Anyone who’s listened to the podcasts the past few weeks has heard at least one or several vehement opinions from me on the subject of Silent Hills, the recently cancelled project from Konami and Guillermo del Toro, who will henceforth be called GDT for the rest of the article to spare me the agony of misspelling it by accident.
I was day one on the P.T. – Playable Teaser train, and ate up any news I could on the project. It was like a gentle long-distance relationship. We didn’t see each other much, but when we did communicate, it was fulfilling with promises of a great future together. I was terrified of what the future held, but excited at the same time. When rumors started to arise that it just wouldn’t work out, I kept hope.
But everything came down in flames
the day the fire nation attacked when Konami formally announced that the project was cancelled.
There’s many reasons why I’m not about to give up hope, and why Silent Hills will hold onto my heart for a long time. Before I get too deep into why, however, there’s something you should know about me: I hate horror games. All right, it’s more like I have a love-hate relationship with them. I couldn’t get past the first half hour of Outlast because I kept working myself up and stressing myself out. I couldn’t get past the first hallway of Daylight. I probably would have gotten farther with Silent Hill: Homecoming, if my computer hadn’t crashed and lost my saved file. I have a trail of unfinished horror games behind me, all with the intention of finishing them when I’m drunk or when I have someone there to hold my hand.
It isn’t to say that I’m a complete coward, by the way. I just get so immersed in the entire game that everything startles me. I get so lost in the music, the environment, the details, that I’ll jump at a can moving then die because I didn’t even notice the ghost jumping out at me.
But while I can’t seem to find a stable relationship with horror games, I have a loving one with horror movies. Like the games, I get lost in the musical cues, the characters, the world, the lore behind it. I love the way directors can spin my emotions with carefully played violin or piano refrains, a window shutting, the color of the lenses used to record. I may not watch nearly as many as Miles or Brad, but I’ve definitely watched my share of them. And the creepier or darker the movie, the more I love it. I can overlook cheesy special effects if the atmosphere of the movie makes my skin crawl and do a nervous double-take at my window. And if you managed to twist a tale out of known mythology, real events, or urban myths, I’m instantly intrigued.
And that brings me to why Silent Hills has been the first horror game in a long time that I’ve wanted to play. To the shock of everyone who knows me, I actually got about 98% done with the P.T. demo. I picked it up, and I couldn’t put it down. Pretty much the only reason I never finished it was because I couldn’t find that last frickin’ photo scrap and gave up in frustration. There were many reasons why I loved that little teaser, and not just because it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever played on my PS4.
That teaser scared me more than many of the movies I’ve watched or the games I’ve hyped myself up for, but I could not put it down. Part of it was the tantalizing glimpse at a complicated story based on broken psyche of multiple individuals, something that the Silent Hill series is known for. The murdered wife and the child inside of her, the other children killed, the trapped form screaming in the fridge. The fetus sobbing in the sink. The mangled form of a woman who stood watching you before disappearing or rushing forward to consume you.
The teaser also returned to something that I feel that modern horror games lacked: Scares based on a paranormal presence that you can’t fight in your current state, rather than because they’re hulking monstrosities on steroids. That was my problem with Outlast, as I watched Miles stream it on occasion even when I couldn’t play it myself. To me, the best horror games- and even movies- were the ones that preyed on that uncertain sense of the paranormal, that line between ‘Is this reality or just [the protagonist] going insane?‘. Many modern movies and games seemed to turn more towards an action route: You can fight them, but they’re just so overly powered that there’s no point, and you have to find some extreme way to shut them down. You were helpless, but not because you weren’t physically able. You were helpless because apparently the enemy has been snorting steroids like cocaine.
That was one of the main points that I didn’t like about Outlast. You’re a grown man, but you’re completely helpless against everything in the game. I’m not saying that all guys- or girls- are built like superheroes, but surely there was more you could have done instead of staying in one place as a hulking beef-for-brains came down to throw you over railings or whatever. Among The Sleep was far more terrifying, because your protagonist really was helpless: A toddler. Your inability to perceive the environment properly helped establish that strange, dreamy feel that made the game so tantalizing and terrifying. With Outlast, and other games and movies that I’ve seen come out, it’s just frustrating.
But Silent Hills promised to return us to a time that the original Silent Hill series dominated: A world where you have the ability to fight, but the occult overlay of the world left a paranormal attachment on everything you saw. Nothing was as it seemed, and in the end, the cause of the demons chasing you usually had something to do with your own psyche. You were fighting against yourself as much as you were the rest of the world. The awkward camera angles were annoying at times, but lent to that troubled air. Beautiful music cues, insane color palettes that managed to be vivid despite being muted. Normal, everyday sounds were turned into something crucial: Sirens, radio static, the scuttling of something on the ground. To this day, I still can’t hear a radio break into static without getting very nervous.
In P.T., you explored one ever-looping hallway, occasionally ducking into the bathroom. It played on your senses. The music would change by one note, leaving you to wonder what had happened. Did that picture move, or was that just you? Was that something in the window? Was there something in the balcony? How could an infant’s cry become something I dread, a child’s laughter something to tense up at?
And was it a coincidence that the radio was telling you to turn around, or would something be waiting there for you?
Silent Hills promised to return us to an era of true horror. It was going to be a breath of fresh air, and something that both we, as gamers, and Konami as a company needed. I don’t think I heard of one partner on this project that wasn’t excited to be there. Norman Reedus was excited to play the part of the troubled hero. GDT was excited to direct the game and partner with Kojima. Kojima was excited to work on something that wasn’t another Metal Gear Solid game.
But Konami had to be the overly-attached-girlfriend to the dragged out Metal Gear Solid franchise and couldn’t stand that idea that anything could make them money without Snake’s mug on it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the MGS franchise. I’ve been a fan of it for years, ever since I watched my brother play Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation, and subsequently started playing it myself. I’ve religiously bought every release to keep up with the ever-evolving storyline of the world, even if it began to feel like I was buying a really long, $60 movie with some interactive scenes to crawl around in the grass and gank people from behind.
But I’m bored of Snake. I’m ready to break up with Snake. I thought for certain that the end of MGSIV meant that Solid would finally get to live out the remainder of his life in peace. Big Boss (Naked Snake) was dead, as were Liquid and Solidus, finally. But if anything, I thought Konami would start to switch over to other characters in the series. With how convoluted the story was becoming, it was beginning to feel like Konami would get to the point where the MGS series was going to start retconning events, or stepping on it’s own toes.
Instead of exploring characters like Johnny, who managed to keep up with the nanomachine-enhanced soldiers with his own wits and skills; or Meryl, who was one hell of a strong female character that always seemed to get shoved in the background, we’re back to exploring the Snake family again. We get to explore the career of Big Boss, aka Naked Snake and Venom Snake, yet again. I would love to see a game focus on the early career of The Boss, but apparently having a MGS game following one of the phenomenal female characters in the series would be too much to ask.
You know what would be awesome? A haunting game following the career of Sniper Wolf before the events of Metal Gear Solid.
Looking at it from the stance of a business, I can understand why Konami wants to stay with the Metal Gear games: They’re cash cows. We’ve always expected the best quality from the MGS series, and have been spoiled with graphics that shame other games. Without fail, we somehow find the games on our shelves. It’s almost like we’ve been injected with nanomachines ourselves, forcing us to forever buy the games. And even if the storyline is a headache to keep track of and involves so many twists and turns that we’re still left scratching our heads after three playthroughs, they are in-depth and well-thought out.
However, it’s a stale business practice. As we’ve talked about in our podcasts, gamers are becoming more and more frugal. We’re more hesitant to buy a game on launch, and instead are starting to lean towards a ‘I’ll wait for it to go on sale, even though I know I’ll probably love it.‘ Not sure if you want to pay much for it at all? RedBox probably will have it! Even I, an avid MGS fan, am considering waiting til this one hits a really good price drop or sale before I purchase Phantom Pain.
But a new Silent Hill game after having disappointing titles in the series on subpar consoles with difficult controls? Oh dear Vegeta, would the consumers have snapped that up, especially those loyal to Kojima himself. After all, one of the most exciting things about Silent Hills was being able to see what Kojima and GDT could do on a current-gen console with our beloved horror franchise.
Konami has been making some fairly fishy decisions lately that leave me wondering if the heads of the department have been succumbing to FOXDIE themselves. In many ways, I feel like they’re stuck in a ballroom waltz with MGS, and they’re afraid that another dance partner won’t be as wonderful as the classic waltz that they’ve shared for years now. All they remember is a few stepped toes here and there, and discourage those dance partners before returning to the fluid, yet unchanging steps of a familiar partner. But as any dancer knows, with the right time, attention, and tutelage, a new partner can teach you a few tricks and bring you into a new age.
So long story short, I feel like Konami is stuck playing the same melody over and over again because it’s tried other songs and doesn’t feel like they’re as perfect as the one they’ve worn into the ivory keys. I also apparently am feeling poetical in my sorrow over my beloved Silent Hills, because I can’t stop making these damn analogies.
FYI, the best typo of my career happened while writing this: Naked Snaked. Seriously. Say it out loud. You’ll never want to stop saying it. And while you’re chanting that, tell me your own opinions in the comments below. Are you disappointed that Konami can’t break up with Snake? At this point, what do you think Konami needs to do to appease the gamers?
Kayla Swenson is an aspiring author and former DJ from Seattle, WA that procrastinates far too much with video games to get a book out. When she’s not gaming until carpal tunnel sets in, she’s working on dreams of being a voice actor as well as a published writer. Fond of RPGs, she will happily disappear into the void to tackle whatever bad voice acting awaits. Contact her at the email above, or on all major systems/networks as Beltravi.