For those who might be a bit out of the loop on the most recent set of rumors and speculations concerning the potential revival of the Silent Hill franchise, you’ll be glad to know there is yet another development in the non-stop swirling torrent of hearsay surrounding the long since dead survival horror series. This time, however, the conversation is about something that is actually confirmed; Bloober Team and Konami have entered into some sort of partnership. According to Konami, the new working relationship is vaguely described as a “Strategic cooperation agreement” and it will involve “jointly developing selected contents and exchanging know-how”. Which isn’t exactly shedding light on much in terms of detail. But a few things about this partnership and the announcement of it do stand out.
First, Bloober Team is of course known for their moderately long history of developing games in the horror genre. If you’ve ever played Blair Witch, Layers of Fear, Observer, or The Medium, then you have played a Bloober Team game. For Konami to want to work with them seems to point towards one big franchise under their umbrella; Silent Hill. Unless of course, on the off chance that they’re looking to revive their game adaptations of The Thing or Saw, but I think we can safely assume that’s probably not the case. Secondly, the timing. Konami is many things, but blind is not one of them. Surely, they have seen the recent swelling of interest in Silent Hill, so is it really just a coincidence that they would announce this strategic partnership with a developer that’s widely known for their horror games at such a time? My money is on no. Even if what that Konami and Bloober Team are working on isn’t a Silent Hill game per se, surely, odds are, whatever the fruits of this partnership are will ultimately contribute to a Silent Hill game in some way.
But then that brings us to the very reasonable question to ask; is Bloober Team a good fit for Silent Hill? Make no mistake, we’re not just talking about any random survival horror IP, here. This isn’t Blue Stinger or Overblood. Silent Hill is an incredibly important franchise to its genre and gaming as a whole, and it deserves nothing less than the utmost care, especially considering the ill-gotten treatment it’s received in recent years with spin-off dungeon crawlers, bad movies, degrading pachinko machines, and the one promising project we saw glimmers of with P.T. getting unceremoniously cancelled. With a track record that goes all the way back to 2010, which includes 5 pretty decent horror games, the experience for Bloober Team is certainly there – at least on paper. Even though the better games from Bloober Team still aren’t necessarily widely regarded as unmissable horror classics, with 5 competent games being released in the fairly short time-frame of just 5 years, which is as long as some teams take to make just one game, the team is clearly well-versed in the nuts and bolts of the genre and has proven they know how to get these sorts of projects off the ground and over the finish line.
This is more than can be said for Double Helix, the studio whose lap Konami dropped the franchise into despite having no discernible experience in horror whatsoever, and ended up making what many consider to be the first truly unimpressive game in the series with Silent Hill: Homecoming. Bloober Team also has the variety of what they’ve produced on their side. With everything from mobile and DS games back in the early 20-teens, to Basement Crawl which we will promptly ignore, to their eventual horror arc. This started with Layers of Fear, which was decidedly and delightfully disturbing, then Observer which was arguably more of a mystery/psychological adventure game with horror elements, then of course Layers of Fear 2, Blair Witch, and The Medium which admittedly had mixed results, but more importantly, were all a little different in how they approached their horror, and thus, created different flavors of it. The value of the unique experience gained from that level of variety outside of and within the horror genre that Bloober Team has, if leveraged creatively enough, could potentially yield an equally unique perspective for Silent Hill that nobody else, from Team Silent to Hideo Kojima, could ever dream up. Whether or not that perspective would end up being a better Silent Hill game is of course debatable, but I could definitely see Bloober Team being uniquely positioned to provide a fresh take nonetheless.
Of course, there’s also plenty of reason to think Bloober Team is not the right pick at this time. While they have churned out some decent horror games in a strikingly efficient manner, none of them really set the world on fire. Layers of Fear was arguably their best work in the genre, but even it still doesn’t really begin to approach the overwhelming atmospheric tension or narrative mastery on display in the early Silent Hill games. For Bloober to make something that can stand among those games with any degree of dignity, they would need to make their best game to date. Nothing less. It’s also worth pointing out that there are other teams out there, right now, that are making superior horror games to anything Bloober Team has done so far. SadSquare Studio, the folks behind the exceptional game Visage, for example, would fit the bill nicely as they have shown an impressive knack for the more cerebral, atmospheric horror that Silent Hill is known for with just that one game, which has its roots in P.T. anyway. So in a way, they already kind of have a head start.
There are also the folks at Creative Assembly, despite being a team much more well-known for their strategy games, they also made Alien Isolation which was one of the finer horror games of the last generation and is regularly – and rightly – brought up in “best horror games ever” conversations. I would also trust the steady hands of Frictional Games as their work on the original Amnesia and SOMA have been nothing short of outstanding. There’s also Kojima Productions whose qualifications I really shouldn’t have to explain. Not to knock Bloober Team, but with so many exciting and interesting choices out there to carry the torch for Silent Hill, I can’t blame people for being a little puzzled and perhaps even dismayed at Bloober Team getting the nod – if that is indeed what is happening.
You could certainly have either perspective on the matter at this point and be justified. There is a case to be made that Bloober Team is more than capable of taking this on and doing something great with it, but there is just as compelling a case to point to other studios that might have been better suited for the job. Based on what we know so far, if this is what we think it is, I think I lean a little toward the former. While Bloober Team is probably not the team I would have chosen, I can definitely see a path for them to bring something uniquely interesting to the series given their experience and versatility. It might be something I would have to approach with an open mind, but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s finally time to let the P.T. dream go, and let a different mindset have a turn at the wheel. Afterall it was the fresh take on survival horror of Team Silent that made the original 3 Silent Hill games so great anyway. Just like it was the completely different perspective Kojima and Del Toro brought to the table that made P.T. such a remarkable experience. Perhaps now it’s time for Bloober Team to exhume this corpse of a franchise and reanimate it their own way.
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