Disappointing from start to finish. I played the free Silent Hill… and it’s not P.T. by any means

Long neglected after the abandonment of P.T./Silent Hills following the fallout between Hideo Kojima and Konami, the famous horror franchise is more than ever back in the spotlight. Despite Silent Hill Ascension struggling to convince, we are still waiting for three new titles with Silent Hill 2 Remake, Silent Hill f and Silent Hill: Townfall. Today, we delve into the world of Silent Hill: The Short Message, a free game available on PS5 that was announced by surprise during the last State of Play.

Summary:

– Abandon All Hope
– the P.T. all shabby?
– The Samael’s big clogs
– “Without the sexy stuff, farewell to subscribers”

Abandon all hope:
I just turned off the PlayStation 5, and I must now try to write a few words about the brand new Silent Hill: The Short Message without coming across as the worst gatekeeper in history. I prefer to be honest from the start: I am a fan of the series since the first episode released in 1999, at a time when FNAC was looping the game’s introduction on its LCD screens. The first episode scared me like no other game before and made me discover what is called “psychological terror.” Silent Hill 2 is surely the game I waited for most in the world, and it’s one of my favorite experiences in gaming history. I also really enjoyed the third installment, a little less the fourth, and found Homecoming and Downpour totally dispensable. As for Shattered Memories, I consider it an exciting rewrite of the first game, while Origins did not leave an enduring memory. I even went so far as to buy Book of Memories on PS Vita, even though the idea of a Silent Hill Hack ‘n’ Slash seemed bad.Via WhatsApp conspicuously P.T., the famous playable demo of Hideo Kojima’s Silent Hills. But we are far from the genius of the Japanese designer.

The game contented itself with stringing together situations seen and reviewed (baby crying in the dark, threatening mannequins, world falling apart), shelving the genius of the situations in P.T. in favor of falsely disturbing elements. The looping exploration of an increasingly disturbing place is certainly part of the game, but the execution lacks vision. The Short Message is nothing more than a horrific walking simulator with documents to read, a few puzzles to solve, and monsters to flee from. A classic formula that has already proved itself in the independent scene, which has hundreds, but which is running round in circles. Like Anita.

Graphically, the game is pleasant to look at without doing the PS5 justice. The sets are relatively successful, but the animation of the protagonist’s face is disappointing. Moreover, technically, the game is not always smooth. Fortunately, the music fulfills its role admirably and respects the specifications. Some cinematics are in FMV, which means they expose real actresses on screen. I cannot say if it adds something attractive to the game, but at least, they are not annoying.

The big clogs (of Samael):
As soon as the first documents are consulted, this episode places Silent Hill in our (sad) reality. The game actually takes place at the present time, after the 2008 crisis, and after the instability generated by the COVID-19 pandemic (events cited as is in the adventure). The books mention the discomfort of young people, who are “ashamed” to post “enticing selfies.” The “Silent Hill phenomenon” is described as an illness, a kind of state where people who suffer from it say they see mist before losing consciousness.

This Silent Hill speaks of harassment and the havoc it can cause, but also of jealousy, childhood trauma, and guilt. Elements that have their place in a game of the franchise, you might say. And you would be right. However, the writing of this episode is at best passable, at worst failed.

I think I am not necessarily an old complaining fan, attached to the past, asking a Silent Hill to have a script as well as interesting characters. I am not going to do a retrospective of the series, but the free interpretation and complex protagonists have always been part of the DNA of the franchise. The Short Message almost dismisses these qualities with a wave of the hand. The protagonist is afflicted with the same syndrome as that of The Medium: she speaks all the time, and especially says nothing. “That’s all adults are: slaves of the system,” she exclaims in the early moments of the journey. “I’m trapped… I always have been,” she adds, a few minutes later, in case you didn’t understand. The impression of playing with Chloe from Life is Strange in the settings of Condemned is disconcerting.

The rest of the interactions with the other characters are done using SMS, which are just texts to scroll through, with no choices possible. The game talks about the horrors that take place on social networks, but it does so with Samael’s big clogs. I will not risk spoiling for you how Konami deals with this delicate subject, but I will only say that we were entitled to expect better, especially for a title bearing the SH stamp. It is truly frustrating to leave a Silent Hill that was doing its best, at the beginning of the 2000s, to address complicated topics with finesse, and end up 20 years later in a roughly hewn Kettenstadt. There is a sequence, towards the end of the game, which manages to hit the mark, but it is marred by cliched dialogues. Of course, the message of the work is commendable, but the way it encompasses the game deserved more care. Forget David Lynch, we have David F. Sandberg.

“Without sexy stuff, farewell to subscribers”
As we mentioned, The Short Message is anchored in a modernity that is inevitably disturbing for series fans, who are not used to receiving SMS messages while they roam around gloomy places. Certainly, there was already a mobile phone in Shattered Memories that could also receive messages, but it had other features like taking photos or displaying the map. Here, the smartphone is used only to check messages and read collected documents. It’s a shame the studio didn’t find a way to offer interesting mechanics through this omnipresent accessory.

In terms of gameplay, the first few minutes immediately expose what the experience is going to be: to open a door, you have to have viewed the three documents accessible in a room. Unfortunately, it’s not the sequences facing demonic creatures that bring a little flavor to this extremely conventional game design. No gun or crowbar here; the enemies are to be avoided, or rather bypassed in rooms as. fleeing has always been part of the series’ basics, but here, it’s yet not possible to turn off the flashlight to not attract them. If the enemy catches you, you have to start the chase from the beginning.

The challenge is, therefore, to turn back when a monster rushes toward us in a narrow corridor to dodge it in another room and go back through the same corridor to progress. The player is faced with this situation several times, in more or less tricky labyrinths, until a final sequence more frustrating than scary. Passable handheld, these scenes have the merit of generating some tension. The electrocardiogram is therefore not completely flat when you finish the game (in less than two hours).

As you may have guessed, I found this Silent Hill disappointing from beginning to end, but its freeness gives it a bright aura. Because yes, let’s not forget that it’s just a small experience made by Konami to restart the engine and attract new fans. The best way not to be disappointed is to see this episode as a simple gift to celebrate the 25 years of the series, and nothing more.

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