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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [Big N]
June 13th, 2009 by Dan

I’m not a fan of the horror genre. Not even a little bit. The only “survival horror” game I’ve ever played was Eternal Darkness and, despite how awesome that game is, it scared the bejesus out of me in some places. Yet here we are again with another horror game tempting me with it’s interesting aesthetic.

The Silent Hill series has always been the more “intellectual” survival horror game compared to Resident Evil, in that it relied more on psychological scares in places and was designed to reflect that. The enemies and locations were generated from repressed psychological instincts rather than just using standard horror tropes. Combat was never any good because the point of the game was that the protagonist was a regular Joe, not someone accustomed to fighting freakish monsters.

Unfortunately, the series was handed to less capable hands a few too many times, resulting in diluted rehashes that lacked the poignancy of the earlier Silent Hill games, or so I’m told, resulting in more and more generic survival horror. It seems that Konami’s at least reoriented themselves properly with the latest iteration, a reboot of the first Silent Hill game known as Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. This is a game I’m actually tempted to try. Here’s why, from Brad Shoemaker at the Giant Bomb:

These scenes were shown at the Konami event a few weeks ago, so I’m merely verifying for you that they play as well as I hoped they would then. But here’s your brand new information about Shattered Memories, a truly unique and sort of creepy technique for personalizing your experience that I didn’t expect. Essentially, the game has its eyes on you at all times, watching what you’re doing and recording what sounds like an enormous array of minutiae about how you’re playing. The game starts with a psych exam, which you can see a bit of in the trailer below, where the doctor asks you increasingly personal questions about your likes, dislikes, bedroom behavior, and other strange topics.

That exam is explicit, but later in the game, according to a company rep, the game will more invisibly track your every move. The sole example involved that first deserted building I was exploring. When I came to a hallway junction with a sign indicating the exits were to the left and the bathrooms to the right, the rep pointed out that the game would remember whether I went right to investigate the bathrooms or went straight to the exit. And if I did hit up the facilities, it would further remember whether I went in the men’s or ladies’ room first. How all this data will manifest later on the rep mostly wouldn’t say, though he did let slip that your cumulative choices will determine what the monsters will look like. Presumably, the game will attempt to get inside your head, figure out what scares you the most, and then do precisely that.

This is truly the future of horror. A movie can only do so much to personalize its scares. It’s intended to air to millions and has no real interaction with an individual. The video game, on the other hand, is blessed with the ability to monitor player actions and try to cater its content to the person playing. I’m sure we’re at baby steps right now, but this could lead to some seriously freaky horror games in the future. Sure, the scares will be limited to what the designers can think up, but what about if they started bringing in psychologists as consultants. They could unearth some seriously primal scares. This idea definitely has promise and I hope Konami pulls it off well.


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