Over the last week, we saw some news coming out that led up to the news that Silent Hills has been cancelled. The game was a joint project between videogame auteur Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid, Zone of the Enders) and film director Guillermo Del Toro (Pacific Rim, Pan's Labyrinth), and hoped to reboot the classic Silent Hill franchise.
The game was announced via an enigmatic short game put on the Playstation Network named "P.T". It was a first person game set around re-exploring the same hallway over and over again, with various changes each time. Upon completion, P.T revealed itself to be a teaser for Silent Hills. It was a brilliant way to announce the game, and was the exact kind of off-kilter move that made Kojima the perfect person to take on a franchise that embedded itself in the weird.
Since then, we've not seen or heard much from the game. Rumours started floating around that Kojima was leaving the games publisher Konami, which put all of his projects into question. With no official news on Silent Hills, it was only after a fan asked Guillermo Del Toro that we found out that the game was no longer happening. And like how Del Toro himself described, it "broke my greasy, greasy heart."
I've always been heavily into videogames, and when I was growing up there were a few games that my mum loved that I would play with her. Resident Evil was a house staple, and I loved watching my mum peel apart the mysteries of Raccoon City. One day, I remember my mum saying she had read about a new game that was apparently a bit like Resident Evil, and we drove out to the nearest game shop to get it. We bought snacks and drinks, and settled in for a night of playing Silent Hill on the PS1. I was probably about ten or eleven at the time, and I didn't sleep for a week. I vividly remember being scared to go to the bathroom in case an evil nurse was waiting for me in the dark hallway. It was the first time I'd been truly scared by a game. Resident Evil was Thomas the Tank Engine in comparison.
When I finally played through the series on my own, I was a carefree teenager who refused to feel fear, and was convinced the games of my childhood would be defeated by my adolescent bravado. But Silent Hill 2 provided something completely different than scary monsters or jumps - it gave you a deep, underlying fear that the real monster is the character you're playing as, and makes you doubt everything you see in the world. Despite my initial inclination to "beat" the games horror, I found myself scared in a completely unexpected way.
The third game was a great continuation of the first, wrapping up some of the loose ends while maintaining the series pitch perfect atmosphere and tension. The fourth locked you in a room for most of the game, giving the player a feeling of claustrophobia and unease, and ultimately proved to be the developer's last hurrah of horror and storytelling innovations.
The series continued under different developers for a few years, but none could quite nail the feeling of Silent Hill. This is where Kojima and Del Toro came in. Both of them had shown in the past that they could deliver projects with a huge amount of weirdness that didn't push you too far out of the story. From the magnificent creature designs of Pan's Labyrinth to the fourth-wall tickling of Metal Gear Solid, the duo seemed like a perfect fit to revitalise a series that was beginning to look stale after years of failed reboots.
But before we could get a proper look at the full game, it was cancelled. Only the Playstation 4's that had P.T downloaded before it was pulled offer a small window into what could have been - a terrifying and clever game which uses the best traits of all those involved.
Silent Hill, as a franchise, is hard to concisely explain. It's scary, sure. But there's some truly magnificent story moments shown throughout the series, and it consistently used great creature and world design to tell them. As a fan, I'm really torn up over this. As a gamer, I'm disappointed I won't get to play it. As a fan of creative works, I'm upset that I won't get to see the fruits of some truly talented people working together.
Maybe there's a future for Silent Hill, and I hope it'll be good. But it won't be Silent Hills, the game I'll forever be wishing I could sit down with my mum to play.