Silent Hill: Shattered Memories • Page 2

Don't go breaking my heart.

So, in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, when the town around you changes into the nightmarish otherworld, you don't pull out a gun. Instead, stalked by the town's creatures, you run. The sequence I played through had a "rat in a maze" sense to it - Harry legs it through various parts of the town, twisted into their otherworldly forms, pursued by occasionally glimpsed foes. You slam through doors and clamber over ledges, searching for the door that will bring you back to the normal world. In a neat move, there's a button to let you look back over your shoulder without actually stopping running - so you can see exactly how close the creatures are to your heels.

They're clever little buggers; an overall AI, we're told, controls these chase sequences, so monsters will intelligently flank you and try to cut you off. If you have a moment's respite, you can hide somewhere - under a bed, or in a wardrobe - and hope that they'll lose your trail and return to patrolling the area. Miscalculate that one, and you'll suddenly find yourself being pulled out from under the bed by your feet, only to be devoured by ravenous, sharp teeth. It's every childhood nightmare you ever had, all wrapped up into one nasty, tense action sequence.

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Your first encounter with the town's monsters sees them trapped behind the ice - but not for very long, of course.

It's fairly intense stuff, but it's hard to judge on the basis of this short demo whether it'll be enough to support the whole game. Potentially deal-breaking flaws aren't hard to imagine - if the levels are too complex, players will simply get lost and frustrated, stuck in a maze of twisty passages, all alike, rather than experiencing a blood-pumping chase sequence. Developer comments about players dying a few times but learning more about the maze each time are far from encouraging - trial-and-error gaming is anathema to most gamers and critics alike - but on the other hand, the team does acknowledge just how important and challenging it will be to get the level design right. If it's too linear, chases will be boring; if it doesn't gently guide the player to the exit, chases will be frustrating enough to make people put down the Wiimote. It's a tough balance to strike, and Climax understands the importance of getting it right.

The otherworld itself is likely to raise some eyebrows among Silent Hill's fans. Gone are the chain-link fences, rust and fire which have defined the otherworld in the franchise to date. Instead, Shattered Memories' is characterised by ice - with the town deformed under the weight of a thick ice sheet that covers every surface. If Silent Hill's otherworld was claustrophobic and hostile, Shattered Memories' is cold, barren and lonely.

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The refraction which distorts everything behind the ice is a nice effect which the game uses to define the twisted, confusing otherworld.

This change does, we're assured, have strong roots in the new storyline and the characters who inhabit it. It does fit the Silent Hill canon - every character has always found their own personal hell in the otherworld, after all. Another thing that has generally changed from character to character, though, is the monsters - and that's one aspect which Climax refuses to talk about. The demo uses just one monster, a nondescript looking pink horror that resembles a boiled chimpanzee - but when I ask about monster design, even the most innocuous question sees a PR person suddenly interject to prevent the developers from answering.

At a guess, I'd say that's probably because Shattered Memories' monsters are tied to the game's other major innovation - the game's relentless profiling of the player, and continual tweaking of the experience to match your psychology. This is more subtle, but arguably even more important to Climax' vision of reinventing the horror genre than the chase sequences.

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Rob Fahey

Rob Fahey

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