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Being A Silent Hill Fan Is A Lot Like Living In Silent Hill

Look at how they massacred my Maria!

Maria as depicted in the Silent Hill 2 remake
Konami, Bloober Team

Yesterday during an online presentation from Konami, we got a new trailer and a look at the gameplay for the Silent Hill 2 remake developed by Bloober Team. I have concerns.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: being a Silent Hill fan is pain. The current offerings for the franchise are uneven at best, unintentionally hilarious at worst. In many ways, the franchise is still living in the shadow of Konami’s last false start—the canceled Hideo Kojima-directed Silent Hills, which players only got to experience in the form of the “playable teaser” P.T., which is now unavailable to play at all. A remake of the beloved Silent Hill 2 feels like an attempt to win back the crowd from Konami. But based on what we’ve seen so far, I am not sure that Bloober Team really understand why this series and this game specifically have inspired such long term obsession from fans.

All of the basic pieces of Silent Hill 2 are present. James Sunderland still receives a message from his dead wife Mary, telling him to meet her in Silent Hill, their “special place.” He still wanders through decrepit buildings in the dark, the atmosphere slowly changing around him as he goes deeper into the horrors. The gameplay showcase and trailer portray many specific beats from the original version of Silent Hill 2, including James following a strange little girl into a creepy school, the unrelenting fog, and beating a monster to death with a four by four with nails stuck in it.

But it also features new, unfamiliar additions to the game. The original game had a fixed camera, which has now been changed to a third person, movable camera. Both versions of the game have a sparse UI, but the original had these charming, chunky serif fonts that are now replaced with something smoother and more modern. Most jarringly, the characters look subtly different and the facial animations, while expressive, sometimes go over the top. These are all concessions to modernity—I also just don’t like them.

Silent Hill is all about mood and tone. It’s about echoing footsteps and barely lit hallways—and especially about the subtextual representations of James’ psyche that the world of Silent Hill projects around him. If you get that wrong, then the whole story kind of falls apart, or at least won’t have the same impact as the original. 

In Konami’s presentation about the state of Silent Hill 2, Bloober Team’s creative director and lead designer Mateusz Lenart said something to that effect, but in a way that makes me frustrated: “Our goal from the very beginning was to maintain the game’s atmosphere, while modernizing the gameplay to make it competitive in 2024.”

I know there’s an element of nostalgia in not wanting to see the modern UI elements Bloober Team showed and in preferring the dithered pixels of the Playstation 2 era graphics. But more than that, there are specific design choices in Bloober Team’s Silent Hill 2 remake that are just baffling. In particular, I straight up hate what they did to Maria. Instead of wearing a cropped cardigan, choker and mini skirt—famously, the exact same outfit Christina Aguilera wore to the 1999 Teen Choice Awards—she wears a sensible A-line dress and maroon leather jacket. As one of my Twitter followers said, she looks like a side character from the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The vibes are rancid.

Spoilers for the 23 year old Silent Hill 2 but, in the old game, Maria looks exactly like James’ dead wife Mary. She’s a classic femme fatale, which is an enduring character archetype that originates in pulp fiction and film noir. She’s sexy, she uses that sexuality to further her own goals, she’s got a secret and she plays all her cards very close to her chest. More than that, she’s also part of the psychological trap that Silent Hill has set for James. All of the monsters—the sexy nurses, the two pairs of women’s legs stuck to each other, even the infamous Pyramid Head—are manifestations of his desire for his wife and his resentment of her illness. Maria is all that guilt and desire made flesh. Against the bleak, foggy landscape of Silent Hill, her pink leopard print pencil skirt is a specific temptation to him, a projection of his sexual attraction to his wife and his hatred of her for not being fuckable on her deathbed.

While I can understand some hesitance to recreate Maria’s old outfit, I’m frustrated because, well, every single element of that outfit is currently on trend. Every time I leave my house, I see beautiful women dressing either like Christina Aguilera in 1999 or my older brother in 2001 when he was a huge Korn fan (cargo pants! I could not have predicted the cargo pant revival!). Nostalgia for that period of time is at its peak with the generation younger than me, and that’s reflected in fashion.

You can buy a pink cropped cardigan, usually styled without a shirt underneath, at Nordstrom right now. Cropped cardigans are an inescapable trend that have been in style for most of last year and all of this one. Similarly, animal prints like leopard print are back in style. As noted in this analysis from Vogue, you can trace this trend back to Mel B, also known as Scary Spice from the Spice Girls, who wore leopard print like it was her official uniform, as well as the ongoing “indie sleaze” revival that is basically an attempt to recapture the version of New York City that made me want to move here. Chokers are on trend right now—you can trust this article about jewelry trends from Elle or just take a look at almost any female streamer on Twitch. Non-functional statement belts are also back in style, to my chagrin, and their trendiness was noted as recently as this 2024 fall/winter fashion week street style feature from Vogue. This is an outfit hot women wear, in real life, in the current day. It didn’t need updating! Maria could do a photoshoot for Vogue at this exact moment in time.

I am not the only fan upset by the change to Maria’s outfit. YouTuber BobVids, also known as Bob, is a prolific and enthusiastic fan of the franchise. Over Discord messages, he told me a little about his issues with this redesign, which he called an “unforced error.”

“I've never seen so many people collectively saddened to not see leopard print and that's for a good reason,” he said.

But Bob said that it’s about more than just fidelity to the original. It’s about how Maria as a character plays into the entire story of Silent Hill 2. He also noted that some of the character animations in the trailer appear to portray Maria as more subdued and demure than she is in the original game, where she is not shy about her sexuality and the effect it has on others.

“To me, Maria is intimidating as hell. She's confident, crafty, sexy, and she knows it. She's intimidating because she knows it,” Bob said. “One of the first things Maria does in the original game is take James' hand and put it on her chest while saying ‘feel how warm I am?’”

“There's a reason Maria is in the town with James, and it has a lot to do with how James feels about his late wife and women in general,” he continued. “The changes in Maria's outfit and attitude seem to signify not only how Bloober Team want to alter Maria, but also how they are changing James to alter or outright remove aspects of his personality that are central themes of the game that fans have been mentally chewing on for decades now.”

This is all to say: not only is Maria’s outfit from the original game an important aspect of her character and James’ story arc, it is a perfectly realistic, even fashionable outfit for a woman to wear in 2024. Not to be melodramatic, but the way that Bloober Team have missed the mark on how this character’s sexuality is visually expressed as well as the actual reality of what people wear in 2024 to signify sexiness makes me want to yell into a paper bag. This should have been a no-brainer, but we ended up with a character who looks like a sensible lawyer trying on an o-ring choker because her step-daughter said they were cool as opposed to a physical manifestation of James Sunderland’s misogyny.

I would love Konami and Bloober Team to help usher in a revival of Silent Hill as a franchise. I love the shit out of Silent Hill, and I’ve long wanted to show my husband, who has never played it, what makes the games so special. It would be amazing if this remake hit the same notes that the original did in 2001. But right now, I feel like I’m wading through the fog, desperately longing for something, not yet knowing that my ironic punishment is that I’ll get what I want, but not in the way I wanted it.

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