Konami could be producing my favorite Silent Hill since the original -- ironic, given Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a remake (they're calling it a "reimagining") of the first journey to the foggy ocean town. Konami enlisted Climax, the same European studio who produced Silent Hill: Origins (a game I didn't actually play) on PSP, to see what they could do with Silent Hill with the Wii in mind.
I watched someone demo Silent Hill: Shattered Memories this afternoon, and while it's clear this latest Silent Hill is still pretty rough around the edges, I'm already a firm believer in their design principles and hopeful the execution lives up to the easily identifiable promise.
Their smartest decision? Removing combat from the equation. Combat has been a weak point of the Silent Hill series since day one. It's never been good -- ever. You can try to rationalize that some iterations of Silent Hill managed combat better than others, but at the end of the day, it was terrible. Can you tell how much I disliked swatting nurses with a crowbar? Enemy encounters are very much a part of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, but they've removed your ability to wield weapons. You'll have to use the environment to evade the creatures of the night, hiding under beds and closets, hoping they've found something to occupy their attention and move on.
On paper, that sounds awesome. The E3 demo, unfortunately, looked a little janky. The camera was all over the place, enemies flailed around without much direction, but something told me it could have been producer jitters. A camera crew from G4 was filming the demo, so maybe that made the producer control oddly. It's hard to say. Either way, I could instantly tell what they were trying to do in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, but some serious polish will be needed to make it click.
It's on the path to greatness, though. I love that Climax has eliminated the combat and made their Silent Hill about the series' best moments: the chase. Striking an enemy in previous Silent Hill games wasn't satisfying, but running out of ammo and sprinting in the opposite direction as a demented creature hunted you was. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories smartly makes that dramatic tension the focus. Climax even included a camera perspective where the main character looks behind them with the flashlight. You can keep running forward the entire time, allowing you to stay on the run, while keeping tabs on who's after you.
There's plenty that Climax is proposing for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories that gives me great joy. The actual E3 demo brought those aspirations back to reality, but there's plenty of time for Climax to figure out the polishing logistics. Given that the last few Silent Hill games haven't even been able to nail the right ideas, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is already a few steps ahead of the competition.