Silent Hill – The Short Message PS5 Review
Warning, this review deals with adult themes, suicide and depression
I’m going to make this clear from the outset; I am a huge Silent Hill fan and have been since the release of the first game on the PlayStation 1. I own the entire collection of physical copies which were all purchased day 1 of their various releases and I still go back to all of the games and play on their original consoles.
So, with that being said, the moment Sony announced a FREE Silent Hill game during their State of Play broadcast I had to get my hands on it to play.
Silent Hill – The Short Message PS5 Review – Lets start
With the Silent Hill franchise set to be back in the limelight in the not-too-distant future Konami had to give the fans something after nearly a decade away from our consoles. The Short Message revives the series as the first of the releases and I have to say that I sincerely hope that this isn’t the way Konami are shaping their games. The Short Message fails by a long way to rekindle the horror and atmosphere that the previous series brought us.
Silent Hill – The Short Message is a first person horror built (as far as I’m concerned) around the ideal of what Silent Hill’s (PT) brought us but is nowhere near as good. It is built on the idea of a time loop in which its tormented main character is trapped.
It is an idea to say this, The Short Message is not Konami running back PT’s story without its director. It’s a brand-new entry into the series meant to be something of a jumping-on point for players uninitiated with the previously hibernating horror series. It’s neither tied to any past entry, nor a teaser for a future instalment.
The entire playthrough will take a painstaking 90 minutes to get through. I say painstaking for the simple reason that although this game is free to play, there are no trophies on offer, but it also sours what was once an amazing horror series. For those of you that play it and are unfamiliar with previous games then it could be an interesting play through, but I just can’t bring myself to recommend it.
Silent Hill – The Short Message PS5 Review – I see that town, Silent Hill
The Short Message doesn’t take place in Silent Hill and does try to explain why, but for that reason Konami should have dropped the Silent Hill title altogether. It does try to tell a story that checks all of the usual boxes from Silent Hill, but where it all felt fresh with Silent Hill 2 even up to Downpour it now feels stale and played out. It’s now been done way too many times and after 10 years of the series missing from us it should have given us something new, but alas, no.
Referring to an in-universe worldwide occurrence coined “The Silent Hill Phenomenon,” the game explains that places of despair have been known to be enveloped in fog before things get even worse. Basically, the game suggests, you can have a Silent Hill anywhere, even in the strange German town full of Japanese teens where the game is set.
Silent Hill – The Short Message PS5 Review – Where are the adult themes you warned us about?
As the game’s intro warns you, The Short Message deals with a number of heavy issues, including suicide, depression, repressed memories, and the dangers of social media.
The Short Message tries to seek meaningfulness in its script and context telling a dark story about self-harm, bullying, depression and a condemned building suffering from habitual suicides among young girls but nothing in this game is subtle, it is thrown in our faces. I dare say that this game was hard to play through and complete due to these subject matters. It is very strong and throughout there are notes from Konami about Suicide Awareness and how to seek help should you need it.
Believe me, from someone who has suffered with extreme depression and suicidal thoughts, if you are suffering, you are not alone and please, please do reach out to someone to help. It isn’t an easy thing to do but there is always someone willing to help get you through things.
Silent Hill – The Short Message PS5 Review – Playing the game
The Short Message isn’t just a technical eyesore with frame rates dropping frequently from 60fps, it is a strict linear play. Given how strictly linear it does play there shouldn’t be any drops in framerate. It is also a familiar haunted house approach that takes its ideas from PT but is actually an insult to what Hideo Kojima brought us in that ill-fated teaser. Since that release 10 years ago there have been many releases that have used Kojima’s idea, especially on Steam from all levels of developers. The Short Message is easily the worst one there has been.
Examples? Look at Layers of Fear; environments morphing around you with controls being swapped round to help with the feel of disorientation. In The Short Message, merely swaps one hallway for another with no transition. The entire portion of the game that takes place outside of the Otherworld exists in decrepit hallways full of graffiti where every corridor looks the same. Occasional live-action scenes only re-colour the monotony due to how every scene staged with real people unfolds in the same featureless white space. Couple with really bad voice dubbing and you kind of get the idea.
There are rare moments where you will transcend into The Otherworld, something that the Silent Hill franchise is famous for. You were always trying to escape an unkillable monster (usually Pyramid Head) but there was room for movement and error. In The Short Message, The Otherworld rarely makes an appearance and when it does there is no room for error. You can’t even stop running as that monster is always right behind you. Once you have passed over the threshold the game reverts back to the same graffiti laden corridors.
Cutscenes in the game do look nice with real life actors being used, but throughout the game the dialogue is woeful and voice acting is terrible. It plays as a parody of what Silent Hill once was.
Silent Hill – The Short Message PS5 Review – Final Thoughts
For a free game there is actually very little gaming involved. Most of the time you are aimlessly walking around an abandoned block of flats, reading newspaper cuttings and diary entries. I dare say it feels like a horror themed walking simulator.
The story ends up feeling like a checklist of subjects (see adult themes above) the developer wanted to name drop, more than a cohesive narrative or character study.
In short this is another failed Silent Hill revival that I feel Konami tried to force on the fans to keep them tided over until the release of Silent Hill 2 remaster which Bloober Team still haven’t given us a release date for. DON’T Download!