Silent Hills just won't seem to die. Shortly after the game was canceled by Konami, petitions started popping up demanding that it be re-instated. Then came the debacle of the Metal Gear Solid V release, which seemed blatantly incomplete and/or half-assed. Then Kojima officially left Konami, Guillermo del Toro tweeted that the cancelation of Silent Hills "breaks his greasy heart", and it all seemed done and buried.

Or was it?

Andrew House (Group CEO of Sony Interactive) announces a partnership with Hideo Kojima.

Within a week of the official announcement that Kojima had left Konami, he was reported to have already set up his own independent Kojima Productions studio, and that he had already partnered with Sony to develop an un-named PS4 exclusive. Geez, that was quick. Kojima has always had a good relationship with Sony. The Metal Gear Solid games were originally PlayStation exclusives, and were definite showcases for those Sony platforms. I mean, when you think of the original PlayStation, what are the first few games that come to mind? Probably Final Fantasy VII. Tomb Raider? Maybe Resident Evil? And definitely Metal Gear Solid. Even when Kojima was initially rumored to be leaving Konami, I had speculated that Sony might make a move to hire him. Contracting him to act as a second-party developer of exclusive content is just as good. I had also speculated at the time that there were three possibilities for Silent Hills to see the light of day:

  1. Konami could hire Kojima's independent studio to continue development of Silent Hills. This seemed unlikely considering the rocky conclusion to Kojima's employment.
  2. Kojima could buy the IP rights to Silent Hill (and maybe Metal Gear). This also seemed unlikely considering that both franchises are cash-cows for Konami.
  3. Lastly, there was the possibility that Kojima Productions could continue the development of what would have been Silent Hills, but without the "Silent Hill" title. Same game; different name.

The partnership with Sony opens up a fourth possibility: Sony could buy or lease the licensing rights to Silent Hill and then contract out development to Kojima Productions. This is the only way that the game could possibly see the light of day and still maintain the "Silent Hill" name. Konami has already expressed its disinterest in continued first-party console game development. It's just too expensive, and the company wants to focus more on its gambling business and mobile games. If Konami wants to continue to see revenue from those IPs, then they are stuck either making smaller in-house games (such as mobile games, pachinko machines, or browser-based games); or they would have to license out the IP to third-party developers. Sony certainly has the buying-power that Kojima, by himself, doesn't have, and could certainly afford to buy those rights, if they so desire.

A trailer for Konami's next Silent Hill game. Not exactly what fans were hoping for...
Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus

However, Silent Hill fans probably shouldn't get their hopes up for a triumphant return of their tarnished, yet beloved, franchise. In the video announcing the partnership with Sony, Kojima says that he is "thrilled to embark on creating a new franchise with PlayStation". So this project does not appear to be Silent Hills. At least, not in title...

Kojima is rumored to be collaborating once again with Guillermo Del Toro, which opens up the possibility that the two are going to work on realizing the plans that they had for Silent Hills. During a keynote address at DICE, Kojima and Del Toro stated that they would like to continue to work together. Del Toro even went as far as saying that he would "do whatever the fuck Kojima asks him to". He even made an off-hand comment about famed Japanese horror illustrator Junji Ito. I don't know much bout Junji Ito, but his work is apparently a pretty big deal, and he's also been seen with Kojima. Kojima and Norman Reedus have even been seen together, and it's been rumored that Reedus will be working with Kojima again. All the pieces seem to be fitting into place...

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Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom Pain

Are you one of the poor suckers who paid $30-40 for Ground Zeroes and were ready for The Phantom Pain to make up for your disappointment with what was little more than a glorified (and over-priced) demo? I wasn't, because I got Ground Zeroes for free from my PSPlus subscription around the same time that Phantom Pain was released. I was obviously disappointed with the demo's short length, and I didn't bother doing any of the side missions. But since I didn't pay for it, I wasn't as enraged as some other players might have been.

I actually really liked what little gameplay Ground Zeroes had to offer. The Guantanamo Bay arena was well-designed and offered some good infiltration challenge that tested my Metal Gear capabilities. The A.I. was surprisingly competent and adaptive - not so much that I couldn't exploit them occasionally, but still good. The graphics, lighting, and weather effects all looked outstanding. It was a fun experience. Not "forty dollars fun", but pretty fun. At least part of the battle at Mother Base should have been playable, and I didn't like that large elements of the story were hidden away in collectible audio tapes, but whatever.

I got Ground Zeroes for free on PSPlus, instead of paying $30-40 MSRP for a glorified demo.

Ground Zeroes gave me flashbacks to the phenomenal classic Sons of Liberty demo that came packaged with Zone of the Enders on the PS2. At least that only cost me a $3 rental, and I got to play Zone of the Enders too. After Ground Zeroes, I was looking forward to getting my hands on the much bigger Phantom Pain, and was optimistic that it would provide an equally good experience that would be worth the purchase price. Phantom Pain is a very long, very complicated, and very uneven game. So buckle up, friend. This is going to be a long review.

Table of Contents

After having written a lengthy blog post about how open world, sandbox game design almost necessarily puts the game's narrative in a state of limbo, I was amazed to start up Metal Gear Solid V and see the very first mission took my criticisms to heart. Of course, the game had already been released by the time I had written that opinion piece, so I can't take credit for having influenced its development, but it was still refreshing and gratifying. Anyway, in the very first mission, Ocelot tells you that Miller has been captured by Soviets in Afghanistan, has been tortured for intel, and has three days - tops - to live. You must rescue him before that time.

Metal Gear Solid V - three days to rescue Miller
Ocelot gives the player three days to rescue Miller...

At first, I didn't put much stock in Ocelot's claim. After all, sandbox games are notorious for saying that something needs to be done ASAP, but they never have the balls to actually walk the walk and enforce that objective. Until now. When checking my map, I noticed something in the corner that I hadn't noticed in other sandbox games before: an "elapsed time" counter. The game was plainly tracking how long it was taking me to complete the primary mission objective. I treated this timer with a certain degree of skepticism. But sure enough, failure to rescue Miller within the allotted time actually results in a "Game Over"!

This is exactly how I feel that priority objectives in open world games should be handled: make it apparent to the player (through dialogue and/or explicit notification) that an objective is being timed or that it is otherwise a priority, and make sure that there are reasonable, perceivable consequences for failure to achieve that objective within the expected conditions. Then design some early-game quests or objectives such that the player is put in a position in which they can (or must) fail; thus, teaching the player that when the game says "do x or else", the game actually means it. I put down the controller and gave Hideo Kojima a standing ovation. But would this opening mission set a precedent that priority missions must actually be prioritized, and would that precedent stand throughout the rest of the game? Or was this just a one-off occurrence that would not be representative of the rest of the game? Regardless, a tone was plainly set for the rest of the game, and the stakes had been raised.

... Failure to rescue Miller within the allotted time results in his death and a Game Over.

Would this refreshing precedent carry over into the rest of the game? Well, sort of...

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Not much has been seen of Hideo Kojima's Silent Hills since the Tokyo Game Show trailer last September. And now it looks like we might not be seeing any more from it any time soon. Or ever.

The latest news in the gaming world is that Hideo Kojima (and his studio Kojima Productions) is splitting from Konami. And it's a little early for April Fools... Apparently, the split is not amicable, as Konami has stripped Kojima's name from Metal Gear Solid V marketing material and that Kojima and his staff are now working as contractors to finish that game. Apparently, Konami and Kojima are planning on finishing Metal Gear Solid V, but Silent Hills may not be so fortunate.

Kojima interview
Will Kojima and his team be able to continue working on Silent Hills after leaving Konami?

Whatever happened at Konami, the company may have made a monumentally bad decision in forcing Kojima out. He has consistently delivered some of the best performing games that the company has ever made. On top of that, he has surrounded himself with a talented staff that have proven capable of developing solid game engines from scratch in order to make their games as technically-impressive as possible. Konami may be losing all of these resources.

But Konami is likely keeping the rights to the intellectual properties of Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill. It's possible that Konami might hire Kojima Productions as a contractor to continue Silent Hills (as they are apparently doing with Metal Gear Solid V), since the game uses Kojima's proprietary Fox Engine. But even then, if the developers and the publisher / IP-holder do not have a comfortable working arrangement, then the quality of the game may suffer considerably due to the competing interests of the two companies. And if Konami pushes on with development of Silent Hills without Kojima and his Fox Engine, then the final product will likely be a disaster.

Another possibility is that Kojima Productions could buy the IP rights to Metal Gear Solid and / or Silent Hill. I think that's very unlikely, considering that both franchises are cash-cows for Konami.

I also wouldn't be surprised if Sony makes a move to acquire Kojima and his studio to make first party content, since his Metal Gear Solid games were a premiere console-selling exclusive for the PlayStation. If that happens, and Kojima's studio is allowed to continue work on Silent Hills, then the game would likely become a PS4 exclusive. That's if the three companies can come to agreements with one another to begin with.

The last possibility is that Kojima Productions could continue to work on Silent Hills as their first independent game, but without the Silent Hill naming rights from Konami. It's unclear just how much (if at all) Silent Hills' plot was dependent on the established canon of the Silent Hill series. Since the P.T. demo and Tokyo Game Show trailer didn't show anything that specifically tied the game to Silent Hill in anything but name, this may not have much of an impact on the final product if it has to go forward without the IP.

At least one source has stated that Silent Hills has, in fact, been canceled. But I'm still waiting for more concrete clarification from Konami and / or Kojima before I give up hope.

In any case, it's too early to say anything about the future of Silent Hills with any certainty. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this story as it develops.

UPDATE: May 01, 2015, 12:00 am: Silent Hills has been officially canceled, petitioners demand Kojima finish the game

We all knew it would happen, and towards the end of April, Konami and Del Toro finally admitted that Silent Hills has been officially canceled. No real surprise here, but it is very unfortunate news. Del Toro verified on Twitter that the project "isn't gonna happen", a fact that "breaks [his] greasy heart.". Konami has also confirmed officially that the game's development has been discontinued.

This news hasn't stopped petitioners from requesting that Kojima continue development of the game. Sorry guys, but Kojima and Del Toro aren't the ones in charge! Konami is pulling the strings, and Konami doesn't want anything to do with Kojima. The only reason that Metal Gear Solid V is happening is that the game is practically already done. Having Kojima continue to work on it is just a formality. Silent Hills doesn't even seem as if it had started primary development, so Konami isn't losing much (if any) investment by canceling the project.

That being said, I did sign the petition. P.T. and what was shown of Silent Hills looked very promising from a horror gaming standpoint (not so promising as a "Silent Hill" game), and I was looking forward to the game being released. Feel free to sign the petition yourself; although, I doubt that it will have any efficacy.

Damn shame.

[More]
Silent Hills - playable teaster title

As most internet-savvy Silent Hill fans know, the recent rumors regarding Hideo Kojima working on a Silent Hill game are true. Konami stealthily released a hidden teaser for the project within a demo for a fake game (called "P.T.") being made by a fake studio (7780 Studios).

I don't currently own a PS4, since there haven't been any interesting games out for it yet (although Bloodborne and No Man's Sky both look like they sell me a console). As such, I was a little bit late in getting a chance to actually play the "P.T." demo, but I finally was able to play it on a friend's PS4 over the Labor Day weekend. Given my strong opinions regarding the Silent Hill franchise, I thought I'd weigh in on this whole teaser thing.

It is, however, important to note that "P.T." is just an announcement teaser, and not an actual demo. As such, it is not necessarily representative of the final game - and in fact, the demo clearly states this in the final cutscene. So the demo doesn't really tell us much about the gameplay or story of the new Silent Hill game. At least not directly. And so any conclusions that any one comes to will need to be taken with some degree of skepticism.

P.T. - hallway ghost
The hallway is almost a character in and of itself, and it is gorgeously rendered in Kojima's Fox Engine.

Considering my nature as a Silent Hill "purist", I'm skeptical and cynical about any new developments in the franchise. As such, I'm going to begin by getting my concerns and fears regarding this project out of the way...

UPDATE (September 23, 2014 3:30 PM Pacific Time):
New Silent Hills teaser video released at last week's Tokyo Game Show

Last week, Konami and Hideo Kojima presented a new teaser video for Silent Hill at the Tokyo Game Show. I was going to write a post about my impressions from this video, but there's not enough new information to warrant a whole new post. You can view the video below:

The new video is very short, and doesn't give away much in terms of the narrative direction of the new game. In fact, it's probably just another "proof of concept" project, and not actually representative of the final product.

The hallway shown does look like it could possibly be the hallway of a school (or maybe a daycare). If it is a school, could it be a return to the familiar Midwhich Elementary?..

[More]

Hideo Kojima
Hideo Kojima

A recent posting to IMDB has some Silent Hill fans very intrigued. The post claims that "Silent Hill 9" has been announced, and that it is directed by Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame). This post seems a bit premature, since I'm not aware of any official announcement - or statement of any kind - from Konami regarding another Silent Hill game, but rumors have been circulating on forums for months regarding the possibility of Hideo Kojima working (directly or indirectly) on a Silent Hill project.

Supposedly, Konami has approached Kojima to direct the next installment in the franchise. He's favorable to the idea, but admits that he may not be the best man for such a leading role:

"Honestly, I’m kind of a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror movies, so I’m not confident I can do it. At the same time, there’s a certain type of horror that only people who are scared of can create, so maybe it’s something I can do."
   - Hideo Kojima
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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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