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
This might make Silent Hill fans skeptical about Kojima's ability to direct or produce a game that lives up to the franchise's [now tarnished] lineage. However, it is worthwhile to point out that Kojima's sentiments very closely mirror the words of the original Silent Hill game's director, Keiichiro Toyama:
"I was really kind of a scaredy-cat, [...] I never liked the really bloody shock-fest sort of horror film, so I was kind of at a loss when we started out. What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films. So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found. So I really didn't think [Silent Hill] was that much of a horror game, and it was kind of a surprise to me when people told me it was scary after it came out!"
- Keiichiro Toyama (director, Silent Hill (1999))
Toyama's interest wasn't so much in horror as it was in just occult and paranormal subjects. Based on his statements, it seems like the horror was more of an emergent property of the subject matter and influences of the games that he made. Kojima is also no stranger to occult and paranormal influences in his games. Metal Gear Solid is loaded with paranormal content and pseudo-science, as well as government conspiracies and secret societies that closely mirror occultism. So Kojima might have a firmer grasp on the basis of Silent Hill's plot than he thinks - that is, as long as he doesn't go too far into anime-land...
I'm not so sure that Kojima's statements mean that he will actually direct the game. I think it's more likely that he would act in some kind of producer or supervisory role, and grant the dev team the use of his FOX Engine, which is used for Metal Gear Solid games. The first four Silent Hill games had used their own engines that were custom-designed by the team, and which helped to give those games their unique (and high quality) aesthetics. The FOX Engine is an impressive engine, and Metal Gear Solid games are known for always being on the cutting-edge of graphics. So even if Kojima's involvement is only to give the license to his FOX Engine, we can be pretty confident that the game would at least look very nice! Silent Hill games that have been developed by third parties have had a shaky history of ugly graphics and technical problems. Using a quality, in-house engine for the project would be a great first step in at least ensuring that the games are competent at a technical level!
"That said, I think Silent Hill has a certain atmosphere. I think it has to continue, and I’d love to help it continue, and if I can help by supervising or lending the technology of the FOX Engine, then I’d love to participate in that respect."
- Hideo Kojima
My biggest concern isn't so much with Kojima. I'd be more concerned about who he decides to surround himself with in the project. I had read news blurbs about Masahiro Ito (the creature designer from Silent Hill 1-3) possibly returning to do artwork and design for the next Silent Hill game (unfortunately, I can't find the articles that said that anymore...). If Konami and Kojima can bring back some of the original creative minds, then this project will suddenly be much more interesting and promising! The original creators understand these games much better than anyone else, and I would love to see what their ideas for a sequel would include. It would also be exciting if a sequel were to put Silent Hill back on track and nullify a lot of the nonsense that was in Origins, Homecoming, and Downpour.
I'm looking forward to the potential of seeing some form of Team Silent reinstated (even if it is just a handful of people) and for the series return to its occult-based origins, which were grounded in real occultism and mysticism. I'm looking for the art and design to bring back the disturbing "what the heck?!" factor, instead of the dullness, blandness, and derivativeness of the post-Team Silent games. I'm looking forward to the stories and characters going back to being cohesive and thoughtfully-constructed. I'm hoping to learn more about the history and background of this universe as the original creators imagine it.
This next game may be tentatively called "Silent Hill 9", but I'm still waiting for "Silent Hill 5". Maybe now I'll finally get it!
Hopefully it doesn't end up being another reboot or "reimagining"...
However, if this doesn't work, it will likely spell the end of Silent Hill as a brand. The franchise has floundered in the hands of third-party developers, and everyone has been screaming for Konami to bring back the original team. But remember, the reason Konami disbanded the team and sought third party development was because the original team created Silent Hill 4, which (despite having a decent story) suffered from poor overall game design and just wasn't scary. The major creative influences on the series had apparently decided they didn't want to work on it any more (Silent Hill 3 effectively ended the series by closing the overarching story thread) and had already moved on. If third parties can't carry the torch, and members of the original team can't reignite the spark of genius that made the first three games so memorable, then Konami and gamers might just give up on the franchise and accept that it died a long time ago, and keeping it on life support is only doing everybody a disservice.