Review: Silent Hill Origins (Sony PSP)

Silent Hill Origins
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Climax Limited
Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: 11/7/2007

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the Silent Hill Series. I think the first game in the series is a horrible pile of overrated crap. Awful controls, gameplay, graphics and a story written by todlers. It baffles me to this day that this series is the #2 SH series in the US after Resident Evil instead of things like Clock Tower or Konami/Atlus’ own Hell Night/Dark Messiah. The second game was far more interesting to me with the concept that the creatures and torments are all psychological and perhaps even hallunciations caused by a plant that only grows in the area. The gameplay was still worse than Alone in the Dark however. SH3? Back to the pit of suck once again. I was one of the few that liked SH4, but I was more a fan of what it could have been/what it represented rather than what the end product was. SH4: the Room had a highly original and compelling idea to start the game, and was the only game in the series to have controls that were actually fun/playable. However, the game quickly degenerated into a slop fest story wise, mainly because they were forced to tack on a SH based plot. Yes, SH4 was never meant to be a Silent Hill game. That decision was made partly through development and its too damn apparent when you play the game. Had it been its own stand alone property, it probably would have been a lot better.

Now we come to Silent Hill Origins, a game filled with its own controversy. This is actually the second SHO that has been developed, with Konami pulling the plug on the original after they decided it looked like ass. And after the first Silent Hill game, this is a pretty big insult. Oddly enough, for those of use who got our hands on the original SHO, you’ll be interested to note that it played like RE4.

Now, I was pretty optimistic at this point for SHO. Konami did something rather unprecedented with a major title and decided to start over and try for something high in quality rather than release and inferior game with a major title in order to make a buck.

But then they gave development of the game to Climax. Those of us in the know about various developers went from being highly optimistic about Konami’s decision to pretty pessimistic. This is because Climax is best known for two things. The first is taking established major successful franchises and creating variants of these games for new systems and somehow making the games hideously awful in the process. Ask hardcore Diablo Fans about Climax’s version of that game for the PS1 and prepare for the profanity. The other things Climax is known for is making mediocre to outright crappy games. Remember their classic super popular games like Disney’s Lilo & Stitch 2: Hamsterveil Havoc or Delta Force: Black Hawk Down? What about their adaptation of Ghost Rider? Ugh. Climax is a studio you go to if you want a game done quickly and shoddily. It is not where you go if you want a well made game.

But here’s the thing. They have made a pretty awesome RPG before. It’s called Dark Saviour for the Sega Saturn. So in spite of myself, and at the behest of Konami, I agreed to have an open mind towards a series I am not a fan of made by a development team I am not a fan of. Was I pleasantly surprised, or was I banging my head against a wall while repeatedly saying, “Stop being so trusting and optimistic!”?

Let’s Review

One of my big beefs with Silent Hill games are that the plots are all over the place. It is mostly vague opened ended crap where each game after the first has its own canon and continuity from the previous game. It’s a bunch of crap thrown at the wall to see what sticks. Generally the only thing you know that is for sure with a SH game is that there will be some dumb ass walking through a fog filled town and there will be monsters and a cult of some sorts with nothing ever clearly defined and any real character development feels fake and tacked on. The Silent Hill movie is a wonderful example of this as, although the cinematography is amazing, the story makes SH one of the worst video game films ever. It’s Uwe Boll worthy story wise.

So here comes Silent Hill Origins which promises to unite not just the games, but the movie as well into being part of a solid mythos . Well guess what? It doesn’t succeed. In fact, it’s more of the same. If anything, SHO is fanservice for the hardcore SH fans and focuses mainly on things from Silent Hill 1. The game still has little to no character development, the plot is sparse and only comes in small clips between excruciatingly long walking sequences, and nothing is really made sense of. You know it’s bad when the game that was touted as being the lynchpin of the series has the two most “What the fuck just happened?” endings out of the entire series.

You play as Travis, a truck driver who is making a run and passes by the town of Silent Hill when a little girl runs out in front of his car and so Travis slams on his brakes and before he knows it, there’s mist everywhere. Travis tries to find the little girl and when he doesn’t see her anywhere, he walks into Silent Hill, leaving behind his 18 wheeler in the middle of a road without any hazards on or even making an attempt to free up one of the lanes of a freakin’ HIGHWAY. Good job Travis on being a professional driver, not to mention leaving behind an awesome weapon in which you could have flattened the monsters of the town.

Travis enters town and encounters a burning building with a little girl trapped inside. Travis runs in to save her noticing a creepy woman watching the house burn to the ground. Travis pulls out the girl, who is covered with third degree burns and he passes out from smoke inhalation (I guess) and wakes up in the Silent Hill hospital with a familiar SH1 character in Nurse Lisa looking over him.

From here Travis makes stupid decision after stupid decision instead of leaving once he learns Alessia is dead and becomes further engrossed in the horror and mystery of Silent Hill, mainly because the game is so linear it forces you to go from one specific location to another. In all, SHO is yet other exceptionally boring horror game that insults its audience without having any substance instead of being something high quality like The Suffering, Eternal Darkness or a score of other titles.

Another example of the poor scripting comes with the Butcher. The Butcher is cast right away to be like the Pyramid Head of SHO, but then nothing ever really happens with it, and it turns out to be a one time boss. Okay then.

I will admit I like the puzzles in this game, but the problem with them is that they are tacked on and having no real point to the plot. Okay, you’re putting together a medical dummy and have to find the organs. So what? Or the finding ages in order to open a cooler that has a fake plastic organ in it. I mean, these were pretty neat puzzles, but like every other aspect of the game, we have a peacemeal of things that just don’t come together very well, and as such the plot is disjointed and the puzzles take you out of the mood the game is trying to press on you.

Finally, there are the endings. The “Good” ending is open ended and rather anti-climatic, but there are some SH1 preludes in it. The “Bad” ending is an interesting one, but is subject for debate and again causes continuityto break like Superboy Prime punched it. Is Travis becoming the Butcher? Is he in fact becoming Pyramid Head? What is happening to him? If all the monsters are in one’s head in SH, how is he going all Nemesis on us My own personal interpretation is that the first Butcher you encounter in the game is like Pyramid Head was to James in SH2, and was a personal torment, but because you can only get the “Bad” ending by killing 200 monsters, Travis has indeed become the Butcher in the flesh and the cultist is merely transforming his outward appearance to what his inner self now reflects. But then, like the “good” ending, this ending destroys any chance of a cohesive continuity in the same way the first ending does and so SHO does exactly the opposite of what it was supposed to do.

Welcome to Silent Hill: a series that only the lowest common denominator could love.

If you want some more of the same with a creepy atmosphere but absolutely no substance, then by all means, spend five hours of your time back in Silent Hill. After that I recommend the film “Lake Dead” because it’s about the same level of quality.

Story Rating: 3/10

2. Graphics

Like most PSP games, SHO is very well done graphically. I have to say, this is the best looking Silent Hill game of them all. Seriously. Take a shot of SH1 and put it up to SHO. Same with any of the monsters that have repeated through the series like the freaky nurse ladies. Climax has really outdone itself in terms of graphics here. Generally their games look pretty mediocre, but this is actually quite good.

This is the first Silent Hill game I’ve played where the fog looks and feels like Fog and not something tacked on to hide graphics issues ala SH1. Yes the monsters are the same unoriginal and repetitive crap we’ve seen in the previous 4 games, but now they looked quite nice. Character designs are nice, also in cut scenes, the game can get a bit jaggy in terms of resolution in a way reminiscent of Tekken Tag Tournament.

Background designs are the best I’ve seen in the series so far. Instead of things feeling like generic buildings, each building stands out a bit, yet still retains their small town creep factor. Interiors are the sane way. Regardless of where you were in the “Otherworld” of the previous Silent Hill, everything pretty much looked the same. Not so here. Each bit of the mirror world feels distinct and has their own bit of weirdness unique to their area.

Although the game isn’t as bright and vibrant or stunning as Konami’s other recent PSP release in Castlevania: DXC, Silent Hill Origins manages to take a step forward in the visuals of this popular franchise and also make a nice blend of 3-D gameplay with 2-D backgrounds.

Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

SHO did win me over with the aural aspects of this game. For once things sounded awesome instead of like the game was done using MIDI’s or hobos for the voice acting. The voice actors in SHO are well done. These guys really captured the surreal nature of the events going on around them/ Travis at times does come across as emotionally cauterized, but as the game goes on you get a bit of understanding as to why that is (Travis has mommy and daddy issues, which is the only real plot depth the game has.).

The music in the game is creepy, sinister and sets the mood rather well. I will say though, that the game is creepier in the parts where there is no music. Just you walking in silence listening for hideous monster noises. THAT is far creepier than any background track. More horror games really need to keep this is mind.

Good voice acting, good sound effects, and a pretty good score. Climax did a nice job here. There’s definitely room for improvement, as the team was playing it safe and sticking to the cliches here, but you won’t be disappointed in the noises that come out of your PSP.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Buckle in kiddies, because this is going to be one hell of a long rant. I will preface it by saying that we thankfully have controls that are a step up from SH 1-3 in that they are not some of the worst SH controls this side of the original Resident Evil, however gameplay is a distinct drop in quality from SH4, and we’re back to crappy camera controls and combat that is boring and based far more on luck that any skill you might have as a gamer.

First off – Camera Angles. You will get frustrated and annoyed with this game because you can’t control the camera at all. This leads to some frustrating gameplay issues as sometimes you can’t see what is attacking you. As well, there are times when you will leave a room and bam, the monster is right there attacking you before you know what is going on. The only thing you can do with the camera is reset it to being directly behind you, and sadly, this often hurts you far more than it helps you. This is an issue games should have stopped having the the late 1990’s. That it is still occurring in the late 00’s is just sloppy development.

Issue #2: Button placement and controls in general. Having to hold down the R shoulder button while pressing X to attack is a useless function to me. It’s neither convenient for your hand placement, nor is it an intelligent game design decision. 99% of the games out there can let you be ready for combat at all times and explore things. Bad move by climax here. This issue is compounded because all you can is hit the X button for combat. There is no aiming, no skill, or any definite chance of hitting./doing damage. If I wanted to waste my money gambling, there is always Vegas. We can round out this collection of travesty by focusing on the weapon selection inventory. You cycle through your weapons by using the D pad to select weapon type and then your weapon from the various subtypes. This takes way too long, and sometimes there is even lag. Not good in a survival horror game.

Other issue include a multitude of bugs, graphical glitches, and serious errors reported with the game, and its only been out a week. You can only see your health by going to the pause screen, you can only use items by going to the pause screen, and monsters respawn even if you stomp on them to keep them from coming back. In a game with limited health items and weapons, this is a serious design flaw.

Finally, SHO commits a cardinal sin for portable games that actually makes me rank the overall gameplay experience lower than SH1 or 3. You see, save areas are rare and almost non existent. For the first half of the game there are a whopping total of THREE places you can save: The Hospital, the Sanitarium, and the Butcher Shoppe. If this was a PS2 or PS3 game, it would be a non-existent issue, but this is a PORTABLE game on a PORTABLE system. You need to be able to save a portable game at any time. You play a PSP on the go. In the car. On the subway. In circumstances where you need to save at the drop of a hat. If this were not the case, then you’d be playing on a console. There’s not even a quicksave feature, which makes SHO, in my opinion (and that’s all reviews are) to be one of the worst thought out portable games I’ve played on any handheld: from the Game gear to the NGPC. Seriously, Konami needs to just port this to a console and things would be a lot less insane.

In all, this was a pretty bad experience gameplay wise for me. On its own, Silent Hill Origins could have been pretty decent gaming experience, and the second best game in the series controlwise. However, there are two many glitches, errors, poor programming decisions and outright blunders for me to give the game anything higher than a BAD rating in this category. It honestly makes me wonder who the heck playtested this.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 3/10

5. Replayability Rating

Man, is this review bipolar, or what? SHO has a good deal of replayability. There two new endings to see after you beat the game the first time, and a little over a dozen unlockable items/outfits depending on what you accomplish in the game. These rewards range from beating the game in under 2-3 hours (get the UFO ending to do this) or just doing the Konami code from classic quality games like Gradius or Contra. As the game can be beaten in 3-5 hours, you can unlock a lot of the accomplishments and endings and not even have owned the game for a week. The key is whether or not you can live with the gameplay. Now most SH fans can and will and will have a god time with it, while those that find the series irritating will be hard pressed to even finish the game once. Still, the options unlocked by beating the game are there regardless of your preference, and there’s a lot to see and do and run from in the town of Silent Hill.

Replayability Rating: 6/10

6. Balance

Oh man, has there ever been a good balance in a Silent Hill Game? The monsters have little to no AI and the boss fights are really easy in terms of figuring out their movement/attack patterns. You can run from 85% of what you encounter in this game and they’ll never catch up to you. That’s kind of sad, and it really deflates the level of terror a game like this should inspire.

We’ve already talked about how random combat is, and the insanity of having enemies respawn even after you’ve used the finishing move on them (which is the whole reason to HAVE THAT in the series) yet only a limited amount of healing items/weapons are in the game.

One of the few good things the game does here is that weapons have a limited use. Things break pretty easily. This was one of my favorite things about Koudelka as it meant you had to play smart instead of treating the SH game like it was a hack N’ slash event. However, SHO manages to screw even this up by having weapons break between 1 and 10 uses. Weapons that break easily + respawning enemies = even less reason to engage in combat. Great job there Climax.

From a design perspective, SHO brings little new to the table and pretty much repeats every mistake made by Team Silent in the first chapters of this franchise. If you’re looking for a game that actively tels you not to have skill and where you will occasionally be grappling with the computer in a continued stalemate in a newly added and utterly boring feature, then this is the game for you.

The game is poorly balanced, but its in your favour. This is by far the easiest Silent Hill to get through and In one of my three playthroughs I think I killed less than two dozen monsters.

Balance Rating: 4/10

7. Originality

Well, we’ve got new (but still crappy) controls, a new grappling system which is a waste, a barricade system which never actual materializes in the game and it makes me wonder why it was still be touted up until the games release, and that’s about it. 99% of the game is rehashed characters, plot pieces, locations, visuals, monsters, and boredom. Silent Hill Origins is the poster child for consumers needing to bitch slap publishers/developers and demanding they start doing something fresh and original instead of sequel after sequel that offers nothing at all new to the gaming community. I know I bitched out Dementium for being a soulless piece of work that took pieces from other horror games and threw them into a blender but crap on a stick, at least Dementium tried to take elements from other games instead of Climax who has made SHO more of a carbon copy than Teen Wolf TOO was of the first Teen Wolf. Man people, as long as people are willing to spend hard earned cash on this crap, we are never going to see better plots or innovative concepts from the big franchises.

Originality Rating: 2/10

8. Addictiveness

It’s hard to really get into Silent Hill Origins. The majority of the game is just walking around with the rare occasional piece of action or puzzle that needs to be solved before even more walking and avoiding monsters. The lack of save points just makes the game that much harder to care about if there had been a bit more substance, or character development, or interesting gameplay, I could have enjoyed the game more. As such, this became a game I played simply because I had to review it. Otherwise I’d have put it down after the first playthrough, or perhaps even sooner.

Again, longtime fans of the series will love the game. It’s basically every other SH game they’ve already played with all the trappings and fan wankery that will make them decry anything less than a 8/5 or higher on their boards while other gamers play through the game and go, “Wow. That was mediocre.” If I want monsters on my PSP, I’ll go back to playing Symphony of the Night thank you.

Addictiveness Rating: 5/10

9. Appeal Factor

Ah yes. I realize I am probably in the minority for thinking this is an average game. I realize that Silent Hill fans will love it. I also realize that I’ve played a lot more SH games than not just the average gamer, but most of the other journalists in our industry. There’s a reason why not even a single Silent Hill made the top 30 horror game countdown last year. They pale compared to things like I Have no Mouth but I Must Scream or Fatal Frame or Obscure. Most gamers only stick to what the mainstream media informs them about/tells them is good. More the pity for them. Hell. I’ll take Dark Fall over any of the SH games any day.

But this is Appeal Factor and as such, this category weighs on the average game instead of the educated one that our IP fanbase consists of. In short, the game will sell well. It’s a Silent Hill game and it’s one of the few SH titles for the PSP. No doubt some people will buy the system for this game alone, which is kind of sad. But then I own a DS simply for Pokemon, so I can’t be casting stones there. As this is the fifth game in the series to his the US, you know what to expect by now. It’s not a bad game. It’s just a mediocre one.

Appeal Factor Rating: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

I’m not a Silent Hill fan. I can think of about 50 horror games I’d rather play before a SH game. I’m also not a fan of Climax as a development team. Put those together and you’ll be hard pressed to get a good review out of me. That being said, there was some impressive stuff in Silent Hill Origins, mainly in terms of visual and aural improvements to the series. The things I absolutely hate about SH games are here, and are here in abundance, so all the pretty graphics and nice voice acting couldn’t save this. I’d much rather play Restless Dreams or The Room than origins if I had to play a SH at all.

I really have to wonder what exactly made Konami can the Brits who were originally making SHO. The gameplay was better as it was based on RE4 and this thing was released with a bunch of glitches and retarded design issues. How much worse could it have been.

I played through this game three times in less than a week, and man do I wish I had those hours back. You should know my tastes and preferences by now though, as this is my 147th review. You should also know that a review is just an opinion. My word is not law, nor is it any more important than anyone else’s. Yeah, I thought this was a pretty mediocre game that had a lot of issues Climax should have fixed before releasing it, but there are people having fun with this game, and having fun is the key issue here. I’d say its a wash between Dementium and SHO for the better portable horror game. Personally I say save your money and don’t buy either.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story: 3
Graphics: 7
Sound: 7
Control & Gameplay: 3
Replayability: 6
Balance: 4
Originality: 2
Addictiveness: 5
Appeal Factor: 7
Miscellaneous: 5
Overall Score: 49/100

Final Score: 5.0 (Average Game)

Short Attention Span Summary
Konami puts out yet another mediocre survival horror game. It’s about time the Silent Hill series was put to rest. Silent Hill V and Silent Hill: House of the Dead Wannabe for the arcade look like its going to be the same old slop. Its disappointing that we have more of this to look forward to, yet Eternal Darkness has yet to be given a sequel. For me SHO is up there with Dino Crisis 3 under games that should have been left as fan fiction rather than turned into a full blown product. If you want to spend your money on five hours of middle of the road gaming, feel free. I’m going to wait for something better to come along.



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