Is it Fair to Compare Silent Hill and The Evil Within?
Having recently played both The Evil Within (you can check out my review here!) and the original Silent Hill and the HD Collection (how did they mess up a HD rendering of old games? How I ask you?!), and also having seen elements of this series in Mikami's latest release, I thought I'd take a look at these two series next to one another. Now I'm well aware that The Evil Within only has one game and therefore isn't a series, though it is essentially an extension of the Resident Evil franchise.
Therefore, with that in mind, I'm essentially taking the latest release from Mikami as a platform to engage in a discussion about Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but just making things a bit more currently topical! These two series have established the horror genre in video games for years now, to many nothing else comes close! Therefore, let's first take a look at what makes these games unique.
Silent Hill, From Toyama to Nakazawa
The original Silent Hill was directed by a very young Keiichiro Toyama, who we all know more recently for directing the Siren games and the highly successful Gravity Rush for PS Vita! The original Silent Hill dates aaaall the way back to 1999. It was a third-person horror experience that made a load of fuss about how it was using real-time 3D environments (how things have changed!).
In order to mitigate the graphical inadequacies of their hardware the game utilised a serious degree of fog and darkness in order to cover up some of the game's problems. Amazing how this fog has become such a major factor in the success of Silent Hill. The game was also unique in the way that the protagonist was labelled as an "everyman", rather than some kind of action hero.
The game follows Harry Mason as he searches for his missing adopted daughter in the infamous American town of Silent Hill. He then stumbles upon a cult conducting a ritual in order to revive the deity they worship. Through this he discovers the true origin of his daughter. Terrifying.
Amazingly, the game featured five scripted endings which would play depending on the actions of the player, one of which was a joke ending that featured Harry being randomly abducted by aliens. Brilliant.
The game was adored for its progression from normal B horror into a more psychologically challenging game, one in which the player was confronted with a terrifying atmosphere. You have a radio which plays static when an enemy is close and your aim is inexperienced and not always steady as Harry is just an average guy thrown into a horrifying situation.
Silent hill 2 and 3 were not directed by Toyama, but followed closely in his footsteps. The second game James Sunderland ventures to the town after his deceased wife sends him a letter telling him to meet her in their special place at Silent Hill. The story in the second game is amazing and takes psychological horror to a whole new level, I urge any of those who haven't played it to give it a try.
Silent Hill 3 features the return of the initial cult in the first game that wishes to use a teenage girl in order to birth their god. I'm going to leave it there with the Silent Hill series seeing as it really doesn't get that great afterwards. They're okay, just nowhere near the standards set by the first 3. Perhaps with Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro directing Silent Hills set for release in 2016, we might get something amazing!
From Resident Evil to The Evil Within: Mikami's Best
If we take a look at Mikami's original game on paper, it seems quite similar in many ways to Silent Hill. The game is in third-person, features different endings, the player must navigate scary locations while solving puzzles and battling monsters and zombies. Despite these similarities, they are quite distinct from one another.
At the outset of the game the player can choose from either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, two very famous video game characters. They are members of an elite task force known as S.T.A.R.S and must enter Raccoon City in order to uncover the disappearance of their teammates. They then become trapped in an old mansion and must fight in order to survive.
Resident Evil is revered as the game that defined the modern survival horror genre. It's level design and intriguing variation of enemies created a world in which these great characters could explore and shoot their way through. It's far more action orientated in comparison with Silent Hill, which only increased as the series evolved.
Mikami only produced the next two Resident Evil games, though both of them were met with great critical appraisal, with the two directors Hideki Kamiya and Kazuhiro Aoyama being faithful to Mikami's original work, though not quite eclipsing his glory.
Then, after a series of issues and restarts and director changes, Resident Evil 4 was released in 2005 to widespread acclaim, earning the 'game of the year' award from many different gaming organisations.
Resident Evil 4 represents everything that is wonderful about this series. The combat is slick, the enemies are unique, varied and tough and the story is an enjoyable and creepy addition to the series. In this twisted village you are captured by the leader and he infects you and your companion with Las Plagas. The intention was to allow this deadly disease to spill out into the USA upon the return of the two characters. You can guess how it plays out if you haven't played it, though it certainly is worth playing if you've not yet had the chance.
The game is wildly fun and demonstrates everything that Mikami does well in video games, just as I found with The Evil Within. In many ways, it's what Resident Evil 5 should have been, though it is definitely separated from the longstanding series. The combat is slick, the enemies are terrifying and brutal and Mikami's signature creativity is at the heart of the experience.
If you haven't got it, I urge you to try The Evil Within. But even though we have all of these great new additions to the franchises, when it comes to comparing it to Silent Hill, is it fair seeing as the series hasn't really had a hit in a long time?
It is totally up to the player and what they prefer from the experience that these games can give. If you love being able to shoot your way through a house full of zombies, it's Resident Evil but if you're looking for a quieter, creepier experience then it's Silent Hill. Obviously Resident Evil looks great seeing as they keep making great games too! But personally, I wanted to write this article to find out which series people like more!
So let me know in the comments whether you prefer Resident Evil or Silent Hill, cause even though they haven't made a great game in a while, for me, Silent Hill is where it's at. That style of horror game isn't replicated enough in modern gaming, and I hope that Silent Hills will be the game I've been waiting for!