Saturday, November 10, 2007

Silent Hill: Origins - Review

Player(s): 1
Memory: 544KB

Silent Hill: Origins is the first of two Silent Hill installments that is not developed by Team Silent. For those that don't know, Origins was developed by Climax and the upcoming Silent Hill V is being developed by The Collective. Thankfully, gamers have nothing to fear from this first non-Team Silent installment in the main series of Silent Hill because Climax has delivered quite a survival horror experience on the PSP handheld.

A lonely trucker with a shadowy past by the name of Travis Grady is on one of his normal delivery courses that takes him through the town of Silent Hill. He slams on his brakes as a figure runs across the road in front of his truck while on his path into Silent Hill. Once he gets out of his vehicle to investigate, a mysterious girl steps into view then quickly runs off. Travis follows her to see if she is ok as she runs toward the town of Silent Hill and thereby starts a journey in which Travis must face his own personal demons.

Origins takes place before the original Silent Hill game and tells the tale of how the town was consumed in darkness. Travis interacts with many characters from the original Silent Hill throughout the game's cutscenes while dealing with his own dark past. The town once again has a foggy appearance and Otherworld (the Dark World) still looks just as grim as it always does in Silent Hill.

This time, the protagonist has control over which world he is in. By touching a mirror, Travis can travel in between the normal world and Otherworld. This leads to many challenges where one will have to switch between both worlds in order to get to a certain destination. For instance, you may have to enter a certain room in the real world, then use the room's mirror to travel to Otherworld in order to find a certain item that is blocked off in the normal world but is completely open to retrieval in Otherworld.

It's very hard to believe that this a PSP game since Origins has some of the best lighting effects and overall graphics that I have ever seen for a PSP game. The flashlight produces shadows that stretch along walls and floors just like in the PS2 releases and enemies have a shiny appearance from up close that helps to make their grotesque form even more horrific. The only portion of the graphics engine that has a PSP appearance is the character model for each character. A few jagged edges can be noticed on each character while they move. The filter effect (grainy details) helps to hide the environmental jagged edges well - you have to actually look for them if you want to view them.

The camera angles focus in on particular portions of the environment to build tension just like in other Silent Hill titles. With the Silent Hill 4 control scheme that this game carries, some of the camera angle switches can lead to some control issues. Run toward a certain area and the camera will suddenly change and you'll be heading in the wrong direction. Problems like this can get annoying while running from a group of enemies on the streets of Silent Hill. I also had a few problems with the camera not showing me what was in front of my character which lead to some unwanted damage. A player can press the L button to center the camera behind Travis, but while Travis is up against a wall or door, the camera will remain fixed in whatever direction it is currently in.

A survival horror wouldn't be complete without a scary soundtrack that helps to immerse a player into its horrific world and Origins does not disappoint at all in that aspect. The soundtrack is almost absolutely perfect! Travis' footsteps can be heard as he walks, the radio will sound off constantly as enemies approach, enemies yell out as they pursue Travis throughout the corridors of buildings, portions of the soundtrack will play to highlight a climatic portion of the game, among many other wonderful sound effects. The game even starts out with a vocal song as Travis walks toward the entrance to the town of Silent Hill foreshadowing his experiences to come. The only flaw in the soundtrack is a sound bug that sometimes mutes certain sound effects while in some areas of Silent Hill. For the full game experience, make sure to have a set of headphones or you will be missing out on about 25% of the level of immersion from this title!

The combat in Silent Hill Origins has been upgraded quite a bit. Each enemy can get quite aggressive in this game compared to past titles but Travis can fight back just as much. Once an enemy has grabbed Travis then either a button tapping sequence or Quick Time Event (QTE) will occur. Mash the button or wait and tap the correct button as the button icon appears to break free from an enemy grapple and Travis will be able to throw the enemy off. For each weapon, Travis has a light and heavy swing. Some weapons can even be thrown.

With many everyday objects lying throughout rooms, Travis has quite a bit to choose from to use as weapon. Alcohol bottles, wrenches, samurai swords, meat hooks, toasters - hell, you can even throw a filing cabinet at enemies in Origins. Each weapon has a certain amount of health and that health will be consumed per enemy hit. The health ranges from green, yellow, orange, to red. Once a weapon has sustained enough damage from being hit then it will break and Travis will have to switch to something else.

Switching to a different weapon is where a slight problem occurs since you will have to either switch during direct combat or open the inventory and switch to a different weapon. Switch to a weapon in real time and you never know what Travis may be suddenly equipped with. This is not really that much of a problem though, just noticeable.

Travis must also finish certain types of enemies or that enemy will get up once again and attack. This time, enemies are actually finished off with the current weapon that is held instead of the usual kick - which is something I have always wanted in a Silent Hill game! Enemies get up very quickly if they are not finished quick enough which can lead to some problems while fighting multiple enemies. Hit one enemy in a group and knock that enemy down then you better finish off that grounded enemy before it gets up or it will rise once again while the second enemy is still in the area. Types of situations like this can lead to skipping combat altogether. Silent Hill fans should be used to running from enemies, but with a fun combat system, I actually wanted to fight more, but couldn't because of aggressive grouped enemies.

Also, this game can get a bit hard when you're first starting off. It matches the difficulty of the first Silent Hill. Health drinks and other healing items are not scattered as much as they usually are in past Silent Hill titles, so it is a good idea to either perfect your combat skills or just skip enemies altogether near the beginning of the game once the second building is reached. Being a Silent Hill game, one can expect to get lost during the first playthrough at times, and this is the main aspect that can make the game challenging when health items are needed. Practice with combat or running can easily overcome the lack of health items at the beginning however.

As already mentioned, the overall controls scheme remains the same as the controls introduced in Silent Hill 4. Press in any direction to make Travis walk in that direction with the left analog. This particular Silent Hill has the best auto-targeting of any other title in the series. The targeting is very precise allowing one to easily lock-on to a nearby enemy with great ease.

The game clocks in at about 6 hours from beginning to end. This isn't that long for a first time through a survival horror (and I always take my time), but this is the best survival horror experience for a handheld that can be found at the moment. The game has many unlockables and a few extra endings so it does have its share of replay value to keep the experience lively - some extras can only be obtained on a second playthrough.

Though it isn't perfect in all aspects, Silent Hill Origins truly sets the standard for handheld survival horrors that follow. The sound and graphics alone are truly a site to behold. This is a definite pickup for any survival horror fan and should be a worthy playthrough for any other type of gamer as well.

The Good

+ Horrifying soundtrack and sound effects that sound perfect with headphones
+ Incredible in-game graphics that push the PSP to its limits.
+ Fun combat system.
+ With the lack of health items at times, Origins can get hard, like the first Silent Hill

The Bad

- Multiple enemy battles can get very ugly thanks to the finishing aspect.
- Some sound bugs mess up what would be a perfect soundtrack.
- The camera can hide enemies or mess up current controls with the shifting angles.
- With the lack of health items at times, Origins can get hard, like the first Silent Hill

The darkness will spread throughout Silent Hill as its origins are revealed but Silent Hill Origins is far from a nightmare - it is the best portable survival horror experience yet!

Graphics: 9.0
Controls: 8.5
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 8.5

And therefore, Berserker dubs thee: 8.9/10


Nish said...

I think I might wait for this drop to a better price. FF Tactics is lodged in my PSP at the moment, and I don't even feel like removing it.

Berserker said...

Haha. Tactical RPGs can get quite addicting once they've hooked you.

The original FF Tactics was actually my introduction to the tactical RPG, and quite a memorable one at that!

Anonymous said...

i kind of hate this game, it is hard to keep a high life status.
but still im trying to pass it with this guy guide that really had impresme.

thank you!

Russell Edkins said...

I have to agree with the previous post on this one - so far, definitely not so good. Maybe it's because I'm more used to RPG or FPS, but I'm finding this really hard. Not so much the puzzles, but combat is awful. How does a meathook degrade? Why do I have to stop for a second or two after each volley of two punches? Once I'm outside the hospital, if I run, the monsters follow, so
I get out of breath and I don't have the stamina to fight's incredibly frustrating, and so far only one save point - the one in the hospital.

Also, the constantly switching camera angles mean you can end up walking in circles - the camera switches, you stop, start to move again and find you're moving back in the direction you came from because the camera angle has changed!

On the plus side, yes, the graphics , music and atmosphere are pretty damn good for the PSP!

Anonymous said...

i get to know your blog from where your walkthroughs are on and posted.

well,i find'em very well organized and so're really in them man.without your clue, i wouldnt have got through all those headache puzzles.

i just wanna say thanks for your good works, as they really assist me in finishing the games both Origins and Homecoming.

keep it up man!

a fan from Thailand.

Johan said...

Just finished the game and I have to agree with you in this review.

It was good - while it lasted. My total game time was 4:39, and I didn't rush through it and that was kind of a disappointment for me.

But hey, I'm happy with the game, I was afraid it would be straight out bad. It was great, although a bit short. :)

Anonymous said...

i love this game i am on my third run, i just cant put it down i highly recomend this game, i agree it is a little short, but well worth it.

Anonymous said...

what the solution on ornate box people..too dumb to find out my self..