my inventory. Wouldn't it have made the game more challenging and more frightening if you could only hold one melee weapon at a time, since they eventually break? I guess eight would've been a nice number, but still.
Battle does take a more active role in this game than before. Enemies respawn practically every time you leave and re-enter a room, forcing you to use a lot of those items you pick up. An interesting note about the enemy design: each enemy type does have an attack strategy attached to it. That is, sometimes you need to toss a portable TV at an enemy (or use a firearm, which you ought to save for the well-designed and executed boss battles), or sometimes rushing them with a shovel is the smartest method. The sooner you catch on to these strategies, the better.
Aside from battle, the other half of gameplay in Silent Hill games are the puzzles. They return in SHO and until the last two areas of the game, they are very, very simple. If you played Silent Hill 3 on the PS2 with "hard" puzzle mode activated, you'll know that puzzles can be confusing and vague. These ones aren't, though the later puzzles do require some thought. With an excellent atmosphere, mediocre battles and puzzles, you've basically got a hybrid Silent Hill game that draws on the strengths of each previous title, but by mixing them together, end up somewhere in the middle on all aspects. What was sorely missed was the camera system from the first and second games (I can't remember if it was in the third) where the camera would swivel when the shoulder button to reset it was pressed. In this game and the fourth game, the camera suddenly shifts to behind you. It's a small detail, but it can be disorienting.
Ever hear of "fanfiction"? It's where fans of a movie, book, or game write up scenarios with their favorite characters and stick 'em on the web (there are a surprising amount of Sora/Riku fanfictions floating around from Kingdom Hearts ... sort of weird). If you gave a group of programmers (Climax) who were huge fans of the Silent Hill franchise permission to make a game, they'd probably make this one. It draws on everything introduced from the previous games without delivering anything new. This doesn't make it a bad game, it just makes it sort of formulaic, which we really didn't want. Hopefully The Collective will do something a little more fresh with the PS3 and 360 Silent Hill 5, but if you've just wanted to dive back into the town of Silent Hill with a new face and different story, Origins will give you a pretty good ride for about five hours. It's your choice -- the game's all right, but not a high point in the series.
PSP Fanboy score: 7.5
Reader Comments (Page 1 of 2)
11-22-2007 @ 10:21PM
i have the game
but it gets too repetitive after a while
still fun though
11-22-2007 @ 10:29PM
promising!! love this kind of game!!
11-22-2007 @ 10:33PM
About what I was expecting. Thanks for the review!
11-22-2007 @ 11:59PM
Given the recent reviews of two games - "Disgaea" and "Castlevania" getting 9.0 and 8.5 respectively (the 1st one is a PORT, and 2nd one is a REMAKE), I'd say that originality probably shouldn't hurt so much on the final score. "7.5", my god, this is the game we waited for years, damn it!
btw. the horror atmosphere has never been delivered so intensively on a handheld like PSP before SHO, excellent visual and sound effects, music, good story telling (except the story has some problem itself), high play value (2nd, 3rd round for multiple endings and collectables). I don't really see a 7.5 here.
11-23-2007 @ 2:49AM
I agree with #4
It's like they're considering the PSP a home console. Dammit, it's portable Silent Hill for god's sake. There's never been nothing like it before. Heck, it's something the DS wouldn't be able to do even in its wildest dreams. Besides, I don't see mention of the sweet constant 60fps the game runs on.
Again, I consider the score to be a bit on the harsh side. It almost sounded like a IGN review... and you know what everybody thinks of IGN lately.
11-23-2007 @ 2:56AM
Very harsh. This game is miles above the abysmal Silent Hill 4 which was a huge departure from the silent hill formula. Also, this game is 10x freakier if you have earphones on.
11-23-2007 @ 3:24AM
If any of you actually bothered to read everything besides the score in the review, you'd notice that he was saying that this is a good game. It just didn't cease the opportunity to innovate in any other ways and it left the formula alone.
A 7.5 is not the end of the world. It shows that the game is good, but it has room for improvement.
Sheesh. It feels like I'm defending you PSP Fanboy writers everyday.
11-23-2007 @ 3:45AM
This is exactly the thinking that has led the PSP to having no more games (besides the piracy).
It's constantly compared to PS2/Xbox games in reviews, yet it's a handheld game. You should compare it to other handheld horror games.
11-23-2007 @ 7:13AM
To #7, yes, I read the whole review, and I addressed the main reason of the score is abt originality (or creativity) in the first sentence above... But like #6 mentioned, people probably don't want SH driving away from what it was like, and this is exactly what SHO wanted and has achieved. Or, if you'd like, you can treat SHO as a brand new game by itself, what would you think then?
7.5 is not bad if standards of evaluation are fair. Problem is, i don't see anything new in games like "castlevania" and "Disgaea" either, which got very high scores.
From the developer's side, they definitely have strive n their best through the long stretched dev cycle. Team changing, game play changing, you can even see small differences between the demo and the final release. The visuals - fog system, lighting system on a handheld are great achievements by themselves, even can be written as research papers (judged from my profession). Plus, how many PSP dedicated games have the luxury to have its own theme song?
I probably talked too much, but I really felt unfair for Climax, and potential gamers who hasn't really experienced such a brilliant title on PSP. Sometimes, or shall I say most of the time, scores DO push people away.
11-23-2007 @ 7:26AM
At # 5
IGN review? Don't you mean Gamespot?
But yeah my friend let me borough this and I thought it would get an 8.7 or something.
11-23-2007 @ 8:57AM
Kade Storm said...
Let me simplify something for you: What you're calling a 'standard-of-evaluation' here, has jack/nada/nothing to do with the reviewer's standard, and both of your standards have nothing to do with MY standard.
We already know Castlevania was a remake - there was nothing 'original' to be sought in that title. Therefore, narrowing down to originality as a primary criteria for rating would be setting up a disaster review. It was a remake, and hence, it was rated. . . *as a remake!* Originality is not a considered formula when it comes to remakes, perhaps some exclusive content and improvements, but not originality.
On the other hand, Silent Hill: Origins was supposed to be a new, and original concept. Therefore, it would be judged primarily on its niche - originality. And that's where the reviewer feels that originality was good. Not great, but certainly good! Yes, this isn't bad at all.
Now the real issue that you bring up: Does this game deserve such a rating? No. . . No, it doesn't. I'd give it an eighter - minimum. Because when you consider the overall standard of original/new games on the PSP, you'd want to give a very strong rating to a good original title, even if it isn't that great.
So while I can agree that the game deserved a better rating for what it did on the PSP, I think your attempts to justify your opinion by comparing it to remakes as your means of a 'standard' are utterly flawed. Originality isn't a primary universal criteria for a good rating. No offence mate, but things don't get more 'apples and oranges' than what you've just insinuated about Castlevania.
11-23-2007 @ 9:15AM
I was expectin anithing from 7 to 8.5 from you guys ... and I was right :)
11-23-2007 @ 10:57AM
I have to say that I'm while I'm not completely disappointed with this game, it far too predictable. I agree that this is more of a silent hill "best of" sort of thing, drawing too many familiar elements from previous games, and lacking too much of it's own originality. This is what I'm worried about in SH5 as well, since it looks exactly like the movie, which was absolutely horrible and missed the point of SH all together. Oh, and breakable weapons, of which you can carry 5,000 at a time? Seriously?
11-23-2007 @ 11:24AM
I'm with several of the comments above citing this rating as overly harsh - and I'm starting to get a little sick of the negativity around PSP Fanboy, of late. Start seeing some glasses half full, for crying out loud!
"it just makes it sort of formulaic, which we really didn't want"
Speak for yourself, man. Some of 'we' have never played a SH game all the way though and to me, this was a pretty solid experience. Is it ALL NEW? No, I don't see a lot new in just about any game, anymore - especially a genre horror game like this. But it delivers the goods you'd expect very well, and it should be rated that way.
"Enemies respawn practically every time you leave and re-enter a room"
No, they do not. After you accomplish a task they tend to appear outside a door (sometimes), but just walking in and out of a room doesn't make anything respawn.
"Silent Hill: Origins was supposed to be a new, and original concept."
Says who? I don't recall reading the box or ad copy and seeing 'ALL NEW CONCEPT' written anywhere.
"If any of you actually bothered to read everything besides the score in the review, you'd notice that he was saying that this is a good game."
I read it and if Nick had really thought the game was as good as you say, he would've given it a better rating. Like it or not, 7.5 these days denotes a fairly average title... Which this isn't. It's a version of Silent Hill that has been tailored just for the PSP and looks and plays better than any other portable horror title out there.
"Speaking of common themes, Climax nailed the atmosphere pretty well."
PRETTY well? I'd say they nailed it, period. The eerie music, sound effects, freakish environments, all of it suits SH perfectly.
"Even without a reason for initially entering the town..."
You make this sound like it's a flaw in the plot. It's not - he stops when he sees something and gets swept up into the chain of events.
"Portable gaming is meant to be pick-up-and-go...This is tough to do outside of laying in bed at night."
Huh? Both the DS and PSP have games that can be picked up and played on the go, and some that are better suited to lying on your bed. Certainly ZELDA or FFIII weren't quick-play on-the-go titles for the DS, eh? But they didn't get dumped on for that. What did you want, a Silent Hill themed Tetris/Columns ripoff?
Sorry, but while SHO isn't a perfect game (it does tend to be a bit predictable and doesn't add much to the series), to criticize its lack of simplistic on-the-go gameplay is just ridiculous.
11-23-2007 @ 12:51PM
Well, so this is war!!! Go Climax +1! Heh.
Actually, I think the game's great. Yeah, it's predictable, and the plot develops more or less like a B-Movie, but that's the way Silent Hill has always been. It just doesn't have the "surprise" factor anymore because it's not a new thing, but it wasn't meant to be a new thing. It's just good ol' SH on the go, and at that, it looks effing great.
"Silent Hill: Origins was supposed to be a new, and original concept."
LOL no. It was just supposed to be true to the franchise. The first console-quality portable Silent Hill. Heck, I even remember Climax trying to innovate by adding RE4 shooting controls to the game, but those ideas were ditched... most likely by Konami's request.
And I gotta say again, I agree with imxiaozhu. I know the games he mentions (Disgaea and Castlevania) are ports/remakes and are scored as such, but I do think it's unfair to give a true, "from scratch" effort like SHO a lower score. I mean, C'Mon! If you guys keep scoring ports better, we'll eventually get only ports instead of original games.
11-23-2007 @ 1:46PM
Kade Storm, thanks for pointing out my problem about "originality", I agree with you. I guess if "originality" weights 2 in the rating, SHO must have got less than 50% to make it 7.5.
But, here's the catch. Because remakes kick originality entirely out of the picture, consequently their ratings are safer given the same quality on all the other aspects. Without a substitution criterion for originality, of roughly equal difficulty in game design (I guess originality is probably the hardest part), remakes tend to have higher scores.
The solution is two folded. Either lower the weight of originality for the horror genre, or, find that substitution criterion for the remakes to raise the bar. Afterall, 7.5 is less than 8.5 no matter what.
11-23-2007 @ 1:56PM
And thanks to cafecito ;-)
11-24-2007 @ 1:06AM
Pajama Party! said...
Personally, I thought the game was excellent. I'm a huge fan of the mythology established by Silent Hill 1 and 3 and this was an excellent addition to that storyline. In light of people's reaction to Silent Hill 4, I don't feel it's entirely fair to dock Origins points for not being a radical departure from the original's formula. Overall, it nailed everything that makes a Silent Hill game what it is, with some of the most impressive visuals and lighting effects on the PSP to date.
There is one quote from the review I'd like to focus on:
"Portable gaming is meant to be pick-up-and-go, but Silent Hill Origins demands you to get sucked into the game. This is tough to do outside of laying in bed at night. "
Look at it this way: Silent Hill Origins is the perfect demonstration for the PSP's TV Out feature. My wife is a huge survival horror fan and the two of us had a blast playing this game on the big screen over a series of evenings. (With the lights out, of course.)
My own score: 9/10 It delivers what it promises and provides yet another quality addition to the PSP's library representing a staple PlayStation series.
11-24-2007 @ 11:26AM
A game like Silent Hill doesn't have to reinvent the genre in order to work - especially when brought to a portable system. The very fact that they customized battle (the most playable and reliable control scheme I've seen in a survival horror title) and simplified inventory and other aspects for the PSP should earn the game a gold medal, of sorts.
Not all portable games need to be simplistic 'pick up and play' types. FFIII, Advance Wars and even Pokemon are lengthy games with tasks that need to be played out via extended gameplay. The key here is you can leave games like Advance Wars, FFIII and Silent Hill in standby mode and come back to them later... So the 'it's not a good portable game' argument falls flat.
Clearly, some critics just aren't feeling the SH love. 1UP/EGM (who hate all PSP games, anyway) and Gamespot definitely panned it, but their reasoning just doesn't work. The game does what it sets out to do - bring a Silent Hill title in most, if not all, its glory to the PSP. The atmosphere is spot-on and the battles & tasks are well adapted -- to the portable. More than that, and you're fishing for an excuse to dislike the game.
11-25-2007 @ 2:44AM
Yeah, reviewers deserve to die. We're gonna overthrow them one day.
It's like having Jaw Sherman review everything. IT STINKS! IT STINKS!