Wednesday, June 17, 2009

AdVantage Point: Silent Hill Homecoming (2008)

Give an idiot a scanner and a comic book and let him to pick out all the advertisements for video games. This is AdVantage Point -- a chance to document the winding timeline of comics/gaming history as it was canonized by the adverts. Musings, rantings, observations, stream of consciousness.

Is it just me, or is there something about Silent Hill that always makes it seem older than it actually is? It's hard to believe 2009 is only the tenth anniversary of the first game!

Homecoming, the US-developed combat heavy instalment in the series, now becomes a distant footnote as we look forward to the latest version of the much loved series. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories throws players back into the embattered role of Harry Mason, who awakes from a car accident to find his adopted daughter missing and a foggy mystery awaiting him in the depths of the mysterious titular town.

Just like in Soviet Russia, the reimagining of the original 1999 PSX classic promises to be a game that plays YOU! By utilizing cutting edge technology, the game will constantly evaluate the psychological profile indicated by a player's decisions, creating deviations that respond to the behaviours exhibited. This new feature speaks to the intense immersion intended for the game, which now pipes trademark eerie static directly through the Wiimote speaker, and encourages players to fiddle with locks, and be distracted during conversations, seamlessly blending puzzles, cut scenes, and assessments, with live gameplay.

Generally speaking, I'm firmly against the very notion of remakes.

With a background in comic books, my perspective is one appreciative of the value of accumulated storytelling and on-going developments.
Sitting somewhere between the slow and expensive production of feature films, and the serialized accessibility of longer running comics, I often lean toward observing games through the conventions of comics as a reference base for viable long running development. In that respect, I think characters, (even ones that are actually spooky towns), deserve the chance to develop their story at every available junction, always moving forward, instead of lazily cashing in on uninventive repetition.

There's no denying the creative stagnancy of remakes, but Silent Hill: Shattered Memories really makes an effort to buck the negatives, defying even the staunchest critic with a game that imbues the spirit of the original with an entirely fresh perspective.

Admittedly, I'm a little curious as to why this game couldn't have been a brand new instalment in the series, but am willing to bet the radical shift in design might have played a part in that, built on the hopes of using the familiar to ease fans into something seemingly antithetical to the Silent Hill franchise.
I, of course, am referring to the dismissal of the trademark septic rusting that indicated to players their world was about to be turned upside down and inside out. While the hellacious faceless monsters remain; Shattered Memories favours an icey cold loneliness to spook players, taking full advantage of the game's cumulative assessment to play to a very different type of horror.

With so many interactive gimmicks and the prospect of a whole new presentation, it's really very hard to resist the charms, regardless of the game's status as a remake. Far from redundant for these facts, one wonders if the Shattered Memories moniker isn't a specific reference to the justification of the game. While it deliberately draws upon the first in the series, is it possible we're about to get a revised truth, or fractured reality in the Silent Hill canon?

I'm keen to find out!

Shattered Memories boasts a similar atmospheric solitude to it's famous predecessors, but really does tap in to a brand new scope of horror. For a franchise like this to remain successful, one could argue that this type of reinvention is necessary. The terraforming landscape of Silent Hill grants creators an opportunity to craft new experiences based upon the psychological underpinnings of the lead character in each game. By tapping in to the expected horror of Silent Hill, while undermining the fundamentals of the familiar, it recreates some of that fresh tension we all felt when first experiencing the franchise. To this end, it could be the most intriguing deviation in the series since the tangentially related sequel, The Room.

In response to today's AdVantage Point advert -- Shattered Memories also makes a deliberate decision to steer away from the cumbersome combat of the previous games. In opposition to Homecoming's expanded battling, Shattered Memories now encourages players to effectively speed run their way through locales, using the icy blue of the 'otherworld' to indicate paths through the expansive townscape.

All in all, it's a pleasant change of pace for any gamer like myself.
A game with a high concept and story-driven drive that actually makes the Nintendo Wii look like a more involving piece of hardware than it's plethora of novelty games. I regret that I'll probably cheap out to get the PS2 version, because I really can't imagine how it will be as successful as the Wiimote wielding version, which the game appears to have been built upon.

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