I’ve put about an hour into Silent Hill: 0rigins so far and I’m having a pretty good time. This game is different from the rest of the Silent Hill series because it’s exclusive to the PSP and was developed by Climax rather than Konami, and I think a lot of people were worried that the magic would be lost without the golden touch of Akira Yamaoka and his crew. I’m happy to report that, at least for the first hour or two, Silent Hill: 0rigins is extremely faithful to its predecessors in almost every way.
It’s kind of like when you buy a tribute CD to a band you really like, and on it is a cover of a song that you particularly like. The cover isn’t really all that different than the original, just performed by different people, and you find that you enjoy it almost as much as the original track. Silent Hill: 0rigins is like that.
The game is extremely similar to the original Silent Hill in terms of progression and presentation, though little bits (the monster design, mostly) have been taken from Silent Hill 2 as well. Some points in the game feel a little like fan service, but mostly the homages to earlier Silent Hill games are welcome. The designers are clearly huge fans of the series, and they know what players want as well. In the first five minutes we’re plopped in foggy Silent Hill, and of course our first destination is the hospital. Within ten minutes we’ve killed our first zombie nurse and already transitioned to the otherworld with the help of a certain young woman who’s last name is probably Gillespie. The game hits all the right notes in quick succession; it almost feels like I’m back in 1999 enjoying my favorite PS1 game all over again.
I do think that the developers should have allowed the protagonist to self-reflect more. One of the great things about earlier Silent Hill games is that the characters are constantly talking to themselves while exploring. Almost every time you examine something, even if it has no gameplay bearing, the character will comment about it. I think this effect was perfected in Silent Hill 3; Heather’s comments about the things she sees not only explain the game world to us, they develop her personality as a character. Travis, the 0rigins protagonist, seems unfazed by pretty much everything. He doesn’t react when he kills his first body bag monster, or when he first switches to the otherworld, or when he notices that the roads in Silent Hill seem to terminate in infinite chasms. He comes off as totally disconnected or really, really tough, which was probably not the developer’s intent. Still, this is an extremely minor gripe; almost everything about the game so far has been pretty great.
I’m impressed that Climax was able to reproduce the Silent Hill formula so throughly. The camera movement, room layout, flashlight, user interface, and sound effects are all spot on. I hope that Silent Hill 5, which is also being developed outside of Konami, will come out this good.