Silent Hill is back and this time for real. Even Konami itself apparently forgot about the negatively received interactive series Ascension, because The Short Message https://twitter.com/SilentHill/status/1752856106412749057 for the first game in the new phase of the entire series, which has been on the ice for quite some time. There has been speculation about this game for a very long time, it even got a rating a long time ago, but it eventually disappeared. And when it was slowly thought that the title had been completely canceled, at the State of Play event we saw not only an announcement, but also a release, and the game is also available for free. Purely in theory, anyone who owns a PlayStation 5 console can try it out. But you should be warned in advance that this is not a game for everyone.
- Platform: PlayStation 5
- Date of publication: 1/2/2024
- Developer: Konami, HexaDrive
- Publisher: Konami
- Genre: Psychological horror
- Czech localization: No
- Multiplayer: No
- Data to download: 12GB
- Game time: 2 hours
- Price: Free (PlayStation Store)
(From) serious topics
In Silent Hill: The Short Message, you take on the role of teenager Anita, living in a fictional German town where life really isn’t fun and both attempts to “revive” the dying Kettenstadt have ended in failure. At the request of her friend Maya, Anita finds herself in an abandoned building, but something is definitely not right with it. And he can’t seem to get out until he finds “something”.
The developers have already claimed in an article on the PlayStation Blog that the game tries to cover the problems of today’s youth and serious topics. But I really didn’t expect it to be so strong. If you are not going through a pleasant period of your life, you should probably save the game for another time, because these two hours are full of depression and negative emotions or thoughts. However, this is by far the greatest advantage of the entire game.
It deals with topics such as suicide, bullying, child abuse or psychological problems, which are all things that are finally not as taboo as they used to be in recent times, but still, there are not so many games that dare to deal with similar topics. But above all, serious topics are handled with sensitivity and, together with the central and very strong story line, which offers more than one twist, creates a complete experience.
This is also helped by the excellent acting, especially by Anita, played by Fadile Waked. You quickly find your way to the characters and perceive their suffering, which is portrayed in a frighteningly realistic way. After finishing the game, you will definitely be glad that you don’t have to live in Kettenstadt, but at the same time, you won’t forget this experience.
In terms of gameplay, it’s nothing new. Basically, it’s a classic Layers of Fear-style “walking simulator” where you walk and interact with the environment, don’t expect any puzzles (except for one minor one). You read various newspaper articles and other documents, but you also communicate using text messages. It is the mobile phone that Anita always has with her and also serves as the main source of light.
For the overall experience, the gameplay method seemed well chosen, which is why I was unpleasantly surprised that the authors somehow tried to force the game into the game by pushing passages, the fear of all games of this genre. As in the vast majority of them, they are not scary, but just frustrating. I don’t know when the developers will finally understand that it just can’t be done that way. Actually, I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it weren’t for the very last sequence, which is designed downright awful, so I gave up and watched the end of the game on YouTube, which I also recommend to all readers. This way, you will enjoy the title much more and save yourself unnecessary frustration.
A rollercoaster of emotions and images
And I will follow up with the second big problem – the frame rate. The game offers no display modes and automatically targets 60 FPS. The problem is that almost from the first moments, it clearly “doesn’t keep up” and the frame rate visibly drops, which was confirmed by the subsequent test.
Although the title manages to hold a stable 60 in some places, in the vast majority of cases the frame rate is like a roller coaster, which does not save even VRR. There is a minimum limit of 48 Hz on the PS5, but the frame rate falls far below it (and there is also some traversal stuttering). I don’t understand why the game doesn’t offer an option to lock to 30 (or 40) FPS, which would at least offer a consistent spectacle.
Beautiful audio visual
It’s a shame, because in terms of graphics, the game looks really nice, whether it’s the lighting, the details of the environment (which can be heavily transformed, as is usual in the series) or the character models. It is interesting that it was created in Unreal Engin 5, because its appearance and UI style reminded me strongly of the new Resident Evils running on RE Engin in many moments.
Anyway, the visuals are a big strength of Short Message, thanks to the great aesthetics, including a rather imaginative monster, whose design was worked on by none other than Masahiro Ito, the creator of the legendary Pyramid Head.
In addition, the game not only relies on in-game graphics and cutscenes (which sometimes switch to 3rd person view), but also on animated films that serve primarily as flashbacks and act as a very pleasant addition.
The game is also great in terms of audio. It is precisely the sounds that complete the overall, very disturbing atmosphere. And so is the music, including the final song in the closing credits, by another well-known name, composer Akira Jamaoka.
I would like to end the entire review on a positive note. Although the game has two rather serious flaws – unstable frame rate and racing passages, otherwise I was very pleasantly surprised. Nice visuals are complemented by great audio, and above all, an emotional story full of serious and bold themes for a video game.
This is a very successful experimental project that is definitely worth your two hours of time. Honestly, I can’t fully judge how the game will be received by hardcore fans of the series, as it is a title that is only remotely connected to the overall lore. But personally, I’m a fan of fresh ideas and I’m glad that we got such a game from Konami.
Silent Hill: The Short Message
- A very powerful story full of serious themes
- Nice graphics and overall aesthetics
- Excellent acting
- Great sound design and ambient music
- An unconventional combination of in-game cutscenes and animated movies
It bothers us
- Frustrating chase passages
- Extremely unstable frame rate