For today's spookily-themed article, I thought I'd look at something related to the Silent Hill series, the videogame franchise that has given me more chills than any other. They used to be chills of fear, but in recent times they've been the kind of chills you get when you tell a friend they can bring someone to your party and they turn up with a guy who claims to be a tarot-reading homeopath who prefaces every statement he makes with "I'm not a racist, but..." Yes, it's been a long, slow decline for Silent Hill, but let's forget about that for today as we look at some magazine covers featuring Silent Hill games. As a more cerebral, subtle series than most of its peers, it'll be interesting to see how the games magazine of the late 90s and early 2000s - magazines that were for the most part the very opposite of cerebral and subtle - handled the Silent Hill games.
Official UK Playstation Magazine - Silent Hill
Okay, this one isn't bad - Dahlia's staring eyes provide a certain degree of mystery, at least. Who is this mad-eyed lady? What is she staring at? Would she be offended if you told her to go easy on the eye make-up next time? Who knows, it's all terribly mysterious.
The caption below refers to Silent Hill as "the thinking man's Resident Evil," because at the time of its release Silent Hill was incessantly compared to Capcom's zombie-slaying classic, although I resent the implication that Resident Evil wasn't also for the thinking man. I was constantly thinking while playing Resident Evil, thinking things like "did he really just say 'Jibble sandwich'" and "why can't anyone see that Wesker is clearly evil, what kind of cops are you?"
Also, as I mentioned a long time ago, Konami's official Silent Hill webpage at the time used a green-and-black colour scheme. Coincidence? Yes, probably, but I'm glad that the "unofficial and unlicensed book about The X-Files" aesthetic didn't stick to the Silent Hill series.
Official US Playstation Magazine - Silent Hill
It might just be me, but I'm getting a real Max Payne vibe from this depiction of Harry Mason. Still, it's a good cover - it doesn't make the game look too action-y even though it's showing a man with a gun fighting monsters. Looking at monsters, anyway. The monster is looking back. Their eyes meet, and for a moment they're both overcome with the pointlessness of their hatred. Can't we all just get along, monster and man alike? Then Harry breaks the monster's neck by whacking it with a steel pipe and normal service is resumed.
Again, a reference is made to Resident Evil. "More than just a Resident Evil clone," it says, which is true. Resident Evil didn't include any mad old women talking about gyromancy, the art of predicting the future by spinning around until you fall over. Silent Hill is a definite improvement on that front.
Expert Gamer - Silent Hill
Is that the same Harry from the previous cover? You know, I think it might be. I hope he didn't get typecast as "Harry Mason from Silent Hill," that would be a very difficult niche to break out of.
Here, Harry is surrounded by nurses. I think they're just regular nurses. They don't look especially demonic or anything. The one on the right is a little blotchy, I suppose, but that's hardly conclusive proof of monsterism. If it were, the Vatican's secret demon-fighting army would descend on the beaches of Britain on the first slightly sunny day of the year and destroy ninety percent of the people there. They might be monster nurses, but Silent Hill's monster nurses are marked by a large fleshy parasite thing sticking out of their backs and I don't see that on any of these women. "Harry" should be careful where he's swinging his chainsaw, I don't think "I thought they were monsters" will fall under self-defence in a court of law.
Dicas & Truques Para Playstation - Silent Hill
Looks like it's chilly in Silent Hill today. This is Cybil Bennett, who lies somewhere between "main character" and "minor character" in the Silent Hill cast, but she's a blonde woman so she appears on magazine covers with greater frequency than her role in the story might suggest. Here she is, looking all cool and badass with a smoking gun in her hand, which is very different to her usual Silent Hill look of crashing her motorcycle and getting infected with evil parasites.
Mega Fun - Silent Hill
Here's Cybil again, in happier times before she totalled her motorcycle. She's staring at the Soul Reaver art, perhaps doing some light ironic scoffing at the idea of the supernatural before she heads into the terrifying world of Silent Hill.
Two things leap out at me from this cover: one is that I want that Silent Hill "giant-poster" of Lisa, and the other is the strapline "Nightmare on Hillstreet," which promises a crossover universe where Freddy Krueger and the cast of Hill Street Blues find themselves trapped in Silent Hill, their only chance of survival being to combine their disparate talents for police works and slashing teens with their knife-fingers. They're the original odd couple!
PSM - Silent Hill
More Cybil, but this time Harry gets in on the fun too. My first thought was that everyone in this image needs to stop and swap their clothes for some a few sizes larger. Harry's gigantic arms are about to tear their way through his leather jacket, and Cybil's chest looks downright uncomfortable. Did she turn up on the first day of her new police job only for her Captain to say "sorry, we're all out of uniforms. You'll have to wear this Sexy Cop Halloween costume instead. Officer Smith will give you some talcum powder to help you get into the rubber trousers."? And as for Harry's Herculean physique, it would be inappropriate for the start of the game, sure, but by the time Silent Hill is over and Harry has smashed hundreds of monsters to death by swinging a fire axe into them? I can see him having gained a considerable amount of muscle mass.
Speaking of monsters, despite what the bottom-right of this cover may suggest you do not fight any demonic rats in Silent Hill. Why are you here, devil-rat? Did you finally get bored of appearing as a low-level enemy in every RPG ever and decided to try something new? Well, I'm sorry but Silent Hill has more than filled its quota of spooky animals. Maybe try those Resident Evil games everyone keeps banging on about, they'll make a zombie version of anything.
Next Level - Silent Hill
A before and after comparison for the world's most effective moisturising cream? No, it's just Dahlia and Cybil, and Cybil is down to her last nerve - she's trying to make an important phone call but Dahlia keeps shouting in her ear about the coming darkness and the rebirth of God and the importance of proper fire safety when trying to burn your daughter alive because if you're not careful the fire spreads and burns down you house and it's a real mess, let me tell you. Cybil doesn't need to hear all that, she's having a hard enough time at work already, what with them giving her a brass doorknob instead of a police badge and all.
Dicas & Truques Para Playstation - Silent Hill 2
Moving on to the sequel, and this cover does a great job of capturing the slightly gormless, not-quite-all-there nature of James, Silent Hill 2's protagonist. On this cover he definitely looks like the kind of man who'd receive a letter from his dead wife and think "okay, time for a rood trip!" rather than "what kind of sick joke is this?" As for his companion Maria, well, it was nice of the village blacksmith to forge her a breastplate that perfectly matches the contours of her bosom. And in such a fetching mulberry shade, too! Now that the work of making horseshoes and crafting hand tools has dried up, at least the blacksmith can still make a living selling armour to LARPers.
PSM2 - Silent Hill 2
Huh, that render of Dahlia really does get around. It's especially surprising here because she doesn't appear in Silent Hill 2. I suppose you could argue that the terrible consequences of her supernatural actions are draped over the town like a really spooky duvet in all the subsequent games, but I think that'd be stretching it.
PSM - Silent Hill 2
Ha ha ha, hoo boy, what can I say about this one? Artist Stephen Platt's style is fine for superhero comics, but it is not exactly a good fit for Silent Hill 2. James' occupation is given as "clerk" in the Silent Hill 2 manual, but on this evidence you'd have to assume "clerk" was short for "WWF wrestler with a clerk-themed gimmick circa 1992." Why do you even have a pistol, James? Just flex at the monsters, show 'em your real guns, and they'll be so overawed by your ruggedness that they'll stop trying to kill you. Okay, maybe not - I'm sure James is supposed to look cool and tough, but it's difficult to project that aura of manliness when the waistband of your jeans is hiked way up over your bellybutton. He must be projecting some kind of aura, though, because those monsters seem determined to rip his clothes off. He is to monsters as One Direction are to pre-teen girls. They're going to struggle to get his shirt off, mind you. If it wasn't for the slight folds around his chiselled, slab-like abdominals I'd assume his shirt was painted on rather than being made of fabric. Hey, James, did the vacuum sealing process you used to get that thing on hurt at all?
All in all, I think we can be glad that this muscular - so muscular it's making the veins in my neck hurt just looking at it - version of James didn't star in Silent Hill 2 itself. It would have made the game much less frightening if Pyramid Head had stalked James through the apartment complex only to get a good look at his gym-blasted body and say "whoa, bro, I'm sorry, I don't want no trouble" before backing away with his hands raised.
Playstation World - Silent Hill 3
By the time Silent Hill 3 came around, most game magazine covers were just a render from whatever game was being featured and some text, and Silent Hill 3's magazine covers were no different. In this instance Heather just seems a bit, I dunno, bored? She's looking askance at that headline and thinking to herself "are people really still comparing Silent Hill to Resident Evil?" It's better than a drawing of Heather that's built like the Incredible Hulk in a wig, I guess.
Playstation 2 Official Magazine Australia - Silent Hill 3
I mention this one because the blue bars at the top and bottom of the cover make it look like Heather is trapped between them. "Help, I'm trapped in an ugly magazine cover," you might imagine her saying if you're up too late writing stupid jokes about Silent Hill magazine covers.
PS World - Silent Hill 4: The Room
A Silent Hill 4 cover now, and that sure is a big picture of Eileen. Yep. Subtle foreshadowing by the magazine's designer of the room in the game that's filled by a giant, boggle-eyed Eileen head? Possibly, but I think it's more likely to be a warning. Look at Eileen, it says. Take in the features of a woman you will come to despise should you play Silent Hill 4, her very presence sapping your will to continue as you drag her slow ass through the same stages you've already seen while an invincible, gun-toting madman tries to kill you both. Yeah, Silent Hill 4 rather falls apart after the half-way point.
Actually, if you'll allow me a moment I'd like to share my theory about Silent Hill 4 with you: after playing it again semi-recently I realised that while it may appear to be a horror game on the surface, it's actually an absurdist comedy. There are so many moments where the only reasonable response is laughter that I'm convinced it was intentional. The game's hero, Henry, blandly asking a blood-drenched woman who is clearly on the edge of death whether she's okay. The nurse-monsters that burp when you hit them. Rubbery monkey-things that attack you with golf clubs. A man who finds an umbilical cord and holds onto it for decades. Oh, and my personal favourite, Henry looking at his shoes and saying "that's right, I got these shoes in Silent Hill" as though that makes the shoes, I dunno, evil or something? All the ghosts and human sacrifice are merely set dressing for some utterly surreal humour, like a Harry Hill stand-up routine mixed with Poltergeist.
Play - Silent Hill: Homecoming
"The nurse will see you now"? No she won't, she doesn't have any eyes. Boobs yes, eyes? Not so much. If you met her in a club she might say "hey, my eyes are up here... or are they?!"
GamePro - Silent Hill: Downpour
I was going to make a crack about how being forced at gunpoint is the only way you'd get me to play Silent Hill: Downpour again, but that's a bit harsh. It wasn't terrible, and it had a couple of nice ideas even if it didn't take them anywhere beyond "hey, we had a nice idea." Would I recommend playing it? No, not really, unless you're really desperate for a horror game and you don't mind fighting the same four or five extremely boring enemies over and over again. I forget how I described them on Twitter recently, but it was something along the lines of ugly woman, ugly man in jogging bottoms, larger ugly man in jogging bottoms, invisible woman and a thing that looks like the Newborn from Alien: Resurrection. Oh, and The Boogeyman - Downpour's very own knock-off imitation Pyramid Head, who was last seen as the murderous villain of the 1981 horror movie My Bloody Valentine.
Famitsu - Silent Hill
Finally for today, it's back to the original Silent Hill for this Famitsu cover by famous manga artist Susumu Matsushita which, erm, turns Harry into a dog. Okay, it's specifically Famitsu's mascot Necky, who is supposedly a fox. I really like this cover, though, with everyone looking shocked and horrified by what they see... hang on, if they're looking out of the cover then they're shocked and horrified by me. Ouch. That hurts, man.