Review: Silent Hill: Origins (Playstation 2)

In this review, we try and have a smashing good time with the Playstation 2 game Silent Hill: Origins. We find out how well this survival horror game plays.

This game was released in 2008 and is the fifth instalment in the series.

We first tried the original Silent Hill. That game got an OK score. From there, we gave Silent Hill 2 a play. That game got a pretty solid score. Seeing an upward trend in the score, we played Silent Hill 3. That game also got a pretty solid score. Finally, we played Silent Hill 4: The Room. That game continued the upward trend and managed to be the first in the series to get a great score. So, we thought we’d continue this series with this game to see if it continues to be an interesting game series.

This game takes place before the events of the original Silent Hill game. You play as the character Travis, a truck driver who is late on a delivery. In a bid to make up for lost time, he decides to take a shortcut through Silent Hill. As he approaches the city limits in the middle of the night, a mysterious cloaked person suddenly wanders onto the road. When Travis sees she fell right in his path, he slams on his breaks to avoid hitting her. When he gets out, he sees that the person vanished.

He then goes to get back into his truck only to see a mysterious school girl (Alessa) appear in his rear view mirror. He looks back and sees no one there. Disorientated by the continued apparitions, he sees Alessa ahead of him again. When she runs off, Travis tries to chase after her. After running down the street, he comes across a burning building. Hearing a shriek, Travis races in to rescue whoever happens to be in there. Inside, he finds a body covered in burns. He picks her up and races out of the house. Safe, he suddenly collapses next to her.

When he wakes up, he finds himself on a bench in the streets of Silent Hill. He decides to head for the nearby hospital to see if she survived, thus initiating the rest of the game.

This game takes on a lot of the features found in previous Silent Hill games. This includes the removal of a limited amount of supplies you can carry (introduced in Silent Hill 4: The Room), enemy types, and maps.

The kinds of items you can collect are pretty par for the course for this game. Health items are almost completely identical to previous games. Health drinks restore a small amount of health. Meanwhile, health kits restore a large amount of health. Ampoules restore all of your health.

Another type of item is the energy drink. If you do a fair amount of running, chances are, Travis will run out of breath sooner or later. As such, his movements and attacks become more sluggish. To compensate for this, you can use an energy drink which will boost your stamina. This can help you evade enemies whenever you don’t want to fight them or get to other locations faster. Just remember that, like other items, you have a limited amount of them. So, use wisely.

Another type of supply you can collect is ammunition. You won’t get weapons right away, however, as you get further into the game, you can collect ammo for specific guns including pistols, rifles, a shotgun, and even a semi-automatic rifle. While that sounds exciting, some weapons aren’t for very late in the game. In addition, you have to keep in mind the amount of ammo you have left because the game doesn’t offer unlimited bullets on the first go around (minus some kind of cheating of course).

Maps are absolutely crucial to your success if you are an average gamer playing for the first time. Almost every area features a map of some kind. Like previous Silent Hill games, your character will automatically take notes as he explores different areas. This includes ripped out streets, blocked doors, locked doors, save points, and objects of interest. The notes are taken in red ink of course. If you’ve played previous Silent Hill games, this is a very standard feature.

Players will also have a small number of permanent items. These items include the radio and light. The portable radio will begin to emit static sounds whenever an enemy is nearby. Interestingly enough, a lot of enemies are loud when they walk. You can definitely hear many of them before the radio kicks in, however, not all footsteps are enemies. Something to keep in mind if you are going by other sounds.

The flashlight is very helpful in dark areas. This is Silent Hill, so of course there are going to be a lot of darkened areas. The thing is, however, you can use the darkness to your advantage. If you turn off your light before approaching an enemy, you might just sneak past them and have the chance to launch a surprise attack. Still, the light has the obvious advantages of being able to more easily see where you are going and find items.

Key items are also items you can collect in the game. A lot of these are just straight forward keys, but other items can also function as keys as well. These items can unlock new areas in the game which you must explore. All of them will be used sooner or later.

Melee weapons also make a return. This is where the game begins to diverge from previous Silent Hill games. Previously, you got a small set of increasingly powerful melee weapons. This might include a pipe, metal pole, or a hammer. In this game, the melee weapons have greatly increased. You can get your hands on hammers, splintered wood, lamp poles, blood drip poles, shovels, meat hooks, police batons, tire irons, and katanas. The big change, however, is the fact that all of them are breakable. Some weapons can be obtained with damage, but a large number of them will have no damage to them.

In your inventory, you’ll notice a small plus sign next to your melee weapons. If it is green, that means it has no damage. As you hit enemies, these items will gradually get damage. So, that plus sign might turn yellow and orange. Eventually, the weapon will break (likely in the middle of a fight with an enemy). You can run away and equip a new weapon or finish that enemy with your fists (often the better choice). With the ability to use fists, you’ll always have at least some way of defending yourself.

Of course, melee weapons aren’t limited to things you can swing around. Seemingly new to the game are one time use weapons that you can smash over enemies heads. This includes lamps, filing cabinets, type writers, cash registers, toolboxes, and small crates. While these weapons feature the shortest range, a solid strike can knock down a weaker enemy in a single blow. This allows you to execute a finishing move without too much hassle or loss of health. Still, the thing to keep in mind is that this can be difficult to accomplish. A missing swing can mean an enemy can execute its own attack on your without much resistance.

Like other Silent Hill games, most levels feature a normal and an “other world” or “illusion” world version. This is basically the same level, only altered with rust and added creepiness. In previous games, changing between worlds was something that just happened when you’ve reached a certain part of the game. This began to change in the previous game where you’d crawl through a hole to reach these other world locations.

In this game, however, you can change over from one world to another whenever you like. What is required is a mirror. If you find a mirror in either world, it is your bridge to get from one world to the other. Because of this, you can actually reach parts of different levels that would otherwise be completely unreachable. As such, you have a whole new dynamic to the game to consider because you could find yourself transitioning between worlds several times just to go from one part of the level to another.

Like previous Silent Hill games, you’ll be encountering several puzzles. These puzzles must be solved to continue on through the game. Some puzzles are quite easy such as assembling plastic organs on a dummy (a mere 5 are all the pieces you get to work with). Other puzzles can be quite tricky such as piecing together a date with clues spread throughout the entire level. As such, it is more than possible you’ll be finding yourself stuck in certain areas for a considerable amount of time or possibly consulting a guide when you’ve become stuck. Trial and error and process of elimination can only take you so far sometimes.

On a final note, this game carries on with the tradition of multiple endings. In this game, there are three different endings: the good ending, bad ending, and the ever famous UFO joke ending. Your actions throughout the game can dictate which ending you get, however, chances are, you’ll get the good ending (most likely what you get on the first completion).

In addition to these endings are different accolades you can get. This is a relatively new feature in this game. Doing things in a certain manner will enable you to get different ones. For instance, you can get a stalker accolade by barely using your light. Explorer is something you unlock if you do a lot of walking. Brawler will be achieved if you finish enemies off with your fists. Each accolade can unlock an outfit, a feature, a new weapon, or even both. This can make secondary attempts to make it through the game easier or more interesting, depending on how you look at it.

One thing I found while playing is that you really can’t rely on any one way of getting through the game. For instance, if you just use the weakest weapons in the game, you might find yourself running low on health items. If you use just the more powerful weapons in the game, you’ll run out of bullets and better melee weapons quickly. With the possible exception of ammunition, you can probably determine which strategy you need to rely on more just based on what you are getting in surplus.

For instance, if you have a tonne of energy drinks in your inventory, you might want to consider enemy evasion more if you are struggling to stay healthy and going from one health item pickup to another. If you have a pile of melee weapons sitting around in your inventory, maybe you should ease off on your fists or one time use weapons and give yourself an easier time with them. One way or another, striking a balance and adapting your strategy based on the situation that is before you can be key on your first playthrough.

When I was making my way through the game, I found myself hiding behind corners a lot and utilizing the one time use weapons more than anything else. As such, my energy drinks and melee weapons in my inventory grew like a weed. Unfortunately, I was constantly running low on health items because not all attacks were successful. Switching things up by occasionally using a fire arm and using my sledge hammers more did help balance things out after a while even if I was turning over every rock to get every item I can get my hands on. This all hinges on you simply playing it for the first time and just wanting to get through the game without any specific goals in mind.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve had about this series is the camera. In previous games, the camera wound up being so clunky, it made controls very difficult to predict. So, in the previous game, the camera issues have been largely solved. In this game, some of the camera issues do return. When camera angles switch, the button you are holding down prior to the transition will be retained. New inputs, however, will accommodate the new camera angle instead of the old. As such, controls can be a bit clunky and difficult to manage – especially if you happen to be rounding a corner and get stuck right in the middle of a camera transition. This game isn’t the worst for that, but there are some issues that persist with this game.

The difficulty of this game is generally much higher than in previous games. In previous games, it is certainly possibly to have a surplus of almost everything by the end. In this game, conservation strategies have to be employed. Otherwise, it is more than possible to run out of something at some point. Meanwhile, the difficulty of some puzzles continues to be an issue in this game.

On a more positive note, I do like that this game does at least attempt to bring new ideas to the table. The slight modification of how you transition from one world to another certainly made exploration in this game interesting. Also, the rethinking of melee weapons did bring a sense of freshness into what might otherwise be a game plagued with “sameness”. So, this gets a thumbs up from me.

Generally speaking, there is some interesting new ideas being brought to this series. Some problems do persist, but in somewhat more minor forms. With the increase in difficulty overall, this game does suffer from the problem of being one of those games that would appeal to gamers already into the series. If you are new to the series, this may not be the greatest game to start out with. Still, it is a pretty solid game if you are already into the series.

The graphics are OK. The imagery and environment is definitely a bit on the familiar side. There is some interesting static and old film effects that are thrown into this. The flashback effect is also pretty interesting. Probably one of the few things that add some visual interest is the new costumes which are only obtained after beating the game. The thing to remember is that this game was released well into the Playstation 3 era, so it actually needs to be a standout game in order to keep up. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t achieve that. So, the game winds up being OK visually, but nothing spectacular.

The audio has its moments. The danger music style certainly makes a return when you check out some particular areas. There is also a splash of more general music which gives this game a bit of much needed personality. The voice acting is decent enough. Sound effects also do a reasonable job. So, while nothing spectacular.

Overall, this is a pretty reasonable game. It’s not a game you’d want to play if you want to introduce yourself to the series, but it does certainly offer satisfactory gameplay if you are already familiar with it. Accolades, melee weaponry, and a rethinking of travelling to the other world definitely gives this game new life and prevents it from being tired and worn. Still, the camera system and difficulty does hold this game back. The graphics are OK and the audio is decent enough. So, a decent all around game.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game and got the good ending.
Achieved the Savior, Collector, Brawler, and Explorer accolades.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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