This Week in Games is a weekly column where Vikki Blake pulls apart the biggest stories in gaming each week. This week, she addresses the (seemingly endless) rumours and leaks surrounding Konami‘s Silent Hill series.
The first time I heard that Silent Hills – announced to the world by the now seminal, and secret, playable teaser, P.T. – was cancelled, I didn’t believe it. I don’t mean that in an incredulous, oh-my-God kind of way; I mean I literally didn’t believe it.
For years, Silent Hill was a horror franchise born in the shadows of Spencer Mansion that, while successful, never quite gained the following or notoriety of Resident Evil. P.T. changed all that, though, catapulting it into the mainstream consciousness and making horror cool again. The idea of any publisher turning its back on that kind of incredible reveal and immense hype made no sense, let alone Konami. While I don’t subscribe to all that #FucKonami bullshit, anyone who’s been a fan of their games for long enough knows all too well that Konami’s natural inclination is to rinse every one of its franchises dry.
Cancelling Silent Hills – which arguably now sits in the annals of history as one of the most talked-about reveals of all time – speaks of a catastrophic breakdown between Konami and Hideo Kojima, one I suspect we’ll never know the full details about. But even after finding out that Kojima and Konami had parted company, I still couldn’t quite believe that Konami would turn its back on Silent Hills.
There are all kinds of reasons why people like me still bang on about P.T., and while I’m a cowardly horror fan – the kind who watches movies behind tented fingers and abuses the pause button when playing spooky games – I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever witnessed. Developed in conjunction with Guillermo del Toro, the teaser – which was tangential to the game Silent Hills was expected to be – was a perfect, and terrifying, slice of horror.
Consequently, ever since the viral sensation was abandoned, the world has been poised for more news about another Silent Hill. It’s been two years since rumours of a new instalment first began to swirl, and even then, I wanted to believe they were true. It’s been eight years since P.T. scared the shit out of us, and ten since we saw the last mainline Silent Hill game, Downpour. I mean, Silent Hill fans have had it better than F-Zero ones – yikes – but a ten-year hiatus is just cruel.
The rumours just wouldn’t go away, though. They both start and end with prominent leaker Dusk Golem – who has previously leaked information about Resident Evil Village that’s since been proven both accurate and not-so-accurate – but things came to a head last week when Golem put their money where their mouth was and shared not just unsubstantiated rumours this time, but high-res images.
Can anyone knock up fake screenshots and purport they’re something they’re not? Sure. But these are not fake. Via my own sources, I can confirm these images are indeed taken from a 2020ish pitch document from an unknown developer.
Three of the images – which kick up faint memories of the Bakers’ deliciously grotesque homestead from Resident Evil 7 – show a home in disarray, a hoarder-esque smorgasbord of bin bags and detritus cluttering every conceivable surface; letters and books and empty food tins. One of these three screenshots shows a filthy bedroom, another a cluttered table, whilst another depicts a disgusting living room. Wallpaper droops and black mold crawls down from the ceiling. In the centre of the picture is an aged baby’s cot, and children’s toys and tins of formula litter the floor.
Another – perhaps my favourite – is taken from concept art Pyramid Head creator Masahiro Ito, and shows a corridor, every inch of its wall, floors, and ceiling covered by post-it notes. “You’re depressing,” one says. “Fat bitch” declares another. “Pervert!”. “Fuck you, you’re crazy”. You get the gist. A sickly red glow hangs over every one, and at the end of the corridors stands… well, I don’t know, actually.
Like Silent Hill 2‘s unforgettable enemies, at first glance it has something humanoid about it; there are arms and legs, and what may be a Japanese girl’s school uniform. But a petticoat of cherry blossom pokes out from the bottom of its skirt, and where a head should be is only a shadow of a skull that too is bristling with blossom.
I love my character "Pyramid Head", but really don't wanna use him anymore. However it will be too difficult to make new SH without him.
So if I were to make a horror title, it would be not SH and I would try to use cherry blossom trees as one of horror materials.
— 伊藤暢達/Masahiro Ito (@adsk4) April 16, 2018
It’s a fascinatingly unique take for a horror antagonist made all the more interesting by the fact that, four years ago, the guy who created Silent Hill 2‘s Pyramid Head tweeted: “I love my character Pyramid Head, but really don’t wanna use him anymore. However it will be too difficult to make new SH without him. So if I were to make a horror title, it would be not [Silent Hill] and I would try to use cherry blossom trees as one of horror materials.”
Some detractors have focused heavily on that “not [Silent Hill]” bit, but not me. Four years is a long time, after all, and any number of things may have happened to prompt Ito to change his mind.
There’s more, of course. A Silent Hill 2 remake is supposedly on the cards by Bloober. A smaller Silent Hill experience – possibly episodic – is rumoured to be underway at Annapurna Interactive. And a new mainline Silent Hill is reportedly in development too, and may – or may not – have something to do with Hideo Kojima. I don’t know which of those rumours is true, but one thing’s for sure: Silent Hill is coming back from the dead.
Vikki Blake is a freelance journalist and columnist for NME.