TGS 07: Silent Hill Origins Hands-on Impressions

Climax Studios' PSP Silent Hill prequel has undergone a lot of changes over the past year. Once a departure for the series in many ways--featuring over-the-shoulder shooting a la Resident Evil 4--it now instead plays a lot like a direct sequel to Silent Hill.

You are cast in the role of Travis Grady, a trucker with an appropriately dissheveled appearance. As I moved Travis throughout the town of Silent Hill, I couldn't help but feel like I was playing one of the earlier titles in the series, only on a smaller screen. Behind the curtain of the grain filters, the graphics appeared to be somewhere in the Silent Hill 1.5 domain. This game could have easily passed as Silent Hill 2, had that brilliant title never been released. In all, it's a satisfying level of detail. But with the town already feeling familiar from the get-go, my only question going into the demonstration was whether or not that was a good thing.

Wandering about the misty streets from the familiar fixed-camera perspective, I ran into a few annoying quirks early on. Moving from one screen to the next can often be jarring, as the perspective will sometimes shift 180 degrees from one shot to the next. Holding the analog stick in one direction will sometimes see Travis continuously entering a screen over and over again, as if he is stuck in a surreal, hellish trap. Terrifying.

After exploring the town a bit, I entered the familiar hospital. The walls were the normal color of tope, so I knew I was safe for a moment. Turning on my trusty flashlight--which is attached to your coat-pocket as usual--I set about walking the halls, picking up items accompanied by Japanese subtitles. Oh, I picked up the Jaslkdjfakfd. Spooky.

Following a few moments of exploration, I soon encountered the token "scary little girl," who placed a blood-soaked hand onto a full-length pane of glass separating us. This was not scary at all. Entering a cutscene--one of many throughout the demo--Travis put his hand on hers, like a touching moment between two lovers in a prison. This triggered the familiar transformation of the level in the hellish, rusted aesthetic. If you've noticed the word "familiar" used throughout this preview, it is not a mistake--this game could be called Silent Hill 1: Episode 2 for all it matters.

Once the transformation had completed, the token bloody, bandaged nurses began their lumbering attack. Combat is the standard practice of holding down the right trigger while tapping circle to swing. The attacks are relegated to a one-two punch combo, which grows tiresome quickly. After slamming one nurse with my sledge, the weapon suddenly shattered--apparently the things are destructible. Left to swing my fists in vain, I put down the PSP. Combat is never why I play a Silent Hill title, and this game does nothing to improve the experience.

It is hard to discern whether Silent Hill Origins is in good shape at this point. It looks and plays like one of the original games, which was the safe move for Konami. And while I am a huge Silent Hill fan, a little innovation would have been nice. If Climax can deliver a fresh story and interesting levels, I'm there. As it stands, this demonstration felt a little too familiar.

Silent Hill: Origins is set for a November 6, 2007 release in North America.