When I first slipped the Silent Hill Origins’ UMD into the PSP’s drive, I had an interesting thought. I thought that it would be best for me to make sure that I’m using the PSP’s wrist strap so that if I get a fright I don’t do something idiotic like drop my PSP and smash it on the floor.
This got me thinking even more and it’s something that I will be taking into account throughout this review. This is a handheld game, not a console game, so I should treat it as one. To give you an idea of what I am getting at, I will start with this. When you first load up the game you get a little notice stating that to fully enjoy the game the way the developers intended, they recommend that you plug in some earphones and turn all the lights off. Great idea, except for the fact this is a game that is meant to be played on the go, meaning that we usually be in control of our surroundings. With that said, let’s take a look a look at some of the games details and I will get around to the handheld element a lot more at a later stage.
The game begins by introducing you, Travis the truck driver (no relation to Bob the Builder), the protagonist . When driving late at night, a person in the road forces him to slam anchors, bringing his truck to halt. When he gets out to check, the person is gone. He does however see a very spooky looking girl in his side mirror, but can’t see her when he turns around, causing him to freak out quite a bit. He then eventually sees and pursues the actual girl standing in a blue dress who walks away. Don’t people learn. When freaky things like this happen, get back in the truck and drive the hell away. But since that wouldn’t make for much of a game, you continue to follow her and so the game begins as you set out to find out what the hell is going on and who this girl is.
The Eye Candy
The graphics in this game are really stunning for a handheld system. Beautiful textures and great art design are even overshadowed by the games incredible lighting and shadows, which are of course a big part of setting the mood in a game such as this. As far as providing you with the right atmosphere for a Silent Hill game, they have done a great job. The music is also impressive with eerie guitar music that pulls you into the feeling that they are going for.
I found the controls in the game to be kind of clunky. You won’t have too many issues with them and where combat is involved you have the ability to lock onto enemies by pressing the right shoulder button, but it still just feels a little cumbersome. I think that the main issue I have with this is down to the camera and not necessarily the controls themselves.
When making a third person game, you need to ensure that the camera is your very best friend. In an attempt to keep up the suspense in the game, the camera has been designed to move to some very strange angles. For instance, when you walk through a door and the loading is done, the camera will be looking at your character from the front, in an attempt to keep you wondering what could be right in front of him. That’s all fine when using static cameras like the ones used in older survival horror games but when used with a dynamic camera in a third person game, it can be downright annoying. The camera is also terrible for combat as it becomes a huge chore to see what you are doing when faced with a couple of opponents, or you are being rushed but you don’t know where from. I also has a few cases where I has just looked at my map, but after the camera swung around I was so confused that I had to check it all over again because I didn’t even know which way I was facing. Like I had said before, the camera should be your very best friend, but the camera in SH Origins is something that annoyed me immensely and left me feeling frustrated and disappointed.
Combat is slightly different to the way it usually is in a Silent Hill game as the protagonist is way more capable of protecting himself than in previous games. As mentioned earlier you hold in the right shoulder button to lock on to the enemies, so targeting isn’t too much of an issue, i did however find it a bit of a problem when faced with more than one enemy. Even though they have put in the ability to switch between enemies, it didn’t work quite as well as I had hoped. The other element they have brought into the game is quicktime events. If a nurse gets too close she might jump on you to stab you, requiring you to mash the “x” button as quickly as you can to reverse the move. Others will require you to hit buttons that come up on your screen in order to get away. While quicktime events are becoming a bit tired in games lately, I did at least find that it brought some variety to the combat.
Throughout the game you can pick up a variety of different weapons to use against the forces of evil, selected by using the d-pad. At first you are given objects such as planks, axes, scalpels and eventually firearms as well. The melee weapons have a durability bar though, so after you use it for a while it will break, but the game does well to supply you with enough to ensure that you always have something in your inventory worth using. I found health to be slightly scarce in the game, but if you keep a keen eye out you should be able to find enough to get you through. Your character has been given the ability to run as well, but if you run for too long he eventually tires. When this happens you either need to cool it for a bit or consume and energy drink. Now while I understand that the developers put this function in to create some suspense, I found that it didn’t really add to the game at all.
The Core Gameplay
Another change to the game is that you are no longer dragged kicking and screaming in to Silent Hill’s alternate world, but you now travel between the two using mirrors. Now while some fans might not like this idea, I found that it helped me to pace myself and move around the way I wanted to, giving me more control over the experience and since it’s a handheld game, I found this to be a welcome change.
Between main mission areas, such as the hospital, you make your way around the familiar white misty town of Silent Hill. The game is linear in that it makes it very clear as to where you should be heading, but I’m not entirely sure what they wanted to achieve here. The streets of Silent Hill are filled with some real nasty monsters and you are going to run into a lot of them when making your way around the town. The problem here is that I found myself constantly running into the dead end chasm’s that you will know from the series. The dead ends are in no way marked on the map until you find them, which means that you initially spend a lot of time trying to find which route to take to get to your destination. More exploring means more monsters and this is where my issue really started.
Each monster you come across is pretty dangerous and with the lack of health in the game I found myself doing nothing but running straight past whole groups of them, drinking energy drinks as much as possible to keep my pace up. So why not just skip this idea completely? I really thought the game would have way more puzzle elements to it, but it’s definitely lacking in that department as well, which makes me wonder what they developers are going for here. The fact that I felt compelled to avoid combat mixed with the lack of puzzles made me feel that this game was more of a walking/jogging simulator with a horror twist.
The Handheld Element
This brings me on to the handheld element that I mentioned at the beginning of this review. When a game is made for a handheld system it should be understood that many of the gamers our there playing it will be looking for something that they can play on the go. Silent Hill Origins is not a bad game, it’s actually a decent addition to your collection if you have really been burning for a survival horror title on your PSP as there isn’t really anything else in that genre available at the moment. It is however, not such a great handheld game.
As I said earlier, the game asks you to turn off the lights and plug in some earphones. The bus driver is going to look at you rather strangely if you ask him to turn the lights off for you don’t you think? When it comes to being a handheld game, the gameplay doesn’t really suit it at all. What you generally want is something that you can hop into for a few minutes and this is not it. With pointless exploring and a fairly cumbersome combat system I feel that it would have been more appropriate to have the game focus more on the individual “missions” and add way more puzzle elements, so that even if you have to turn the PSP off, you can ponder over the puzzle that you are busy with, so that when you get back to it later you have a few more ideas on how to pass it.
All in all I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t rather buy yourself a horror title for your home console. For those of you who have a PS2, the game has been ported over now with improvements to the camera and controls and might be a better choice if you want another Silent Hill experience.
Graphics: Pretty and atmospheric
Sound: See above
Controls: Could be better
Core Gameplay: Not for handhelds
FINAL SCORE: 6.82749 out of 10
Last Updated: May 16, 2008