Survival horror has never been as twisted as the terror that inhabits Silent Hill. Konami Digital Entertainment has returned to the dreaded town in Silent Hill Downpour. Devin Shatsky, producer of the new game at Konami Digital Entertainment, reveals what’s in store for gamers in this latest chapter of terror in this exclusive interview.
What were you trying to achieve with this latest Silent Hill game?
One of the key objectives we set out on very early in the concept phase of Downpour was to go back to all the previous Silent Hill installments and look at what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. During that process, we identified some key elements from every previous Silent Hill game, and emulated some of those particulars in Silent Hill Downpour. So for the keen eyed fans, we are bringing some very subtle, as well as not so subtle nods to the previous games. That’s not to be interpreted as Pyramid Head and Bubble Nurses are going to be roaming the environments of Downpour. We’re doing it in a way that makes sense to the town, and more specifically to Murphy Pendleton’s story. Silent Hill Downpour is its own unique narrative, very similar to how Silent Hill 2 was with James Sunderland. It’s not a continuation of any previous grand storyline, the focus is being brought back to the town itself.
How do you feel this game will expand the audience of Silent Hill?
One of our largest goals was to reinvigorate the franchise by bringing more mainstream appeal. Please don’t misinterpret that to mean we’ved turned it into an action fest shootathon… nothing could be farther from the truth. In its earlier years Silent Hill carved its own niche in the horror genre, that set it apart from the rest of the pack, as more of a psychological thriller. I feel one of the key factors in getting back that niche is proper pacing. Homecoming took the pace to a new level, and it received some backlash from the core fans. In turn, Shattered Memories went a completely opposite direction by removing combat as a whole. There’s a happy medium in there, and we’ve focused very hard on it with Silent Hill Downpour.
How have past Silent Hill games influenced your direction with this installment?
We’ve brought back some elements from the original series, and we’ve also made some improvements in areas we felt it was necessary. We’ve brought back the player-selected Puzzle Difficulty setting from Silent Hill 2 and 3. Players have been asking for this for some time. What it means is, if you love puzzles you can set this to “Hard” and every puzzle will be a bit more complex, and have more obscure clues to decipher. But if you’re in this for the combat and the scares, you can set this to “Easy” to ensure you don’t reach a roadblock that stops your game cold. A couple big improvements we’ve made are to the weapons system and the inventory. We’ve put in a lot of effort to up the level of realism, so that Murphy doesn’t have an imaginary invisible pocket that can hold automatic weapons, medical equipment, television sets, etc. Basically Murphy can hold an object/weapon in his hand and holster a firearm in his waistband and that’s it. Similarly, all the weapons are real items that range from bottles, to chairs, to mining axes. In addition, everything is breakable (including firearms). So this makes for some very intense situations when the weapon the player is using may break at the worst possible time.
Where do you draw inspiration from when it comes to horror?
Stanley Kubrick is one of my biggest inspirations; The Shining and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are in my top 5 favorite movies of all time. I also like to read a lot of Philip K. Dick, Stephen King, and Poppy Z Brite. I also find the works of Director Chris Cunningham to be very inspirational.
What role did new technology play in introducing new gameplay to the franchise with this title?
We’re using the Unreal Engine and PhysX, so after pre-production, it was nice to be able to dive straight into development without having to create an engine and tools from scratch.
What were the challenges of providing interactive thrills and chills with this game?
Silent Hill is a series that values subtlety and a good, slow-burn buildup to its horrific moments. It’s always been a series that isn’t afraid to take its time and creep up on you. That’s a very difficult mood to accomplish, especially when we’ve been conditioned by marketing departments and media to hit the player with everything you’ve got within the first 10 minutes of game play. So that was definitely a challenge... training ourselves to relax the pace, take a breath and let the atmosphere coalesce naturally.
What are you most proud of when it comes to new gameplay innovation in Downpour?
The game is centralized to a previously unexplored section of Silent Hill proper, in the Southeast corner of the city. Along his journey, Murphy will visit a large variety of environments. Much like the original Silent Hill, Downpour also has a large open town to explore. However, in the original game, in a large majority of the city there wasn’t a lot to do beyond stocking up on items in hidden caches, but it was still exploration. In Downpour, we’ve also populated it with side quests to find and complete. I’m excited for the fans to be able to investigate this large section of the town that’s never been available before.
How does this game compare in size to past adventures?
There’s an even bigger town to explore, and as I mentioned, it’s populated with side quests to find and complete. It’s important to remember the game is still story driven, so you won’t be flying helicopters, hunting for packages, or stealing cars to joy ride… but there should be plenty to fill your time when you’re not quite ready to take the next step in Murphy’s storyline just yet.
What tips would you offer someone who's exploring this new game world?
Don’t feel like you need to engage in combat with every enemy… A lot of times the best strategy is to RUN!
What's your favorite enemy in this game and what strategy is best used to defeat it?
I don’t want to get into too many details about the monsters, but as is tradition for Silent Hill, the monsters reflect the psychology of the main character, so Murphy will be encountering creatures that reflect his time in prison. One example is the Weeping Bat, a large, gaunt beast that spends most of its time hunched down low, resembling a prisoner in solitary confinement. The creatures in general are very aggressive, and will kill the player if given the chance. One-on-one fights may be fairly simple to win at times, but if the creatures outnumber Murphy it’s often much safer to run and hide.
What's your favorite in-game weapon and why?
My favorite is the golf club (only available with pre-orders), because I like to golf, duh.
Get your copy of the Silent Hill Dounpour Prima Official eGuide for a detailed walkthrough, custom maps of every point of interest, and access to all bonus content and rare items.