(This is another edition of /RANT, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
Recently, Hideo Kojima set the brains of fans ablaze by registering his interest in the Silent Hill series. The Metal Gear director started thinking of Konami’s other big franchise after borrowing the movie spin-off from a friend, and detailed how much he’d love to see someone use his team’s FOX Engine to power the game. Kojima went so far as to say he was “envious” of the possibilities of using FOX — having it power a game that could squeeze the maximum graphical potential out of the engine thanks to its claustrophobic, closed environments. Naturally, there’s only one thing to say to Kojima — FUCKING DO IT!
The man behind Metal Gear has tried multiple times to step away from the franchise he created, yet gets pulled back every time due to fan demand. The man has made it clear in the past that he yearns for something fresh, and I believe having him tackle Silent Hill would truly be the best of both worlds — fans would see him take on an established franchise within the Konami family, and he’d get his chance to do something different. What’s more, after a string of controversial American developers taking stabs at Silent Hill, a Japanese studio would likely be welcomed with open arms by the series’ perpetually enraged fanbase — and Kojima would be the perfect Japanese director for the job.
Silent Hill, until more recent efforts, was famed for its psychological horror. That’s what it did. While Resident Evil was doing a fine job of bringing B-movie stories and jump scares to life, Silent Hill went darker, deeper, and attacked the very mentality of the player. So potent was the pure fear in these games, that even long stretches with no acti0n at all managed to terrify players. It was a game that got in your head, and exploited your meager brain for its own nefarious ends. Sound like someone we all know and love? Hideo Kojima is Silent Hill personified! Few developers have been so good at exploiting fans’ emotions and fears — whether it’s tricking people into thinking Metal Gear Solid 4 would be a first-person shooter, or notoriously bait-and-switching the protagonist in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Kojima has infuriated and impressed his audience many times over the years, and it’s all because he knows his audience perfectly. He knows what gamers think, how they feel, and he’s successfully manipulated us like he’s the Hannibal Lecter of videogames.
Kojima’s mastery of the audience’s mind goes beyond simple trolling and misdirection. Let us not forget the classic boss fight against Psycho Mantis, in which the fourth wall was repeatedly broken — Mantis would view our pasts by reading data off the PlayStation memory card, he’d screw with the game to make it look like it had glitched, and he’d predict our every move until we switched the controller to another port. The Metal Gear series has constantly pulled the rug out from under the player’s feet and done things we could never have expected. Whether we’re being told that our Fission has Mailed or we start having dreams about zombies, Metal Gear Solid found ways to surprise us and creep us out by reaching out to us … not just the characters we’re pretending to be on-screen. Metal Gear Solid acknowledges that it is a videogame, but rather than acknowledge it in a way that breaks our immersion, it draws us in deeper by directly including the player in the action. Now imagine Kojima’s ability to speak to us personally, to extend an arm from the videogame’s world into our own, and you try to tell me that he wouldn’t be capable of scaring the shit out of everybody.
It’s not like Metal Gear Solid has been averse to dabbling in horror. The build to the aforementioned battle with Psycho Mantis was notably creepy, as the psychic reached into sidekick Meryl’s mind and toyed with us. In the same game, we also had the stark corridor full of Ninja’s victims — the dying and the dead, soaked in blood, with silence the only accompanying sound. The latter chapter of Metal Gear Solid 2, when the Patriots reveal themselves to Raiden, was deeply scary in a number of ways, while the battle against The Sorrow in Snake Eater was atmospheric, eerie, and highly inventive. These sequences were but small parts of a larger game, yet each were so effective in their own way that they left deep lasting impressions. The series’ ability to craft horrifying backstories, haunting atmospheres, and downright chilling scenarios is evidenced, and I think Kojima Productions has shown itself to be more tuned into what makes great interactive horror than most of the leading horror titles on the market today.
Most crucial of all — Hideo Kojima is insane. I’m sure of it. The man’s balls-mental and I think we need that kind of madness in the Silent Hill series. Later titles have been pretty damn conventional. Even Silent Hill: Downpour, which I genuinely enjoyed, didn’t stray too far from typical Hollywood horror tropes, and even its selection of monsters were little more inspired than spooky zombie creatures. Just imagine what the man who has conjured hornet telepaths, geriatric plant-people, and giggling women strapped into gigantic octopus robots could bring to the perverse and grisly world of Silent Hill. Kojima’s mind is a car crash of weird philosophies and twisted bodily horror — I would argue that few people are more qualified than he to bring Silent Hill back to the truly unnerving realm that once it inhabited.
I say this with the utmost confidence — Hideo Kojima is THE man who should be directing a Silent Hill game right now. The very thought of it makes me more excited than should be healthy. If Kojima’s serious about his envy, then he should step up and take charge. If Konami is serious about a series it seems lost with right now, it should give its best asset a chance with the property. It makes too much sense for Konami to endorse, but we can always dream.
Hideo Kojima is the human form of Silent Hill, and as such, there’s no developer more equal to the task.