While Silent Hill has long been a cult staple of the survival horror genre, Konami has been failing to regain the respect and popularity of the line since 2004. Since 2012, the series has not shown signs of life, unless, of course, you count Konami’s short-lived collaboration with Hideo Kojima as part of a potential reboot.
Then, unexpectedly, in 2020, one of the industry insiders gave hope to horror fans — according to his statements, Konami had been developing two new titles in the lineup two years ago, one of which should serve as a remake of Silent Hill. Although the company has already denied this information, fans continue to find hints that Konami plans to return to the city of Silent Hill in the near future.
Silent Hill (1999)
The original concept and mythology of Silent Hill, on which not only the first part, but the entire series rested, was the responsibility of Team Silent, which is a tiny division of Konami.
The irony is that the team was formed from the «losers» of Konami, who could not create something intelligible for the mainstream. Silent Hill was their last chance, but even under these circumstances, they decided to come up with something original, rather than another parody of a Hollywood blockbuster.
According to the director of the game, Keiichiro Toyama, the basis for the title was his interest in the occult rather than his love for horror. Therefore, few people in the team expected that their brainchild would soon be called one of the iconic representatives of the genre.
However, the developers understood that they were creating a horror movie and tried to stand out from competitors like Resident Evil and Parasite Eve. Team Silent decided not to use prefabricated backgrounds, as many horror films of the time did, but used real-time rendering.
Along with this, problems arose, because the PlayStation was not able to process so many 3D graphics at once. To facilitate her work, the developers plunged the city into fog, which will become one of the branded elements of the series. In addition, the range of vision of the character was limited by pitch darkness, from which the hero was saved only by a weak flashlight. The picture of horror was completed by another identification mark of the line — a radio that starts to make noise when monsters approach.
Another important detail turned out to be the type of protagonist, whom the developers did not portray as a soldier, detective or policeman. No, the player takes on the role of Harry Mason, an ordinary man who explores the streets of the American town of Silent Hill in search of his little daughter, who disappeared after an accident. Harry, as befits most people, clumsily handles weapons, gets tired quickly and in a fight with monsters is more often a victim than an aggressor.
By the way, the real-life city of Centralia, located in Pennsylvania, was taken as the basis for Silent Hill. At one time, the city had to leave almost all of its inhabitants as a result of an ongoing underground fire.
The most famous developer of the Team Silent team was Akira Yamaoka, who not only composed the soundtrack for the game, but created the unique sound of the entire series. According to the composer, in the 90s, most soundtracks were composed of clichés, among which there was no place for ambient and silence. Yamaoka, on the other hand, decided to make Silent Hill’s musical accompaniment unpredictable, frightening the player with tense sounds in empty locations and confusing silence right before meeting with the enemy.
The monsters were designed by artist Masahiro Ito, and each one represented a particular fear of one of the game’s lead characters, Alessa.
The player can get as many as five endings, but only two of them can be attributed to the canon. What kind of ending the player will see depends on just a few of his decisions during the passage of the game.
Although someone called Silent Hill a clone of Resident Evil, and the game itself was criticized for inconvenient controls and poor voice acting, Team Silent’s creation still received high critical acclaim and pleased Konami with convincing sales.
Silent Hill 2 (2001)
One of the main merits of the developers in Silent Hill 2 was that instead of continuing the main story, they again decided to experiment. Team Silent told the story of completely different characters, the purpose of which was to reveal the past of Silent Hill and make the city a testing ground for various scenarios, and not just Harry Mason’s line.
Like Mason, James Sunderland is not your typical fearless action hero. He comes to Silent Hill at the request of his wife, from whom he received a letter shortly before. The catch is that his wife died three years ago, but longing for a loved one made James hope for the best.
Along the way, James will meet several characters in which the developers talk about serious topics such as suicide and violence, receiving critical acclaim for their courage. The developers note that the main sources of inspiration were the works of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch, and also highlight the film «Jacob’s Ladder» and the novel «Crime and Punishment».
This time, the developers consciously wanted to really scare the players. Art director Masahiro Ito was inspired by the work of artist Francis Bacon and managed to create monsters that remain in the minds of the players for many years to come. The most popular was the Pyramid Head Executioner, who pursues James throughout the game. Ito also briefly traveled to California to collect references for creating levels.
Yamaoka continued to play the role of composer and sound engineer, inventing various sounds and recording several hundred steps. In terms of music, the Silent Hill 2 soundtrack is still considered Yamaoka’s finest work and one of the keys to the game’s cult status.
The player is once again presented with multiple endings to choose from, but none of them are considered canon. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that many developers single out the “In Water” ending.
Three months after the release, an extended version was released, including the «Born from a Wish» campaign, where the player assumes the role of Maria, one of the characters in Silent Hill 2.
In order to have time to prepare versions for several consoles, about thirty developers joined Team Silent. The release of the title continued the success of the first Silent Hill, selling a million copies in just a month and gaining even more popularity in North America.
Silent Hill 3 (2003)
After Silent Hill 2, Team Silent worked on two ideas at once: experimental and traditional. The latest was Silent Hill 3, completing the trilogy of the most successful games in the series. The plot of the title continues the events of the debut part, and Harry’s adopted daughter, Heather, becomes the protagonist. A 17-year-old girl will have to return to Silent Hill and confront a cult with which she is much more closely connected than she herself realizes.
“In Silent Hill 3, no one is looking for anyone. Heather is an ordinary girl who suddenly finds herself locked in a strange place. Her main motivation is to survive and get out of this dangerous world,” explained game director Kazuhide Nakazawa.
Critics scolded the title for its lack of innovation, but the developers were once again delighted with the aesthetics of the series, not to mention the new level of graphics that make the transformation of locations from the usual Silent Hill to the so-called «Otherworld» even more impressive.
“I think Silent Hill 3 is the scariest part of the series. Some members of our team were frustrated that they couldn’t implement all the ideas in past titles. Now, having access to advanced technologies, we will try to scare the player properly, ”Nakazawa promised.
Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004)
Inventing the plot of The Room, the team was inspired by Ryu Murakami’s book «Kids in the Luggage Room». At the root of the concept of the game lies the idea that our home, which we consider a safe zone, can become the most terrible place on the planet.
So Henry Townshend finds himself locked in his own apartment without the opportunity to shout to neighbors or people on the street. A few days later, a tunnel leading to other worlds suddenly appears in the wall of the bathroom.
The main reference to Silent Hill is the character Walter Sullivan, who spent his childhood in the city’s orphanage. By the way, mention of Sullivan’s cases could be found during a search of garbage cans in Silent Hill 2.
The game was criticized for the lack of the ability to separate the difficulty levels of combat and puzzles, and also criticized the need to go through some locations twice. The main reason for dissatisfaction was the abundance of action, distracting from the details of the plot.
The release received more restrained reviews than Konami was used to, and in April 2005 the company disbanded Team Silent, deciding that Western developers could open a second wind for the series. Although the members of Team Silent themselves were not opposed to moving on and trying something new, there were rumors that Konami spurred this step on the success of Resident Evil 4 in 2004, which had a heavy emphasis on action.
Silent Hill: Origins (2007)
While the first Silent Hill movie was being filmed, the British team at Climax Studios was developing the next installment. Initially, Konami commissioned Climax US to create only a remake of the first PSP title that borrowed certain elements from Resident Evil 4, such as the over-the-shoulder camera. However, development progressed so well that Climax pitched the concept of a full PS3 prequel to Konami.
As planned by the Americans, the main character was to be a priest who would fight the demons of Silent Hill with the help of holy water and sacred rites. Konami refused. As a result, Climax gave the development of Origins to their British colleagues, who released the title on the PSP in 2007.
Years before Harry Mason, trucker Travis Grady visits Silent Hill and similarly confronts the city’s cult in an attempt to thwart his cruel plans. On the one hand, Climax decided not to deviate far from previous titles and immersed the players in a familiar experience, but on the other hand, this was the main subject of criticism, because the British did not show anything new, and their work looked faded against the backdrop of cult parts.
Silent Hill: Homecoming (2008)
In 2007, Konami announced that Silent Hill: Homecoming would be released on the new generation of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, and its development was entrusted to the American studio The Collective.
Soldier Alex Shepard returns home to the town of Shepard’s Glen, where he learns that his father and brother are missing. The search leads him to Silent Hill, which will reveal to him not only the fate of his relatives, but also the secrets of his own past.
Homecoming turned out to be crammed with action to the eyeballs, and the hero dealt with enemies in the most brutal and “colorful” methods that no part of the series had seen before. Another soundtrack from Yamaoka added nostalgia to the title, but still could not save it from rather restrained reviews.
The problem, once again, was that Homecoming might have received a warmer welcome if it wasn’t in the Silent Hill universe. The developers used in the game a lot of monsters and tricks from the first parts, which, however, no longer carried the same semantic load. As a result, Homecoming became the only part of the line that was not released in Japan.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009)
At the same time, Climax hoped to continue their modest success with Origins. The studio decided to target casual fans of the series, offering them a reimagining of the first part on the Nintendo Wii with completely new gameplay mechanics.
Initially, the developers worked on the concept of Silent Hill: Cold Heart, in which the main character was a student Jessica Chambers, who got lost in the snowy Silent Hill. Later, the game was renamed Shattered Memories, and the protagonist was changed to Harry Mason.
Walking through Silent Hill alternates with conversations in the psychiatrist’s office, which form a psychological portrait of Harry, which in turn influences the events of the title. Using the Wii Remote controller, the player solves riddles, uses the phone and the hero’s flashlight.
If Homecoming was scolded for its emphasis on combat, then in Shattered Memories it is absent altogether. Instead of fighting monsters, Harry often needs to run away, which is not to the liking of quite a few fans.
While Shattered Memories was essentially the most popular game in the series developed without the involvement of Team Silent, the title failed to get the right response on Nintendo and therefore was ported to PSP and PS2. Among other things, this project was the last in the series for Akira Yamaoka.
Silent Hill: Downpour (2012)
Downpour was developed by the Czech company Vatra Games, whose employees once worked on the legendary Mafia series. The team set a goal to return to the basics of the line and emphasize the psychological aspect of horror.
According to the plot, the prisoner Murphy Pendleton is transported to a maximum security prison, but on the way the bus has an accident, and the nearest settlement, of course, is Silent Hill.
The city itself grew in size and even gave you the opportunity to complete side quests. If the setting of the previous part was built around ice and cold, then the atmosphere of Downpour is closely related to rain.
“Silent Hill looks different for every character and we decided to explore the theme of fear through the rain. The more it pours, the more danger you are in. If five monsters attack the player at the same time, it will rain, ”said the game’s producer Tom Hewlett.
It would seem that Vatra Games did everything right — they built the title around the foundation of the best parts and at the same time introduced something new into it so as not to repeat the fate of the inexpressive Origins. Still, not all players liked the ideas of the developers. Once again, the combat mechanics of the game became a stumbling block, which, although different from the gameplay of Homecoming, took away too much energy and focus from the players. In addition, Downpour seemed to the players not scary enough in principle, and the abundance of bugs only darkened the already sad picture.
When everyone was sure that the series would not return in its original form, the head of Konami asked the author of the legendary Metal Gear line, Hideo Kojima, to lead the restart of Silent Hill. Kojima happily agreed, noting that only fearful people like himself could create a certain kind of horror.
The first result of his work was the PT demo, which turned out to be the announcement of the Silent Hills title, on which Kojima attached director Guillermo del Toro and actor Norman Reedus.
Unfortunately, despite interesting ideas and great reviews, conflicts with Konami management led to the fact that the game designer left the company, and Silent Hills was canceled.
According to insiders, the next title of the franchise will be released on the PlayStation 5, and some members of Team Silent will be involved in the work on it, among which should be Akira Yamaoka, who was recently noted in the Polish project The Medium.
It’s hard to say whether it’s true or not, but it’s no secret that lately Konami has been really promoting the line. Silent Hill characters and themed maps were added to Dead by Daylight in June, and Nurse and Pyramid Head skins were added to Super Bomberman R Online in September. Finally, in August, an official Silent Hill account popped up on Twitter.
This is just enough to keep the fans of the cult line still believing in its imminent and hopefully grandiose return.
“It’s pretty easy to create a story built on what everyone understands. However, it is the unknown that scares me the most. That is why we have always tried to explain the plots of our games as little as possible.” – Kazuhide Nakazawa