Last week, Konami blew the lid open on several Silent Hill games. While Silent Hill: Townfall was one of the more interesting reveals, Silent Hill F seemed to capture the attention of fans familiar with the talent behind the project. Bloober Team will also remake the legendary Silent Hill 2 – a pretty big announcement that should’ve been a more exciting unveiling. However, cautious optimism has now placed Silent Hill F as the more intriguing new game from the psychological horror series.
I want to first get this out of the way: Silent Hill 2 is my favourite video game of all time. I’ve played it at least a dozen times by now and uncovered every secret it has to offer. It’s a masterful display of strong art and game direction, compelling storytelling, emotionally powerful themes and complex characters all rolled up into a game that was truly ahead of its time. Every fibre of my being should be excited for the remake, but there’s a giant red flag that’s keeping me from feeling more strongly about it.
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That giant red flag takes the form of Bloober Team. While I don’t think it’s a terrible studio by any means – the developer’s games are polished, full of inventive ideas and even with their narrative shortcomings, still hold your attention – its mishandling of mental health issues are apparent. This has been documented quite well in Vic Hood’s article on Tech Radar earlier this year that highlights how Bloober Team can’t seem to grasp the subject matter it places at the core of its own narratives. It’s definitely worth reading.
When you factor in that Silent Hill 2, thematically, deals with very serious and complex mental health issues at the heart of its story, it’s a bit concerning to learn that Bloober Team is leading the development on its remake. However, since it’s a remake, it gives me a bit of hope that the narrative framework and complexity of its characters and story will remain unaltered – at least I hope it will. Some might welcome change and that’s perfectly fine if it enhances the original story, but in the hands of Bloober Team, change is worrying.
My concerns aside, I appreciate the work that went into the remake’s visuals and atmosphere. It’s easily the most impressive we’ve ever seen in the series yet. Character models and animations look incredible and the town of Silent Hill – it’s iconic blanket of fog hanging over the landscape like a living, breathing creature – is a stunning sight to behold on current-gen technology. My excitement for the Silent Hill 2 remake is on the cautiously optimistic side, though.
On the other hand, Silent Hill F has my attention locked in a chokehold. The mystery surrounding this particular project only adds to its appeal. Is it the next mainline entry? How will the 1960s Japanese setting tie into the titular town? What’s going on with the eerie trypophobic visuals in the reveal trailer? Answers will surely arrive in time but so far, it’s showing a lot more promise as an original concept that potentially aims to shake up the Silent Hill formula – something that’s arguably needed for the series to thrive today.
Silent Hill F‘s development talent should speak for itself too. The story is being written by Ryukishi07, the acclaimed Japanese visual novel writer behind phenomenal horror stories such as Higurashi and Umineko. Higurashi (or When They Cry) is better known for its anime adaptation which is good, but lacks the subtleties and stronger storytelling of its visual novel source material. Ryukishi07 is a great writer that understands character-driven horror and it will be interesting to see what he brings to Silent Hill.
NeoBards Entertainment, the studio leading Silent Hill F‘s development, strikes me as a developer eager to spread its wings and break out of its reputation as the “team behind Resident Evil Resistance and Re:Verse” or as Capcom’s remaster support team. Being given a franchise as significant as Silent Hill, I’m sure NeoBards now has a lot to prove. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t see Silent Hill F adopting Resident Evil‘s multiplayer framework. At face value, this appears to be a single-player, story-driven project that’s in line with the franchise’s history.
Silent Hill F‘s reveal trailer also ends with what appears to be an underwater or aquatic environment. Coupled with the 60s Japan setting, this is clearly unexplored territory for the psychological horror series that never dared to leave the borders of its famous town before with one exception: Silent Hill 4.
Team Silent, the creative force behind the first four Silent Hill games, expressed interest in exploring new ideas for the series during the development of both Silent Hill 3 and 4. While the third game was more traditional in its approach, the fourth game altogether left the town for a new location (for a while). Silent Hill F seems to honour Team Silent’s vision for wanting “change” and “new” as the focus. Konami would forego “new” when it handed the franchise to Western developers that doubled down on the safe and familiar instead – a train that derailed when it exhausted its ideas by Downpour‘s release.
We can’t say for certain that Silent Hill F will completely remove the town from the equation, though its signature concept – the spooky psychological manifestations and occultic themes – lends itself well to being explored in other locations and eras while still retaining the series’ identity. Perhaps Team Silent were onto the idea that Silent Hill is more than just its town. P.T. made long, ominous corridors practically synoynmous with Silent Hill after all.
Silent Hill F‘s change of scenery and era has already brought up the “this isn’t Silent Hill” discourse, but I’m constantly reminded of P.T., which proved that it doesn’t take the town to make a Silent Hill project. Few fans today would even argue that Silent Hill 4: The Room isn’t a Silent Hill game. There’s clearly a lot more to it. Maybe NeoBards and Ryukishi07 are fully aware of this.
Either way, Silent Hill F is still layered in mystery until we get another proper look at the game. When compared to the Silent Hill 2 remake, my excitement is dulled a bit by remake fatigue (I’m sure you feel it too) and the uncertainty of Bloober Team’s involvement until proven otherwise. For now, I wholeheartedly welcome something new for Silent Hill. We’ve waited this long and I’ll take a fresh idea that moves the series forward over a revamped classic right now.