Silent Hill: Origins

December 28, 2007

Travis Grady is an introverted truck driver who doesn’t care that he can’t remember his past. While taking a detour past the town of Silent Hill, he swerves to avoid a child in the road, but then she vanishes. Close by, a house burns with a voice asking for help emanating from the flames. Thus Travis is drawn in to Silent Hill, where reality and nightmares mix with the thick fog.

Silent Hill: Origins is the fifth game in this long running series which spanned back to the original Playstation; this first PSP release in the series accurately continues the action, puzzles and aura so successfully established in the previous titles. Wandering the deserted streets of the eponymous town in search of clues is still eerily creepy as shambling horrors wait around every corner. This time around Travis is more adept with his hands.

Changes to the fighting system are the biggest difference that die hard fans will first notice. Before getting to the firearms later in the game, the first part is spent with common weapons ranging from scalpels and knives to IV stands and portable televisions. In previous editions of the game these would be permanently attached to you as you progressed through the game, here they can only be used so much until they break. And for the throwable items, such as the aforementioned TV, these one-hit killers take longer to use opening up Travis for injury. When all other items have been used, you could always rely upon Travis’ own fists to beat down the oncoming enemies. But prudence should always be used, as sometimes the best method of handling the enemies is just simply running away from them. Once guns become available a slightly tweaked auto-aim function ensures that shots are not wasted. Generally the fights tend to be a rinse-repeat process that will have many people happy when a new enemy presents itself so they can experience a different type of attack.

While fighting is definitely a part of the game, exploration and puzzles are an equal portion, if not more of how you spend your time in Silent Hill. Here one must navigate the streets from Point A to Point B, going through buildings and overcoming disturbing H. R. Giger-style obstacles to get that key or missing puzzle piece to continue. Another difference with this game in the series is the way in which mirrors are used to enter the demented other world. Here these portals can be used to backtrack to inaccessible areas in the real world, and cause you to have to think outside the box to get to your next destination.

Graphically the game looks gorgeous on the PSP; lighting and shading add to the ominous aura of the world and the persistent fog captures the look and feel so well-established in earlier Silent Hill games. Sound plays a subtly large part in the game with ambient noises defining the impending sense of doom; even the lack of sound adds to the dread on the virtually empty streets. Historically the camera used throughout the SH series is hit-or-miss, with no difference here. Many times the view locks into a fixed position to add to the disturbing feel, but when you are in the middle of a fight, these prove to be a pain while you try to adjust to the angle. Add to that moving out of the trigger zone for such camera shots and I constantly moved in an unexpected direction as I compensated for the new angle, missing my enemy completely.

SH:O is placed firmly in the well-established series and will leave a lot of die-hard fans happy. People new to Silent Hill will gain a greater appreciation for what has made the series successful without having to look up footnotes to understand what is going on. Beyond some minor nits against the game, this is a worthy addition to the PSP and a great gaming experience.

Score: 4/5

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