Silent Hill fans have been having a particularly good year for once. With the announcement of multiple Silent Hill-related projects in development including but not limited to a Japanese-themed Silent Hill game that looks a lot like Koei Tecmo’s amazing Fatal Frame franchise as well as a from-the-ground-up remake of Silent Hill 2.
But all of those are projects that are well off in the future with little to no details about what they will look like. Fortunately, however, there are plenty of places where fans of Silent Hill (and survival horror in general) can satisfy their cravings, but almost none of them are as effective as Rose engine’s SIGNALIS.
SIGNALIS manages the impossible, to perfectly encapsulate the spirit and tone of Team Silent’s best works and channel it into something truly original. It captures some of the best aspects of Silent Hill’s psychological horror and Resident Evil’s survival horror to make a truly intense and captivating horror experience.
It’s a special experience that carefully manages to do what the Silent Hill series had been desperately trying after Silent Hill 4. Instead of a constant Silent Hill 2 jerk-off session, it knows what made Silent Hill such a captivating series in the first place.
SIGNALIS understands that Silent Hill wasn’t just about the guilt, the vague storytelling, James’ sexual frustrations or a specific feeling in particular. Silent Hill is the moment when Lisa’s reality breaks down in front of her, it’s when Angela succumbs to the town’s embrace, it’s Heather accepting herself for who she is. Above all, Silent Hill is a deeply human experience.
The series has consistently told some of the most genuine stories in the gaming medium, and that’s what made it the success it eventually became. This is why it’s a disservice to SIGNALIS to keep comparing it to Silent Hill, yes, the inspirations are obvious.
Both games have you looking for a loved one, both Silent Hill and SIGNALIS has the protagonist slowly journey down and down, descending not only physically but mentally. Hell, SIGNALIS has a full level that feels like it was straight out of Silent Hill 1. A particularly favorite moment of mine was a callback to the original Resident Evil.
There’s a small room that you can enter to solve a puzzle, and the room constantly has a cover of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata playing in the background, a piece that you had to play on a piano in the original Resident Evil in order to solve a puzzle.
Yet it’s so much bigger than its influences.
SIGNALIS tells a very human story with people who are literally androids, while also making them feel like genuine humans. It’s about finding your lover while fighting through literal hell, undoing an endless cycle of death and brutality to accomplish a singular task.
It’s the realization that in a cruel, indifferent universe, heaven can be found within someone else. SIGNALIS is depressing and it is beautiful.
One of my favorite moments in the game, and one of my favorite gaming moments of this year now that I think about it, happens in the second half of the game. You play through a flashback as an LSTR(one of the Android units in the game that you play as), going through a familiar area before everything went wrong.
After some exploration, you go to your partner. LSTR and her share an intimate kiss and then they start slow dancing to Schubert’s “Serenade”, a beautiful classical piece that heightens the beauty of an already surprisingly emotional and melancholic scene.
It’s a scene that lasts barely 2 minutes, but it’s also by far one of the most personal and human moments I’ve seen in any video game. Minimal dialogue, no voice acting, yet the writing and atmosphere convey a warm, comfortable and familiar emotion.
It’s a huge tonal departure from what the rest of the game had been up to that point. Scary, intense, oppressive, and then out of nowhere wholesome, beautiful, melancholic.
Moments like these elevate SIGNALIS to a level most horror games can’t reach. Rarely does horror in games convey emotion as well as it does in SIGNALIS.
All of this is heightened by wonderful score by Cicada Sirens and 1000 Eyes that call back to some of the best of Yamaoka’s works. From loud, industrial tracks that sound like a hunk of metal thrashing against a wall to soft, melancholic tracks that elevate the game’s most emotional moments.
One of the strongest aspects of this game however is its presentation. The cutscenes in Signalis are wonderfully created with flashes of seemingly random shots and pieces of text interspersed between what’s actually going on. It is very reminiscent of one of Studio Shaft’s anime, the Monogatari series.
The series employs a similar filmmaking technique to convey its story and it is yet again, one of the standout aspects of the series.
Speaking of anime, the very soul of influential manga and anime like BLAME! resonates within the eerie landscapes and the stylized character designs of SIGNALIS.
Moreover, the game also references other works of Japanese animations such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in The Shell. It’s a game that wears its influences like a badge of honor and it feels like a genuine treat to fans of Sci-fi and Cyberpunk fiction.
SIGNALIS is one of those rare survival horror games that gets nearly everything right, tense enemy encounters, tight resource management, frequent backtracking, and some of the best puzzles in the survival horror genre.
Seriously what was up with these puzzles? They were insanely good! Striking the perfect balance between just difficult enough but not to the extent where they had me desperately looking up guides.
Everyone is arguing whether their Game of The Year would be God of War or Elden Ring and as someone who had comfortably placed Elden Ring as a permanent number one for his Game of The Year, the moment I reached the end credits of SIGNALIS, I just had one thought in my mind.
“This is the best game I’ve played all year” For once, I was more confident about a game than I have been in ages.
If you’re a Silent Hill fan who has dearly missed how the series used to be and wants a new game that recognizes the spirit of the series, SIGNALIS will be among your favorite releases of this year.
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