We all have one; that game that hits you in the guts in a way you simply weren’t expecting, a game that echoes in your mind for days, weeks, decades after you played it. The kind of game that’s somehow greater than its disparate parts. Konami’s other flagship franchise, Metal Gear, had a similar effect on me. Metal Gear Solid was the first game that revealed itself to be thoughtful and compelling, as mature and cinematic as anything playing in the movie theatre down the road. But at the top of the list is Silent Hill’s sequel, Silent Hill 2, which wasn’t just modern and sophisticated; it made me cry.
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I know there’s a gaggle of gamers around my age all of whom bang on about the early Silent Hill games. I have no doubt that to the uninitiated it’s pretty irritating, particularly if you’ve watched a Let’s Play – maybe even played it yourself, perhaps, when the unmitigated travesty that was the “HD Collection” was released last-gen – and figured it was nothing special. The controls are pretty shit. The graphics, while stellar at the time, haven’t aged that well. The voice acting is a little ropey, too. But Silent Hill 2 isn’t a game to me. It’s the game.
Silent Hill 2 did for me what Guillermo Del Toro later did for others with films like Pan’s Labyrinth. Here was creature design straight out of the fires of hell: Monsters and worlds slick with symbolism and hidden meanings, dark, broken places where Francis Bacon-esque things shuffle in the shadows.
There are creatures with extra legs where a face should be, and others trapped in skin-like straightjackets. There are endless staircases and doors on the floor and a woman who keeps dying in front of your eyes over and over again, only to pop up later – inexplicably unhurt – in your story. And the sound design? Oh, shit, the sound design! Few games are flawless, but Silent Hill 2’s seminal impact can still be felt today. It permanently and fundamentally altered the shape of video game horror.
There’s plenty of Silent Hill fans who care only for the first four games – those were made, in some fashion or another, by “Team Silent”, a never-constant lineup that led development when the team was still in-house at Konami Japan – but I love the entire series, warts and all.
And then there was the infamous Silent Hills demo, of course. P.T., Hideo Kojima’s playable teaser for the now-cancelled game, is still regarded as one of video gaming’s most terrifying offerings to date, even though it was killed off before it ever really got going. While its final act was unduly complex, undoing much of the gripping tension and uneasiness so masterfully crafted in its opening, it remains one of my favourite game experiences of all time. I still think about that swinging refrigerator. The hole in the wall. The crackled breathing in your ear. The quiet menace of that deadpan instruction: “Look behind you. I said: LOOK BEHIND YOU.”
Do I think there’s a secret Silent Hill game in development somewhere? Yeah, I do. Do I think there are two games simultaneously in development? Stranger things have happened before. Silent Hill: Downpour, Silent Hill: Book Of Memories and the disastrous Silent Hill HD Collection all released within nine months of each other back in 2012, so there’s certainly a precedent there. Do I think it’ll get revealed every time there’s a Sony presentation? That I’m less certain about. The hope is there… although, between us, I don’t think it ever really went away.
We’ve been waiting for an official reveal since E3 and every Silent Hill-less PS5 event has made my heart ache just that little bit more. The rumours are endless, you see. Supermassive’s upcoming Little Hope – the latest horror in its The Dark Pictures Anthology – is thought to have started life as a Silent Hill pitch. Kojima, despite having parted ways with Konami amidst a very bitter and very public feud, is even speculated to be involved somewhere.
It doesn’t matter where you smother the flames of speculation; another rumour will spring up elsewhere before long. The franchise might be dead, but the hope of its fandom has not. Given at least one of the games is thought to be in development by a Japanese studio, it’s certainly possible that a Silent Hill game will be revealed during the upcoming Tokyo Game Show. But the event is quickly approaching and the new, “official” Silent Hill Twitter account – which has gone suspiciously quiet of late – is giving nothing away.
That doesn’t stop me from hoping, though. Nothing will.