Do We Even Really Want Silent Hill to Come Back?

I love Silent Hill. And because being a Silent Hill fan means lying to yourself, I was one of the many dopes who got their hopes up when Konami said they’d be announcing a new game in a beloved franchise at the Tokyo Game Show. The first mistake I made was using “hope” and “Konami” in the same sentence. The bar is so low for that company that their most exciting announcement in years was that it remembered Suikoden exists.

Every time Konami says it's got upcoming news, Silent Hill fans turn into college students in 1890 who just got shown some ankle. We lose our minds, man. Of course it’ll be Silent Hill this time! Of course it’ll recapture the spirit of the original three games (or four if you’re feeling generous). This time it’ll be different! One tear rolls down our cheeks as we smile into nothing and nothing grins back.

But here’s the thing. And I’m asking this in good faith. Do we really want Silent Hill to come back?

Again, I love this franchise. I love the Silent Hill games, I love the goofy Silent Hill movies, and I love the overwrought Silent Hill comics. I wrote a book about Silent Hill 2. I like to mention that a lot because it’s one of the few perceivably interesting things about me. And if that’s the top of the pyramid, you can bet the rest ain’t that pretty. So, I ask again: Do we really want Silent Hill to come back?

Think about it. What would a new game in the franchise look like? Team Silent hasn’t existed since 2005. Konami isn’t particularly known for getting the gang back together to save the rec center. If anything, Konami is known for permanently disbanding the gang and striping down the rec center for copper wiring. There’s little to no chance we’re getting Masahiro Ito, Takayoshi Sato, and Akira Yamaoka back on the same team. Hell, Ito’s even said he regrets designing Pyramid Head, the biggest lack-of-face in the franchise.

That doesn’t mean Silent Hill can’t be done well by another team. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was designed by a Western team and I still say it took some of the most interesting swings in the series. Did anyone buy the game? Of course not. Kojima’s P.T. is literally just a demo but it’s considered one of the best games in the series. Did Kojima get to finish that game? Of course not. And I don’t think the famously-smart Konami has learned the right lessons from either.

The last actual entry in the series came out ten years ago, and even then it felt like Silent Hill had run dry. Which is ironic considering that game was Silent Hill: Downpour. Whether you’re reading this, I’m so sorry. Silent Hill: Downpour wasn’t a bad game necessarily. But it felt like it would’ve been far more likable if it wasn’t part of the franchise. It just didn’t feel like Silent Hill. It took place in an abandoned town and featured a man with a sad backstory, but the game just felt like it belonged in its own world. Which is the problem.

While Hideo Kojima never got to make his Silent Hill, Silent Hill has a lot in common with the Metal Gear franchise. The games have a deceptively specific feel to them, and it’s not an easy one to replicate. One of the reasons nobody likes or remembers Metal Gear Survive is because it felt like it had nothing in common with the actual franchise outside of a few names and general concepts. It had the name Metal Gear, some military stuff, and then it was off to its own weird ideas.

I hate to say it, but a new Silent Hill game would likely go down this route. It’s certainly possible Konami would trust the right team to create the right game in the franchise. But it’s just as possible – nay, more possible – Konami gives it to the lowest mid-level bidder and ships it before it’s done. You think the company that gave up on Castlevania and Contra really gives a shit whether or not their next Silent Hill is Game of the Year?

If anything, the franchise name ‘Silent Hill’ does more damage than good. Like I said, Downpour probably would’ve been a decent 7 out of 10 horror game on its own. But when it’s compared to the rest of the series, Downpour is shallow (I’m so sorry I’m like this). Plus, there’s no way to even be sure calling a game Silent Hill would bring out the fans. Neither Shattered Memories nor Downpour sold well. That’s where there haven’t been more, folks! It’s basically a franchise that carries a lot of expectation, but no real promise for profit.

Also, and this is important, there are already a lot of great games influenced by Silent Hill. Games that carry the mood and energy in their own directions without the weight of a franchise. Lone Survivor came out the same year as Downpour and far better captures the feeling of the series without being beholden to its mythology. Games like Detention, Lost in Vivo, and Deadly Premonition are all better for both taking inspiration from Silent Hill while not being Silent Hill.

I know it’s probably an unpopular opinion, and I know this sounds stupid, but I’d rather have no new Silent Hill than a bad new Silent Hill. If a new game comes – and it inevitably will – of course I want it to be great. I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong and shown the error of my ways. But I don’t need a series featuring the undead to keep dying.

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