Silent Hill was never original. It was Konami's take on established Western horror themes, drawing its influences from a million films, books and TV shows. But the reason it worked was because Team Silent took these familiar ideas and presented them from an entirely new perspective - an Eastern perspective. The bizarre characters, religious imagery and demonic monsters were nothing new, but the developers' Japanese sensibilities made them feel like they were. And there's been nothing like it since.
This is because Team Silent are no more. They disbanded after the release of Silent Hill 4: The Room and the series was passed over to Konami-owned studio Climax and Double Helix (formerly The Collective). Since then the series seems to have lost sight of what made it so interesting in the first place. Its subversive spirit has been replaced by homage and parody, with the new developers repeatedly re-treading familiar themes and stories rather than creating new experiences of their own. Case in point, Silent Hill: Homecoming, which packs so many fan-baiting elements into its opening hour it's almost like a spoof. "Oh! A spooky empty wheelchair! An evil nurse! A scary child! A corpse hanging from the ceiling! Zzzzzz."
And they're at it again. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (could there be a more unintentionally appropriate name?) has been announced for PS2 and PSP and is a "clever reimagining" (their words, not ours) of the first Silent Hill. A piece of concept art reveals that hero Harry Mason has become some kind of hideous noughties yuppie, with a pair of stylish horn-rimmed specs and what appears to be a modern touchscreen phone in his hand. Seriously, what?
"The phone acts as a secondary user interface," explains the Shattered Memories press release. "this allows the player to access maps via its GPS capabilities and take pictures of interesting elements." Was this really necessary? The hand-drawn maps and scribbles to indicate locked doors or points of interest in the original became a series trademark. Now he has a GPS in his pocket? Do they get good satellite coverage in twisted, alternate realities, then? A new screenshot reveals that Cybil - the police officer Harry teams up with while hunting for his daughter - has been turned into a waitress from a low-rent cocktail bar, complete with cleavage and stupid, generic face. Check the attached screenshot if you don't believe us.
And as for taking photos... well, if I found myself trapped in a deserted, foggy town full of monsters searching for my missing daughter, the last thing on my mind would be taking photos to upload to Twitpic. Presumably Harry will also be able to stop at Yo! Sushi for a punnet of California Rolls to restore his health, then go for a sit-down with the Media Guardian when he wants to save his game. Did his story really need updating? What precisely does this add to the game besides a load of arbitrary new game mechanics?
But we'll still play it. It'll be interesting to revisit Old Silent Hill again without having to endure the PSone's woeful lack of polygons, and let's be honest - the combat will be better. We just wish Konami would take risks again, like they did with Team Silent's additions to the series. And for the love of GOD, stop taking things from the film. It's supposed to be the other way around. The film is BASED ON the GAME.
Not that Harry from the original was perfect...