Early in December I attended a Konami press event in San Fransisco and had the opportunity to try Silent Hill Downpour, Silent Hill Book of Memories and the HD Collection and talk with Silent Hill producer Tomm Hulett. I already played through most of the HD Collection back in September so I used my time to play-through Downpour and briefly try Book of Memories. Unfortunately, unlike my Downpourhands on preview last September, I could not record myself playing so no accompanying video preview this time around!
I have to say the improvements to the visuals in both games are immediately apparent. As someone who’s only played both on the Playstation 2 versions I was blown away at just how crisp and clear everything was. It was definitely a new experience finally seeing the little details in the environments that were muddy and blurry before such as store signs, details in James’ jacket and the random graffiti in sharp focus. It was such a difference to both of us, so much so that we were constantly yelling to one another to come over and look at some small little detail we missed seeing in the past. It seriously felt like I was playing Silent Hill 2 again for the first time with just how much “new” things there were to see.
I think the HD visual improvements really hit home for me when I reached the Silent Hill Historical Society/Prison in Silent Hill 2 and when Cj had reached the Alternate Hilltop Center in Silent Hill 3. In the Silent Hill Historical Society and the Prison there’s a lot of cool paintings/photos that line the walls, including a Silent Hill 2 Staff picture Easter egg and other macabre art depicting Silent Hill’s darker past. I remember while playing on the Playstation 2 I had a hard time really seeing the details of art as the environments were not only dark but the art and photos were tiny and blurry. Since I couldn’t really zoom in for a better look I had to depend on James’ one sentence description and in the end I didn’t think much about their content when I played. It wasn’t until years later after taking a closer look at the painting textures ripped from the PC version on Alchemilla Hospital.net did I gain a greater appreciation for all the details Team Silent had put into the game…even those I couldn’t see due to technical limitations at the time.
Painting Texture from Silent Hill 2 PC
One of these small details that blew me away was the painting in the Toluca Prison cafeteria that depicts the room with Eddie’s gunshot victim in the forefront. In game it just looked like a painting of the room with the weird and creepy inclusion of the corpse but nothing too special. However, on viewing the painting texture texture up close it became quite obvious there was something off about the scene depicted. That unknown brown and muddy looking corpse slumped on a table near the exit? Well in the painting it looks quite different… in fact it looks like James has taken his place since the corpse has lighter hair, a green jacket and blue jeans! In a way I think the painting was foreshadowing James and Eddie’s battle to the death at the end of the Labyrinth. If James wasn’t careful he would end up like all the other people Eddie killed with a bullet in his brain.
The painting is definitely unnerving up close and it’s a shame that in the original Playstation 2 game these color changes are hardly visible…until now that is. With the HD upgrade you can easily note the subtle color change just by staring at the painting in game. It was amazing and when I pointed it this out both Cj and Tomm they were both surprised as they had never known about that small detail before!
Silent Hill 2 wasn’t the only one benefiting from the focus of smaller environmental details. Throughout our time playing Cj constantly pointed out a variety of text on the walls and other visuals in Silent Hill 3 that neither of us noticed before. I believe the biggest surprise on this new clarity in graphically superior Silent Hill 3 was when Cj reached the Otherworld Hilltop Center. In One Stop Imports next to vending machine there’s graffiti of a poem that when Heather observes it reads:
“Thus one’s life turns to riches:
What was a bag of silver coins is
now the number in a book.
Yet faith hath no price…
Ah, but do people know this?”
Texture from Silent Hill 3 PC
In the Playstation 2 game the poem in hard to read on the wall but in the HD collection we could read the poem word for word without a close up observation shot by just staring at the wall. It was a little funny too because noticed that “coins” was misspelled! It was this new found clarity that really made us both want to slow down and just spend time looking at every little bit of the environments just to try to uncover other previously unknown details (unfortunately we couldn’t really spend too much time as we wanted to get through the game with the limited time we had!).
So both games look gorgeous but I’m sure you all probably care more about what I thought about the new voice work. For those who may have been in the dark these past few months it was announced early on that both Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 would have an entirely new voice cast in this upgrade. Not surprisingly, this change upset many Silent Hill fans and had had also become a deal breaker for purchasing the collection for many. As an old fan myself I have to say that yes the new voices do sound strange and are jarring at first because I’m so used to the old ones but in my opinion they are in no way terrible.
Troy Baker as James really grew on me as I played through the game. His voice is pretty deep and raspy when compared to Guy Cihi’s original performance so I was really unsure about him going in but I’m happy to say I ended up really enjoying his performance overall. His James sounded more emotional to me especially in the later half of the game where he sounded so shaken up at times that I thought at one point James might just break down and cry.
One of the other shining stars for me was Angela’s new voice actress who also plays Claudia in Silent Hill 3. She really did a fantastic job, I loved, loved, loved that her Angela sounded like a troubled teenager and not a woman in her 40′s. With the improved the pacing of the line readings there was also no comical stutters or weird long emphasis on random words (“LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSST?”) which I really liked.
The rest of the new Silent Hill 2 cast did a fine job as well. I enjoyed Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s huskier and more seductive take on Maria but I felt her deep voice was a mismatch for Mary Shepherd-Sunderland as it made Mary seem older and less innocent. So hands down I have to say I prefer Monica Taylor Horgan’s Mary performance but again I want to emphasize that it’s not terrible it is just my personal preference. Mary Elizabeth still gave a very powerful performance and the lines were read quite well and I’m happy to report that hearing her rendition of the letter at the end was still able to choke me up!
As for Silent Hill 3 from what I heard I really liked it! We went in cold and both Cj and I were pleasantly surprised. The new Heather sounded age appropriate and sassy (though I miss Heather Morris). The new Claudia sounded nearly identical to Donna Burke’s portrayal but she carried a bit of a harder edge. I believe the change in pacing greatly improved the delivery of Vincent’s lines. The new actor sounded just like Clifford Rippel’s original Vincent but without the random dramatic pauses and inflection changes so his lines flowed a bit better. The new Douglas sounded less gruff but I believe his performance was quite good as well. Really from the snippets I heard watching some of the cutscenes over Cj’s shoulder I think people will be pleasantly pleased with the Silent Hill 3′s new voice cast.
Even though I already own both games for the Playstation 2, I see the HD Collection as a must have for any Silent Hill fan. Even if you are iffy on the new voices (luckily we now have the option to switch to the old with Silent Hill 2) you should definitely at give the collection a try just to see both games in such high detail if nothing else!
Hey guys! I have a very special treat for you all, it’s another Downpour gameplay video but this one is a kinda special as it’s by yours truly and Cj from over on Rely on Horror/Hell Descent!
We were both invited down to Konami HQ to check out the game (more about this in a future Vlog!) and I put my new video camera to use and recorded our play through. We are playing the Xbox 360 version and according to the Downpour Producers Devin Shatsky and Tomm Hulett it’s the newest build that’s never been shown before. I’m a little bummed we could only capture video of the playthrough with only my video camera, it really doesn’t do the game justice.
Now I must warn you the areas we played through are not completely polished and you will see that many environments sill needed lighting re touches (as noted by the developer notes on screen) and we ran into a variety of small bugs too (flashlight turning off, music continuing to play, etc) that of course would be fixed before the release. Even though the Downpour we played wasn’t completely polished it was still a thrill to experience and left us wanting to see more!
Our demo of the game started immediately after the prison transport bus crash, but we didn’t start recording until we met Howard outside the diner. There’s so rehash of area seen in previous gameplay videos but unlike the other demos our video will cover Murphy’s entire trek through the Devil’s Pitstop (“Best Price in the Area, Eat & Bed All in One) as he looks for a change of clothes and way out of town. Unfortunately for Murphy getting out of town is proving a lot harder then he thought…
Cj does all the actual playing during this video but I was able to try the game for myself for a bit once recording stopped. By the way If you can’t watch the video be sure to head over to read Cj’s amazing summary and review over on the Rely on Horror website as he gives a section by section review of pretty much everything we saw. Below I will only detail in general terms what I saw and experienced watching/playing and my thoughts on game in general after this playthrough.
The screenshots do not do this game justice
Seriously. I really wish we had this quality in the series first foray into next generation territory. The level of detail in the environments in just what little we played was just amazing and I can see myself spending hours just looking around at the environments in the game. The game in motion is spectacular and nothing compared to the screens we’ve seen to date. Not sure why there’s such a disconnect but Cj and I were wowed when we saw the game in person. I really can’t wait to see what the actual town of Silent Hill will look like, I bet it’s amazing!
Murphy…the devil really is in the details
Like the environments in Downpour, Murphy and the other characters we met were incredibly detailed as well. But the good looking graphics certainly isn’t the best part in my opinion. Really, for me it’s the physical changes Murphy’s character model undergoes depending on the game’s environment he’s in. When it starts to rain he’ll become drenched and when he’s attacked wounds will appear and blood will seep through his clothing he’ll even limp around in obvious pain.
Konami and Vatra certainly weren’t kidding when they promised the return of an ever day man fighting. Murphy is far from some action hero and will stumble on weird terrain and fumble when he fights and defends himself. I think what will set Murphy apart from previous protagonists is just how noticeably interactive he is in what he’s experiencing outside of cutscenes. I always loved Heather for her blunt honesty about how awful her situation is during Silent Hill 3 and how crazy the others were around her and it looks like Murphy will do much of the same.
Like Harry in Shattered Memories Murphy will often make comments and share thoughts on what he’s seeing however unlike Harry, Murphy’s vocal thoughts and observations are all automatic. For example, in the beginning of our playthrough video Murphy makes a colorful observation about all the roads being washed out, all we did is run over to check out the damage. I know it might bother some fans how often Murphy may talk to himself in game but I see it as a positive because it really helps us get inside Murphy’s head and makes him less of a stranger. I had a similar reaction to Special Agent Francis York Morgan, the protagonist of Deadly Premonition, who often voiced his thoughts and observations to the player. By the end I found I empathized much more with what York experienced in game because I got to know him through all the lovely conversations he had with his unseen friend Zach.
I’ve always felt a little disconnected with some of the previous Silent Hill protagonists in this regard because outside of cut scenes they were essentially just a player avatar with their fear or annoyance only shown when they had had either another character or a cutscene situation to interact with. So for me, I see getting to hear what Murphy is feeling or thinking moment by moment in real time is a real treat and I believe will do wonders in fleshing out his character. So far my favorite Murphy outburst would be when he shakily questioned his own sanity after his first trip through the Otherworld. I really felt bad for the guy!
Speaking of Murphy’s distress I also want to point out how we can see just how disturbed and scared Murphy is physically as he travels through areas by the subtle (and not so subtle) changes in his demeanor during gameplay. Murphy will move uncertainly and hesitant at times (there was one point he refused to run for me) and when he was surrounded by several Screamers we could see the actual terror on his face (above).
The Music and Sound
Music and sound have been two key elements in what makes Silent Hill… a Silent Hill game. So with Akira Yamaoka’s departure from Konami it worried me that Downpour’s sound design would pale in comparison with the previous titles. Turns out there was nothing to worry about in that department as Daniel Licht is a worthy successor. I know musical taste is subjective but to those still worried that Downpour’s soundtrack will somehow not measure up? Don’t be. Cj and I both loved what we heard of Downpour’s original score and the haunting vocals we heard on and off camera. It’s different but yet still retains that Silent Hill “sound” we’ve come to expect, including the ever favorite and nerve rattling bouts of complete silence. I really hope Konami will offer the soundtrack alongside with the game!
Now I know a lot of people are upset over Korn’s involvement in the game’s main theme song but they don’t seem to be the only artists being used in Downpour. In our own playthough we heard at least two other musical artists: Matt Monro is heard singing the Academy Award winning song, Born Free from a record player in the Devil’s Pitstop Otherworld. You can also hear Kris Kristofferson’s 1973 country/gospel hit, Why Me Lord, if Murphy turns on the radio in the office of the hotel and hears Sazh Katzroy-er I mean DJ Ricks personal shout out to him (Seriously how did he know we were here?!). Even though the songs are not original tracks they both fit the mood of the scenes.
Outside of the score the variety of sounds heard in any given area is amazing and really give the environments a true lived in and alive feeling. One example of a small sound making a big impact on my perception of an area is when heard the buzzing of flies around rotten food in both the hotel portion of Devil’s Pitstop and in some general areas the Otherworld. With how much rotting flesh and decay features in most of the other Silent Hill titles I was surprised this sound was never included before. It really gives you an idea of the stench of the area the protagonist must travel through. Yuck!
Additionally, the water sounds were also very well executed. Whether it’s a downpour of rain, a small drip or a large current it’s all very convincing. Considering we will see a lot of water through out the game it’s wonderful how many variations of water and other wet sounds there are such as the ping of rain on objects or just the difference of Murphy’s footfalls on a muddy ground or wet metal versus a dusty dry floor.
Fans should also be happy to know that Downpour utilizes some old school Silent Hill sound staples such as the original item pick up indicator and the rustle of pages when you look at a map/memo…heck even the original opening theme makes an appearance as a little Easter egg in the diner!
Menus, Maps and the Inventory System
I really liked the look of the Menu’s in Downpour unfortunately we were so focused on getting through the demo we didn’t spend too much time taking a close look at it. Generally whenever Murphy picks up a memo he will place it in a notebook. You can zoom in an read the text yourself which is really cool unfortunately there seems to be only two modes zoomed out or tightly zoomed in which forces you to pan to read often. Everything you would need can be found on marked tabs in the notebook: Your objectives, notes, tips, mysterious and maps.
Maps function like they do in the previous games with each searchable room ticked off in red. I love the design of the first map of The Devil’s Pit the creases, the grime and scotch tape really give it character.
As for item inventory it is accessible in real time during game play. You just press on the d-pad to select an item. You can quickly heal Murphy by just pressing right on the d-pad too which is very useful in combat. Speaking of health I was sad to see the Silent Hill health drink staple were gone and replaced by medpacks.
Enemies, Combat and the Shimmer effect
During the demo we only came across two enemy types Screamers and the Void. The Void, a red glowing vortex that sucked everything in it’s path, suddenly materializes chased Murphy twice during the Devil’s Pit Otherworld. It was and was definitely nerve inducing when it appear since getting caught meant instant death.
Screamers are female like creatures with scraggly hair and wrapped in bandages who once they spot you will attack really viciously. If one gets the jump on you and starts wailing away it’s very easy to find yourself overwhelmed. So if you are in a situation with more then one it’s probably best to try and high tail it out of there!
As you can see from the video there’s a bit of a learning curve with the combat. Murphy will use the weapons he picks up differently so it’s good to experiment and test out which works better. While Cj played he was pretty fond of the crowbar as it did some major damage to the Screamers we came across. Don’t forget to make use of the block feature as well. Finding the balance between when to hit and block against an enemy may take a little bit but I think in the end it would be worth the challenge.
I’m sure most of you guys have noticed the white shimmer effect in both this video and other gameplay videos around the net. To the observer these white flashes seem unnecessary but I got to admit when you are playing and desperate to find a weapon to use these little clues sure mean the world. It’s often hard to tell what sort of items you can use even when you aren’t fighting so I’m really glad the effect was put in.
Puzzles and Side quests
Unfortunately we didn’t come across too many puzzles in our playthrough. We solved a rotating environment puzzle after the waterslide during the Devil’s Pitstop Other World while later we played a water marble game called “Jail Break,” missing prize machine from the tram station, to win a ticket for the tram. Tomm said if you up the difficulty these puzzles do become more difficult, for example on a harder setting on Jail Break there are more balls and color holes to place them into. Neither puzzle was particularly difficult but I assume they were just the tip of the iceburg and as you continue with the game the puzzles will get harder.
Now we know there will be a bunch of optional sidequests in Downpour but when they occur is a bit hard to decipher. When we were done with our runthrough Tomm informed us we bypassed a sidequest related to a key Cj had picked up in hotel. Maybe if we explored more we would have found to door it lead to but it goes to show that you will not be alerted to these sidequests in anyway. It up to you the player to figure out the when and where which can be both a good an bad thing. Good because there’s less hand holding and forces you to aggressively explore and a bad things because it’s so very easy to overlook something that could be really cool.
Overall getting the chance to try Downpour has me even more excited for the game’s release. It was really hard for me and Cj to pull ourselves away as the plot sucked us in within minutes of starting, just like the Void did with Murphy in the Devil’s Pit Otherworld! It’s going to be hard to wait for the answers to all our questions: Who’s the mysterious voice Murphy hears? How did DJ Ricks know Murphy was in town? Who’s the hotel voyeur? Did any other inmates survive? Hopefully Konami won’t keep us hanging too long and nail down a firm down a release date real soon!
I just want to extend another thank you to Tomm Hulett, Devin Shatsky and the rest of Konami for giving me this great opportunity to check out the game! It really meant a lot and totally made my year.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Hands-On
By Giancarlo Varanini, GameSpotPosted Jan 13, 2010 1:14 pm PT
We take a trip through the PSP version of the latest Silent Hill game.
The Wii version of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories received widespread praise for its reimagining of the original Silent Hill, as well as its new take on the Silent Hill formula, particularly the way characters confront the town’s ghoulish denizens. Instead of whacking enemies over the head or pumping them full of holes with any sort of firearm, Harry Mason (the game’s main character who’s looking for his missing daughter) can only hope to evade them–either by running in a different direction or throwing various objects to the floor while running away–or throw them off his back by gesturing in various directions with the Wii Remote. The motion controls also come into play during puzzles as you grab cans and tip them on their sides to retrieve keys or as you move various objects into position to find a secret number used to open a locked door. And, of course, you can also use the Wii Remote to move Harry’s flashlight around much as you would an actual flashlight.
Of course, the PSP has no such technology; thus, it has to make do with its single analog nub, face buttons, and shoulder buttons. Surprisingly, the controls seem like they’ve been adapted pretty well. When enemies cling to Harry, he can simply throw them off by pressing one of the designated face buttons that’s prompted at the bottom of the screen. As for moving the flashlight around, you can’t do it while Harry is walking (as you can in the Wii version). So, instead, the PSP version lets you hit the right-shoulder button, which takes you into a first-person view that gives you a closer, first-person view you can manipulate with the analog nub without moving Harry around. As for puzzles that require grabbing objects and rotating (or moving) them around, you can solve them by grabbing the object with one of the PSP’s face buttons then rotate it using the left- or right-shoulder buttons.
Naturally, other concessions had to be made to accommodate the PSP’s hardware, but one aspect of the game that hasn’t changed much at all is the visuals. The PSP version of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories looks nearly identical to its Wii counterpart, but there are some slight differences. It seems like you can’t see quite as far into the distance in some scenes. There are also some textures and areas that aren’t clear as those found in the Wii version. The PSP version of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is scheduled for release on January 19.
Michael McWhertor from Kotaku.com had a much better time trying the PSP version of Silent Hill Shattered Memories on the PSP at the Tokyo Game show ’09. It sounds like he was able to explore more of the game than just the initial chase sequence!
Konami and Climax’s re-imagining of the first Silent Hill is a risky prospect, a wildly different take on the PlayStation horror classic. As a fan of the series, the remixed, retold Silent Hill: Shattered Memories just felt… unnecessary.
That was until I had played through the Tokyo Game Show demo.
The section we were coaxed into playing by the helpful Konami staff involved one of the game’s chase sequences, a heart-pounding and smart addition to the game. The series isn’t generally known for its action qualities, but the mad dash through the altered streets of Silent Hill added a new kind of fear, helped by some interesting mechanics.
It took a few moments to get accustomed to the new controls—I hadn’t yet played the Wii version of Shattered Memories, mind you. Players control Harry Mason with the analog nub, switching to flashlight (read: camera) controls by holding the right shoulder button. More interesting to me was what the left shoulder button does: look over your shoulder. Not particularly innovative, but it helps seal the fear of something quietly lurking behind you.
My first attempt at playing the game met with failure. After hopping over a wall—one of Harry’s new moves—I ran into a few of Silent Hill’s fleshy, mutated denizens.
They quickly piled on top of me, my only option to elbow them off with a press of one of the face buttons. They’re mapped to the location from which you’re attacked. If something’s grabbing onto you from the left, press the square button at the right time. From behind, tap X. Getting double-teamed? You’ll have to hit both buttons when the on-screen indicator pops up. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure this all out until my second attempt, attempting to figure out where my bludgeoning implement was.
Eventually I figured out that I was supposed to run like hell, not fiddle with the cell phone and GPS device Harry sports in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. So I ran, guided by walls of nearly clear ice, shouldering my way through blue-tinted doors at full speed. I’d made the mistake earlier in the demo to slowly open of Silent Hill’s many closed doors, which one can do by pushing slightly on the analog stick after grabbing the doorknob.
Really, after finding my rhythm and getting an eye for where each door would be, running like a madman was all I did. With enemies difficult to see in the dark and the fear of hordes of Silent Hill’s demons bearing down on you, it’s the best thing one can do.
Granted, chase sequences, while interesting, do not a quality remake… make. But the smart implementation of these moments helped me get over my own fear of slogging through the streets of Silent HIll again. Another minor thing that won me over were the visuals. While not mind-blowing—it is the PSP after all—it looked sharp and I dug the VHS tape tracking-like visual effect.
We’ll know how good the final game will be when it ships this November.
TGS 2009: Hands-on: Silent Hill Shattered Memories (PSP)
Much like 2007′s Silent Hill: Origins, the PSP version of Shattered Memories is quite capable of conveying an eerie, unsettling experience, even on a platform that might seem ill-equipped for the survival-horror genre in comparison to home consoles. The Wii re-imagining of Konami’s PS1 classic is faithfully represented on Sony’s portable, with only a few framerate hiccups tarnishing a very impressive visual representation.
Recreating the Wii version’s moody ambiance isn’t the port’s only major success, as it handles the absence of the motion-sensitive remote quite elegantly. Here, you manipulate Harry Mason’s flashlight from a third-person perspective by holding R1 and moving the analog nub. While this removes the ability to move and peer into the terrifying town’s dark recesses at the same time, the game’s generally slow pace makes such multitasking more of a luxury than a necessity.
When the pace is quickened and Harry is forced to flee from Silent Hill’s disgusting meat-faced minions, there’s usually little need to stop and examine the area first. As with the Wii version, the recommended escape route is highlighted on doors and walls by a layer of light-blue ice, helping you navigate to safety and preserving the flow of the nerve-wracking chase sequence. Should an enemy pounce on top of you, however, you have a few seconds to press the indicated face button (buttons if you’re the victim of a monster pile-up) and shake them off.
It remains to be seen how well Shattered Memories shifts between its methodical exploration sequences and frantic chases over the course of the full adventure, but should it live up to the potential displayed in its E3 2009 demo (be sure to read our detailed hands-on impressions), we’ll have no qualms about recommending either the Wii or PSP version come this November.
So it sounds like even without the wii-mote you can expect to get the same experience as playing on the wii
Posted by: Whitney | 09/25/09 | 1:34 pm
I have a couple questions about the demo at the TGS. How long did you play for? Were you able to take the psych profile? Did you wander around Silent Hill looking for clues for your daughter a little bit or were you just attacked by monsters? From your review it just sounds like you just experienced the monster chase bits of the game.
And when I came home I noticed he was nice enough to answer my inquiry
Posted by: Daniel Feit | 09/25/09 | 6:07 pm
The demo started in the dark, icy town without explanation of what my objectives were. I think I played for eight minutes or so. There was no mention of a “psych profile” unless that was an option somewhere on my phone.
This could just be a bad demo. Maybe there are some psychologically challenging portions that they felt would not “show” very well, so they went with incomprehensible action instead.
It’s too bad he didn’t get the full demo experience others had at e3, I think he would have left with a better impression of the game. Hopefully he’ll give it another shot when the game comes out in November!