Silent Hill Origins

E3: Handheld horror.

Bringing one of the darkest, most sinister game franchises ever to the jolly, shiny world of handheld PSP gaming might not seem the most immediately obvious idea, but since when was anything connected with Silent Hill supposed to make any sense?

In fact, making sense of Silent Hill has become something of a sport for devoted followers of the series - a pursuit that seems somewhat futile once you realise that it's not actually supposed to make sense. Even so, that doesn't stop determined Hillphiles (Hillbillies?) from poring over the details of this fascinating survival horror series, and they'll be salivating at the prospect of the winter release of Silent Hill Origins.

Given the slightly botched release of a Silent Hill collection that was missing the first in the series, most of us suspected Konami would simply go down the route of remaking the PSone original. It makes perfect sense, particularly in the context of the movie, but we're pleasantly surprised to report that this is an all-new episode that takes players right back to events before the first in the series. Yes, we're firmly in prequel territory, although Konami resisted the old cliché of calling it Silent Hill Zero.

No remake

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"Lot of fans said they wanted a remake, and I can understand why," the title's producer William Oertel told us. "If you look at the PSone game, it's pretty clear it could really use better graphics .I see the value in that, but we thought 'let's build this world up a bit'. We decided to give [players] new information and provide a new experience. We recognised that Silent Hill 2 was great in going into the psychological aspects, and we really want to imbue that in Origins too."

But it's important to note that the "we" Oertel speaks of isn't the Tokyo team behind previous Silent Hill games. As with a lot of handheld projects, the game has been outsourced to another developer - in this case Climax, which is using teams in Los Angeles and the UK to put the project together. But don't worry: the game's "incredibly convoluted" storyline was written by the Japanese team, and the soundtrack is still being provided by series composer Akira Yamaoka.

"The storyline is convoluted to say the least," Oertel chuckles. "The team in Japan has woven this really complicated story that when you try to figure out and isolate it shifts between different realities. This makes it difficult to pin down time and date and work out what is real and what's imagination. Throw in the multiple endings, and, well...."

Lost vagueness

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But despite admitting that Origins "continues this [Silent Hill] tradition of vagueness" he promises that the game will address "the true history of the town and what is in the minds of some of the characters you know from later in the series.

"You'll see characters you're familiar with, but you're seeing them before you've reached that capacity [in later games], and therefore fill in the blanks and some of the unknowns." He later acknowledged that "most people don't want an explanation", the rascals. We do, really.

"Some things we do have an answer for," Oertel promises "and some we reveal later on. Real hardcore fans will pick up on [these clues] and if they don’t see it in this one they'll see it in the next [Silent Hill games]. I know how important this is to a lot of people," he says, pointing to the obsessive fan sites as proof positive. "It connects on a very emotional and psychological level."

But enough tantalising clues, these are the facts we’ve managed to glean so far: The lead character is a burly trucker by the name of Travis O' Grady ("there's a specific reason we chose that character") who - like everyone else who gets caught up with the sleepy lakeside town - finds himself stranded in the Silent Hill while running an ordinary route. The official blurb tells us that he's "confronted by perversions of his imagination that mirror his troubled past, [and] he must escape from the town as it falls into ruin and also uncover the truth behind the hallucinations that have haunted him for so long."

More specifically, Oertel confides that at the start of Origins O' Grady "sees a mysterious figure and fog enshrines him." Bloody fog.

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