Game discussion

Throwback 10: Silent Hill: Origins

Silent Hill: Origins was originally released on the Playstation Portable, before later being released on the Playstation 2, and is one of the best horror titles on the PSP device.

A prequel to the original Silent Hill, released on the Playstation in 1999, Silent Hill: Origins takes place several years before the events of the first game. The player takes on the role of Travis Grady, a truck driver with a troubled past who suffers from nightmares, as he searches through the eponymous town looking for information about a girl that he rescues from a burning house.

Using the third person perspective and fixed camera angles that are a staple of the series, Silent Hill: Origins follows many of the conventions and gameplay of the past games, though it manages to introduce some new and interesting features.

The set-up for Silent Hill: Origins does feel somewhat lacking to begin with. Unlike previous protagonists, such as James Sunderland or Heather Mason, Travis doesn’t have a personal reason to come to Silent Hill. There’s nothing driving him towards the town. He simply passes by in his role as a truck driver.

Thankfully the story does develop from what could be considered a weak beginning to become quite involved with the overarching narrative. Going on to interact with Alessa Gilespie, her mother Dahlia Gilespie, Michael Kaufmann, and Lisa Garland, Travis plays an important role in the series mythology, collecting together pieces of an ancient artefact, the Flauros, that allows Alessa to split her soul and manifest that half of her spirit into a newborn baby. As fans of the series will realise, this baby would go on to become Cheryl, the daughter of Harry Mason, the protagonist for the first game.

Perhaps it’s this connection to the larger mythology that makes makes Silent Hill: Origins one of the more successful newer entries. Whilst other games such as Homecoming and Downpour were set in and around Silent Hill, they felt like more separate and contained stories; ones that didn’t really make up part of the overall narrative, which is something that Silent Hill: Origins manages to do well.

The game also included many new additions to the gameplay, one that worked well to craft a new Silent Hill experience, whilst still staying true to the spirit of the franchise. The game moved away from the combat heavy focus of the initial design, which was poorly received by critics, and shifted to include more puzzles and exploration.

With the new puzzles requiring players to explore all the areas carefully (including the ghastly otherworld), the game forced you to slow down and take your time; a choice that increased the tension. Silent Hill: Origins also allowed players to shift between the real world and the otherworld at will, simply by touching mirrors placed around the environments. This was the first time the series allowed players to do this. Rather than removing fear of the otherworld, it actually forced players to travel to the nightmarish landscape in order to progress the story.

Origins also introduced a limited-use melee weapon system, allowing the player to pick up a huge variety of weapons from around the environments, including hospital drip stands and televisions. Where previous games in the franchise allowed you to use melee weapons indefinitely, here they would wear down and break over time, with some only giving you a single use before they were damaged beyond repair. This forced you to scavenge for weapons and resources, and to plan your combat before jumping in, weighing up your options carefully. Instead of making the game frustrating, this made the survival element of the survival horror genre all the more prominent. There was always the fear that you could run out of weapons at any point during an enemy encounter, especially against bosses, that meant that even the weakest opponent could pose a threat.

Silent Hill: Origins is one of the last good entries into the series; one that focused on the mythology of the series and introduced some new elements to the gameplay that forced players to deal with the game in a new way. A great addition to the Silent Hill franchise, and one of the best horror games on the PSP.

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