Thursday, August 21, 2014

Games Thirst Review: Silent Hill Origins (PSP)


Publisher: Konami
Developer: Climax Studios
Player:(s) 1
Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: (NA) November 6, 2007 (EU) November 16, 2007 (JP) December 6, 2007
Platform:(s) PSP (also on PS2)
Rated: Mature

The horrors of Silent Hill are unleashed in handheld form for the first time. Does the game live up to the previous installments in the series or is this nightmare a dud?

Story:
Origins serves as a prequel to the franchise and was created to give us a back-story regarding the creepy and disturbing town that we have all come to fear.

Travis Grady, a truck driver working a job near the outskirts of Silent Hill is forced to stop his semi when he sees a girl step out in front of his vehicle. After nearly crashing his truck, Travis sees the mysterious figure run off into the fog and decides to follow her on foot. Why he didn’t just jump back in the rig and follow her is beyond me. He eventually comes across a burning house and soon after, he finds himself being pulled into the nightmare that is the town of Silent Hill where he begins to unravel the mysteries of his disturbing and troubled past.

Presentation:
For a PSP game, Origins is one heck of a looker. All of the environments including the areas you explore and the city itself are very well rendered and far exceed the graphics seen in the original Silent Hill game for the PSX and even come close to matching Silent Hill 2.

The creatures are well designed as well but most of them resemble featureless blobs of nothing. As you have come to expect, Origins is covered in fog and tons of it at that. This is used to hide draw distances but it adds to the fear because you can’t really see what is approaching until it’s just a few feet away.

Another thing that is a bit of an annoyance is this weird static filter that covers the entire screen at basically all times and it can be very distracting.

Loading screens are extremely abundant in this game and happen every single time you open a door, open the save point or even open your menu on occasion. Granted, these load screens are short but it happens so often that it can pull you out of the game’s atmosphere.

The cutscenes are done in a mix of in-game scenes and horribly compressed, blocky CGI cutscenes and there is no excuse for how ugly they look.

Gameplay:
The gameplay in Origins doesn’t differ much from any of the other games in the series. The combat system is still very shotty but has been slightly improved since the other games. You have the option to use both melee and ranged weapons and all of the melee weapons are breakable which is understandable. I don’t think a pipe is going to last forever when you’re driving it into a creature’s ugly skull.

Some of the weapons such as television sets, toasters and large jars can be charged up and thrown at enemies resulting in a very powerful strike, but it’s at the expense of the weapon.

Transitions from the normal world and the Otherworld happen at your command by walking up to mirrors and activating them. Also in typical Silent Hill fashion, nearly 90% of the doors in the game are jammed and cannot be opened. Now answer me this, Travis has a huge supply of deadly blunt objects at his disposal so why on earth can’t he just break the freaking door down?

There is also no HUB on screen at any time so when you’re near death, the only way to see if you need to heal is to either go into your menu or listen to the speed of Travis’ heartbeat. The screen will also start to throb red to basically smack it in your face but if you’re really caught up in a heated battle, you probably won’t notice it. I died plenty of times even though I had a large supply of first-aid items because of this.

Sound:
You know that you’re always going to be getting a terrifying assault on your ears when you play a Silent Hill game. It’s a pretty chilling experience when you’re in a dark hallway and can hear the groans and shrieks of a creature coming from somewhere in the room.

Akira Yamaoka’s musical score is also great as always, though not the best he has ever done. It’s a mix of ambient music and lyrical pieces, all of which are very somber in tone and add to the depressing feel of the story.

The voice acting on the other hand is mediocre at best. The actor portraying Travis does a good job at making his seem more human but all of the other voices are below average, with very few exceptions.

Overall:
Silent Hill Origins is a very solid entry in the franchise and considering it was the first game that wasn’t developed by the team that did the first 4, it turned out rather good. The game features unlockables ranging from special weapons to different outfits that will keep you playing past your initial play-through. It’s far from being perfect though, but at least it’s still better then the abomination that is the PS2 port.

Pros:
- Great graphics and atmosphere
- Excellent sound design
- Intriguing story and protagonist

Cons:
- Far too many loading screens
- Horribly compressed cutscenes
- Mediocre voice acting


About Colton West