We have an excerpt from EGM's interview with lead artist Brian Horton and lead designer Jason Allen of The Collective, as well as a video preview of the game with the first footage and a video interview featuring Konami's Akira Yamaoka. Read on for the interview, and head over to our Silent Hill 5 [Register or Login to view links] for the video preview and Yamaoka interview.
EGM: As a Silent Hill fan, when I heard that a Western team was taking it over, automatically skepticism, trepidation... "How are they going to destroy my beloved franchise? What are they going to do to it? Is it going to be a first-person shooter?" But instead of that, I think you guys -- from what I've seen -- are staying true to the original heritage but evolving it. What was your approach to making this game?
BH: On an art side, obviously we want to maintain what everyone... I mean everyone knows that Silent Hill is known for its high quality assets. So we wanted to make sure we maintain the atmosphere, the strong characters, the rich environments... So for my job, it was just to make sure I could take the spirit of what was done in the past and really bring it forward with the next generation system.
JA: From a design perspective it's the same thing. If I were to change the game, it ceases to be Silent Hill. And Silent Hill has got very specific characteristics associated with gameplay so I have to be true to those when we're making the game, but at the same time, I want to make sure that it's approachable and playable from the perspective of people who aren't necessarily used to playing the series, who aren't traditional fans. So I want to make sure that they too can play and get enjoyment out of it without at the same time diluting the gameplay that is Silent Hill. So that was really the approach that we looked at.
EGM: Because this character as a soldier, you know, is not just "every guy off the street" -- he has more skills -- can you tell people what to expect from the combat?
JA: Well the combat is essentially a system where you have light and heavy attacks: you can counter out those attacks at any time, you can use dodges and counter out of dodges, but the idea is to maintain fluidity. We want the player to feel he is not at all stilted when he is interacting with these characters, so that -- if he's got a group of enemies to fight -- he can choose which one based on their positioning that he wants to deal with first. So if this one is a greater threat, then I'm going to deal with this and I can maneuver myself into the best position, maybe to buy myself a bit of time before I deal with my next opponent, but really our focus is fluidity to ensure the player feels comfortable in the system.
BH: In order to do that, you want to make sure that the enemies are equally difficult so since our character is a little more capable, we want to make sure our enemies are that much more dangerous; so it hits you a couple of times, you're done for. So, really there's going to be a heavy focus still on the tension and being afraid. As soon as you're empowered you tend to lose fear, so I think it's still a very scary experience to fight these characters.
EGM: In past Silent Hill games, a lot of gamers just run past the enemies because they don't see you, they don't follow you.... That doesn't work anymore?
BH: No. We definitely spent a lot of time making sure that the A.I. was taken to the next level. In addition to that, the motion style of these characters, I think, we borrowed from the past; we wanted to make sure they had that jilted, staccato style where you couldn't quite anticipate what they'd do next. But we've layered in many, many additional animations, so each character has at least seven different walk cycles, and they're dynamically blending between those things so you can't quite anticipate exactly what they're going to do -- they look very frightening coming towards you. And when you go to close a door in the past Silent Hill games, they were blocked off to you; now they'll open those doors right up and still pursue you, so it's a lot more frenetic compared to what [players have] seen in the past.
EGM: So the game begins in Sheppard's Glen, and then eventually, ostensibly, you go to Silent Hill. Can you talk about what parts of Silent Hill you go to, and for returning fans, what can they look forward to seeing again?
BH: We wanted to make sure we paid a certain amount of time and attention in Silent Hill. We did want to enter Sheppard's Glen because we felt there were a lot of possibilities you could do with a new town, but Silent Hill, we really wanted to make sure that fans were retreading some territory that they do know, and even expanding on that territory. So we're using the landscape that was in Silent Hill 1 as a basis and expanding from there, and also showing you a version of Silent Hill that I don't think fans have seen yet.
JA: We looked at the spaces and we paid particular attention to the maps of all the previous games -- what spaces were explored, where places were, what was available to us in the landmass, what areas were where potentially we could add a few things that doesn't interfere with the canon that's already established. We looked at those things, and as Brian said, we wanted to make sure the player feels grounded in that space, where he goes through and visits places that he's been to or she's been to and is very familiar with, but at the same time now they get to explore somewhere else that was maybe behind the building or to the right, or somewhere else they hadn't been to before, and it's like "oh this makes this world a lot more rich to me because I'm learning something else about the town that perhaps I wasn't aware of before."