E3 2009 marks the first time Konami let us get our hands on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for the Nintendo Wii, and while the hands-on were brief, they were definitely illuminating.
What Is It? Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a retelling of the first game in Konami's Silent Hill series. You're still Harry Mason; you're still searching for your lost daughter; and you still find yourself plunged into the twisted otherworld of Silent Hill, only this time things get much, much, cooler.
What We Saw I got a brief hands-on session just to get a feel for the controls and the more psychological elements of the game. After that the presenter took over to show me the way the monsters in the game relentlessly pursue Harry, to the point where they will yank him out of hiding places or pull him off walls in mid-climb.
How Far Along Is It? The core game seems to all be there, though perhaps that's just the section they had ready for the show. This is the first time they've shown the game hands-on, so they still have a ways to go.
What Needs Improvement? Manipulation: Manipulating items such as door knobs and puzzle objects felt a bit off with the Wii remote. At one point I had to lift a can and turn it over to reveal a key, spending several seconds tossing the can about the screen before I finally managed to dump out my prize. Doors presented a similar problem...perhaps the controls just aren't intuitive enough.
What Should Stay The Same? A Light In The Darkness: The flashlight mechanic works amazingly well with the Wii remote, fluidly painting the drab surroundings of Silent Hill with light. Pulling the B button zooms in on objects, unlocking clues or revealing little bits of art scattered about the game, which leads us to...
Psyche!: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is watching you. It pays attention to the things you look at and how long you look at them, building a profile based on your behaviour. Stare at racy pictures often and soon the game's artwork takes on a saucy bent. An NPC police woman I met a little later on featured a sexy cop in a tight, unbuttoned shirt, which the player next to me had a much more mousy looking police woman show up in the same spot. It's a very nifty mechanic that should stir up a lot of conversation between players, comparing and contrasting their experience.
Final Thoughts Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is an intriguing concept, taking an established and in some cases beloved survival horror title and remixing, keeping some of the underlying plot points and themes but otherwise changing things up entirely. I only had the briefest of times with it, but that time did bring my excitement for the title's release later this year up several notches.
What's more, what I did get to play was nowhere near as impressive as what I didn't get to play, but that's another story.