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The rumors regarding new Silent Hill games are true. Well, some of them anyway. It doesn't look like Hideo Kojima or Guillermo del Torro will have anything to do with any of it. Konami finally broke the silence regarding its plans for the Silent Hill franchise, and announced 4 new games and a new movie! I have very mixed feelings about all of this.

Market saturation

First and foremost, announcing 4 new game projects all at once feels like overkill to me. I really hope that these games are spaced out and aren't all released at the same time or in quick succession. Remember the last time Konami tried releasing a bunch of new Silent Hill content in its 2012 "Month of Madness"? Yeah, that didn't go over too well.

I'm having enough trouble keeping up with the oversaturation of streaming Franchise TV series.

More generally, keeping up with the oversaturation of content from franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel is already difficult, and I can't keep up. I don't need all my favorite video game franchises piling onto that oversaturation. People have lives outside of media consumption, and I'm sick to death of these corporations thinking that they have a right to monopolize our time by throwing dart after dart at walls in the hopes that some particular dart sticks in the bullseye. I do not owe Disney, or CBS/Paramount, or Konami any of my time, and I've gotten to the point that I don't offer my time unless I have an expectation that it will be worth it. So if any of these Silent Hill games does not look worth my time, I won't play them, and they can go in the pile of un-consumed content along with Book of Memories and most of the crappy graphic novels and comics.

That being said, I'm expecting that most (if not all) of these titles will be relatively short, niche horror games -- "short" compared to the massive open world grind-a-thons that other studios keep trying to shove down our throats. I don't expect any of these new Silent Hill games to be 100+ hour, open world, live service games that are designed explicitly to waste my time and try to steer me towards buying "time-saver" micro-transactions and loot boxes. That doesn't mean that Konami won't find a way to put micro-transactions and loot boxes into the games. But I expect these games will likely be more traditional, conservative 8 to 15-hour horror campaigns. This means that I will likely have time to split between these games and other games, and also between these games and each other (should they all be released contemporaneously, and I chose to play them all).

Multiplayer, live-service Silent Hill?

The exception might be Silent Hill: Ascension, which appears to have a multiplayer focus and might end up being the very type of grindy live-service multiplayer game that I dread. If it's more about grinding repetitive gameplay loops to level up a character or gear ad infinitum, rather than being about telling a story or having any kind of conclusive resolution, than it will be a big, huge "no thank you" from me. The trailer doesn't really offer much in the way of clues about gameplay, but my best guess is that it will be some kind of asymmetric, semi-cooperative online mutliplayer game along the lines of RE:Verse or Friday the 13th or Predator: Hunting Grounds. If so, and it's free-to-play, I will at least download it and try a few rounds. But I sure as heck am not paying $70 for something like that!

Will Ascension be a multiplayer-focused live service?

I don't think that multiplayer is inherently anti-thetical to Silent Hill as a series. I think that clever design can still create the sensations of loneliness and isolation that dominate the early games. But the game would need to have a strong story campaign and not just be an endless mash-up of short objective-based scenarios.

So basically, I expect that Ascension will end up being the game that I will be least enthusiastic about playing.

A remake and a true "Silent Hill 5"?

The games that I will feel the most obliged to play will, of course, be Silent Hill f, which is possibly going to be an actual "Silent Hill 5", and Bloober's remake of Silent Hill 2.

Silent Hill f (does the "f" stand for "5"?) looks like it will be set in Japan, which could be an interesting change of pace and scenery for the franchise. Funny enough, this game is being developed by NeoBards, which is the same studio that was contracted by Capcom to create RE:Verse, but it definitely does not look like a multiplayer live service. I'm curious how this game will relate to the overarching Silent Hill mythos -- if it does at all. A Japanese perspective on the same sort of amorphous horror from the original games could be worthwhile, especially if there is compelling tie-ins to the original lore.

I am a bit concerned by the rusty, industrial Otherworld seeming to have been replaced by a more organic, fungal, and floral Otherworld invasion. Not that I think the Otherworld has to be rusty and industrial. The Otherworld can be manifested in any form, depending on the person who is projecting it. The whole aesthetic of the trailer just gave me The Last of Us vibes, and has me (perhaps unfairly) worried that this will just be some kind of Last of Us knock-off.

Silent Hill f will be set in Japan, and feature a new, organic Otherworld concept.

Is this the same game as the "Project Sakura" concept that was leaked earlier this year? I'm not sure because there was no sign of post-it notes anywhere in this new trailer. I also seem to recall that the rumors at the time were that the game would take place in the U.K., but this trailer clearly takes place in Japan, but I can't find the sources for that anymore. The fact that Konami issues a DMCA strike to have the images removed certainly made their authenticity more plausible.

The most hyped of the announcements is the remake of Silent Hill 2 by Bloober Team. I was not particularly thrilled with the news that Bloober had been contracted to make a Silent Hill game, and I've already stated that I would have preferred to see Frictional Games get the assignment. Bloober's games are always technically impressive, but I've never cared for their writing. And writing is one of the most important parts of a Silent Hill game -- perhaps the most important -- even more important than the foggy atmosphere. Bloober's games often deal heavily with trauma or mental illness, but handle these topics in very nihilistic and pessimistic ways. Worse yet, the haphazard writing usually detracts from the game's ludic or technical successes. Bloober's characters are often depicted as irredeemably broken by their trauma, with the only hope of release being death or suicide. I'm not going to go into too much detail on this topic, and I'll instead refer you to a JimQuisition episode that addresses it more directly and completely.

I'll let James / Stephanie Sterling explain why Bloober maybe isn't the best choice for Silent Hill.

Ironically though, one of Silent Hill 2's endings is a nihilistic ending that does seem to be right up Bloober's alley, so ...

I'm not as bothered by Bloober remaking Silent Hill 2 as some other fans seem to be. A remake means they'll be constrained by the original story, and hopefully won't have too much creative license to change that story. And like I said, they usually make technically impressive games. If they bring that technical prowess to one of Team Silent's tighter, smarter stories, then we might have a solid remake on our hands.

On the other hand, even if they're working with an established story, they can still make plenty of changes to the nuances of the script, such as dialogue and character performances which could end up being off-putting, and can be a genuine cause of concern for fans. Or maybe they've learned from the criticisms of their previous work? Maybe they have matured as a studio and will handle Silent Hill 2 with more thoughtfulness and tact than their previous games, up to and including The Medium. Supposedly, both Masahiro Ito and Akira Yamaoka have also been contracted to consult with Bloober regarding the design of their remake, so they might also help keep Bloober in check, and keep the remake consistent with the original vision.

Can Bloober handle James', Eddie's, and Angela's complicated psychologies with nuance and tact?

Unfortunately, I'm also starting to fall victim to remake fatigue. There's just so many nostalgia remakes of old games, and I'd much rather see new games being made. Will Bloober's Silent Hill 2 be a close adaptation like Bluepoint's Shadow of the Colossus or Demon's Souls? Will it be a faithful re-imaging like REmake 2, that keeps the basic gameplay formula but is willing to change up details to keep the experience fresh for veteran players? Or will it be like Final Fantasy VII Remake and starts off faithful before going off on a completely bat-shit crazy direction that nobody saw coming?

To be fair, Silent Hill 2 is a more dated game than other recent remakes like The Last of Us Part I or Demon's Souls, or even Shadow of the Colossus, so I feel it's much more deserving of a remake than those games. But then again, the first Silent Hill is even more dated, and even more deserving of a remake. So why isn't Konami starting there?

Purgatorial vignettes?

The last game is actually the one that I'm the most curious about. It's called Silent Hill: Townfall and is being developed by No Code and published by Annapurna Interactive. No Code is the studio that created Observation and Stories Untold. I mostly enjoyed Observation, except that I feel it didn't quite stick the ending. I haven't played Stories Untold, but I've heard very good things about it. It's in my Steam backlog, and so this might serve as the inspiration for me to finally go and play it.

Townfall's trailer is also very cryptic and doesn't give away many details of the game's expected gameplay. The name "Townfall" kind of implies to me that it might be some kind of anthology game, which may tell multiple vignette stories that all take place in or involve Silent Hill. Or maybe not.

Will Townfall be another purgatorial Silent Hill story?

The trailer does seem to give away a bit more about the potential story. The narration seems to lean into the "Silent Hill as a purgatory for guilty souls" trope. Regular readers of this blog know that I very much dislike that the entire series after Silent Hill 4 went in that same direction, re-using the "repressed guilt" or "repressed memories" plot twist in every subsequent game. I don't see Silent Hill as a purgatory, or as having any will or desire to punish people for their sins. But I've already written on that topic, so I won't regurgitate it here. In any case, even though I would prefer to see different stories that don't revolve around repressed memories or Silent Hill acting as a personal purgatory until the protagonist confronts their guilt, the only real thing that matters is whether the game is good and whether that story is well told.

Either way, No Code is a studio that I like, and which I think has had interesting game concepts in the past. So I'm most curious to see what they've come up with. Regardless of the whole purgatory thing, I am more confident in No Code's ability to create an intriguing or innovative experience, compared to the other developers working on these new games.

And a new movie, too

Then there's the announcements of new merchandise and so forth. Whatever. And there will also apparently be a new Silent Hill movie. It seems like the movie is going to be an adaptation of Silent Hill 2, and its premise is described as being about a "man returning to Silent Hill, where he had experienced a great love -- and what he finds is a nightmare." But I'm also reading that the movie will be a direct sequel to the previous 2 movies. So are they going to try to adapt Silent Hill 2 within the universe established by the movies? Will it be about Sean Bean returning to Silent Hill to find Rose, as teased by the end of Silent Hill: Revelations? Or will it be about James Sunderland's story happening in parallel with Rahda Mitchell's and Sean Bean's characters' stories?

Will Christoph Gans be able to capture the subtlety and nuance of Silent Hill 2?

I'm not very excited by this announcement, since I didn't really like the Silent Hill movies. The second one is a complete trainwreck from start to finish. The first one at least has some merit. It does do a good job of faithfully adapting the aesthetic and tone of the first video game. At the time of its release, it was actually one of the better game-to-movie adaptations in that regard. However, it completely missed the mark in terms of faithfully adapting the game's story. And since a lot of people's first exposure to Silent Hill was through this movie, that bastardized story gave a lot of people flawed impressions about what Silent Hill is about -- most notably due to the movie switching Alessa from a victim to a demonic, revenge-motivated villain.

I was also offended with the movie's gender-swap of the original game's male protagonist into a female protagonist for the movie. I have no ill-will towards Rahda Mitchell. I value diversity in media, and generally approve casting women or minorities in lead roles. But in this particular case, Harry had always been one of video games' most up-standing male role models. Yet Christoph Gans has gone on record with his sexist idea that Harry was too "feminine" in the game, and he had to change him to a woman because apparently Christoph Gans does not believe that men are capable of loving their children, or being emotionally distraught by his child being in danger. And that's to say nothing of the attributes that he does assign to women. Harry is more notable due to the fact that his daughters are not his biological children, yet he treats them with the same love, compassion, and devotion as if they were. As a father of a daughter who isn't my biological child, Harry's depiction in Silent Hill really resonates with me, and was probably instrumental in shaping my ideas of fatherhood.

"Harry never acted like a masculine character. [...]
He was constantly dizzy, fainting, talking to himself, screaming and in fact was very vulnerable. [...]
We didn't want to betray the nature of the game by changing the character's feelings and motivations, so we felt it was better to change to a female protagonist and retain all those important qualities."

     - Christoph Gans, director of Silent Hill movie

The movement towards diversity in casting and story-telling isn't just about casting more women and minorities in lead roles. Challenging those outdated ideas of heroic masculinity is about as important as diversity in casting. The push towards diversification should also include dismantling the toxic myths of masculine heroes, and making an effort to depict heroic male characters who are more sensitive and emotional (what Gans would call "feminine"). Harry did that for video games, so it's unfortunate that he was replaced with a female lead in the movie because of the director's sexist, chauvinistic, and outdated ideas about masculinity and femininity.

I was offended by Christoph Gans' sexist reason for replacing Harry Mason with a female protagonist.

I do not trust Christoph Gans with adapting the nuances of Silent Hill or its characters. If Return To Silent Hill is an original story, and not an adaptation of any of the games (especially not SH2), then maybe it won't be so bad, but I'm not going to bet on it.

Excitement and red flags

So yeah, that's kind of how I feel about all this Silent Hill news: a mixture of anticipation, apprehension, curiosity, and resignation. This announcement looks awfully similar to the failed 2012 Month of Madness that was supposed to see a new mainline Silent Hill game, a remaster of 2 and 3, and a multiplayer-focused side game. There's plenty of reasons for a Silent Hill fan to be excited by all this. But there's also plenty of red flags that signal to me that I, personally, might not enjoy what Konami is doing with this series. But only time, and your own personal tastes, will tell for sure.

Comments (1) -

10/23/2022 15:24:08 #

You nailed it, and your thoughts reflect my own. My only divergent thought is my skepticism about "f" taking place in Japan. I can't see how Japan would have anything to do with a small town in the United States, so it seems really out of place. Of course I can't and won't judge it until I play it myself, but it certainly strikes me as ill-suited for a Silent Hill story. After all, what is Silent Hill without the town know...Silent Hill?

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