The creepy town of Silent Hill should be very familiar to gamers by now. After four console outings and a surprisingly good Hollywood interpretation the series has certainly etched its place in history, and with a next-gen sequel due this fall looks like it’s around to stay. Silent Hill Origins is a console port of the first handheld entry in the series that gives players a chance to find out how the fog-infested town came to be. While the story is worth checking out for long-time fans of the series, a lack of upgrades from PSP to PS2 make this feel like a quick and dirty port, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a trip to everyone’s favorite creepy town.
The biggest draw to Origins, as the name implies, is to finally get some solid info on why this town is such a bad place to visit. You assume the role of Travis Grady, a truck driver whose decision to take an ill-fated shortcut through the town of Silent Hill, lays the backdrop for this surprisingly meaty adventure. Upon entering the eerie town Travis slams on the brakes as a small girl darts across his path on the highway. Longtime fans will likely figure out who this child is, and therefore strongly suggest Travis to continue moving on. However, as with most horror titles the man takes pursuit thus beginning your journey into the world of Silent Hill Origins.
Much like the previous outings Origins manufactures suspense by giving you a limited arsenal to take down your foes. Travis is much more combat ready than previous protagonists and is quite handy with his fists. Holding down the R1 button puts him into combat mode where you can fend off baddies with your two most reliable weapons. As always you can also collect various objects scattered around the town for melee combat. These range from the typical wooden boards and metal rods to the more bizarre items such as filing cabinets and alcohol bottles.
While firearms are sparse the combat weapons are not. The further you get into Origins the more you realize that there are an absolute ton of items to pummel enemies with. The suspense of not having something to whack that crazed monster in the head with is never evident. By the time you reach the end of the game I guarantee you end up with double digit amounts of melee items. The developers have tried to balance this by causing the weapons to break after so much use, but with the sheer amount of items at your disposal this fear is quickly washed away.
While combat stumbles here and there the established puzzle elements from the franchise returns in true form. Origins makes great use of the environments by forcing the player to scrape and scour the entire area in search of clues. The game also does a phenomenal job of intertwining multiple puzzles together, making them more challenging and engaging. This also introduces a new element to the game of shifting between realities via in-game mirrors between the regular world and the otherworld. These mirrors can transport Travis instantly into an alternate, warped reality and is crucial to solving some of the game’s more involved brain teasers.
Shifting between realities is nothing new to SH veterans, nor is much of anything Origins throws at you. This is probably the game’s biggest crime. If you played it on the PSP nothing has changed. Porting to the PS2 hasn’t even taken advantage of a second analog stick, which is readily apparent when wrestling with the dramatic camera angles during intense combat. Some is forgiven with the addition of a lock-on mechanic, but some may argue that this makes the game far easier than it really should be.
On the plus side as with most SH games Origins is chock full of replayability. Keeping in stride with previous installments are multiple endings awarded depending on your performance and choices within the game. There are also multiple outfits, special items and tons of other unlockable content that will keep fans of the series playing for weeks on end to discover them all. Unfortunately as I mentioned earlier if you have already run the course on Sony’s portable system, this PS2 outing offers nothing new to warrant a second purchase.
Visuals have also taken a hit in the porting process mostly due to the fact that they have not been upgraded in any fashion. Seeing these models on the PSP’s gorgeous widescreen display is one thing, but when you blow them up they become pixelated in the process. By no means is Origins a bad looking game, but when compared to the still impressive looking SH 3 this game is truly underwhelming. Sound is another story as composer Akira Yamaoka delivers a soundtrack that truly fits the mood. Combine that with above-average voice work and you have a solid presentation at a budget price.
Silent Hill Origins is a solid entry in the franchise. If you have already been down this road on the PSP this new version will offer nothing new outside of the ability to play with a Dual Shock controller, however if this is your first experience with Origins prepare to enjoy the ride. Fans of the series will appreciate the sheer amount of story crammed into this pint-sized version of the game and even with it’s minor hindrances is still worth checking out, if for nothing more than the storyline.