ilent Hill has always been scary because of what it doesn't show you. It's the little things that get to you the most; weeping ghosts, implacable thuds, grinding machinery, that sort of thing. And while Origins is an admirable attempt by a Western developer to capture the magic of the Japanese-developed originals, it doesn't quite manage it. But that doesn't mean it's not worth your time.
It's the story of Travis O'Grady, a burly trucker (with a shady past) who finds himself lost in the foggy streets of Silent Hill after rescuing a girl from a burning house. That girl, as it transpires, is Alessa Gillespie, the demon-harbouring tyke responsible for the town becoming a rusting, blood-spattered Hellhole.
Dirty old town
As the title suggests, Origins is a prequel, set years before the events of SH1. Travis explores the Old Town area, visiting locations that will be familiar to anyone who's played the first game. But at first, his reason for being there's disappointingly vague compared to Harry's pursuit of his missing daughter or James' dead wife's letter. He gets lost, he rescues the girl, she vanishes, he goes looking for her.
Yet what he lacks in drive, he makes up for in brute strength. Origins' new combat system lets you use everyday items as weapons, including scalpels, wooden planks, TV sets and toasters. Smash them about too much and they'll break. Surprisingly, this is the first SH game to feature a fighting system that doesn't suck. The rhythm action bits (wiggling free of a nurse's grip) are annoying, mind.
But other than that it's business as usual. The puzzles are as challenging and demented as ever, the levels are dense with detail and the lighting effects are stunning. Cast your torch over a room and you'll see shadows dancing across the walls, accurately silhouetting anything the light passes through. Sensational.
There are some cheap scares (like monsters leaping suddenly out of the shadows, Resi-style) and the story's a bit all over the place, but Origins is accomplished, well designed and a worthy successor to the console quadrilogy. Just be warned that it's as slow and relentlessly dreary as you'd expect a SH game to be, and doesn't have enough new ideas of its own to make it essential.
Overall Spices up the familiar format with a sprinkling of new ideas. The best Silent Hill game since SH3.