There's a job going for a freelance writer for a games magazine. I've got through the first round. They want me to send them a 600 word article... by tomorrow. o_o I haven't played a topical game in seven years! This is the best I could do... HARRY MASON AND THE HALF BAKED FRANCHISE? When it came to video game heroes, Harry Mason ticked all the boxes. He was dumb, badly animated and ran like he’d had an accident in his boxers. And later this year fans will have the chance to play him again with the release of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the latest instalment of the cult horror franchise. A welcome return to form? Or a half-baked attempt at nostalgia? Since 'Team Silent' first yielded the franchise to American developers after Silent Hill 3, the subsequent incarnations, arcade version and movie have all sought to recapture the Silent Hill magic. But just what is this magic, and how did Silent Hill first get that beautiful and terrifying hold on us? What most players remember about the original Silent Hill was its poor production values and how, rather than letting these impede the game, Team Silent used them to enhance the overall atmosphere. The monsters were half-seen, ill-formed, and the horror of not knowing what you were fighting left no time to complain about the combat engine. Played as it should be without auto-aiming and infinite ammo, combat in Silent Hill was a clumsy affair with all the realism you should expect from battling a pterodactyl from hell. Indeed, the surest tactic was to forget the rusty pipes and run like a maniac to the nearest functioning door. With this the game’s biggest flaw became its biggest plus and the sense of survival horror was captured. Mood was paramount to Silent Hill. Musician Akira Yamaoka of Team Silent provided a haunting soundtrack, and his combination of rock beats and melancholy melodies was just one audio contradiction used to great effect. Team Silent made a point of using silence, with whole parts of the game completely unaccompanied and others overlaid with industrial noises and infant weeping. The result was a psychological barrage where the sounds could scare you just as senseless as the visuals. But what truly defined Team Silent was something the games industry sadly lacks at present. They were a team of writers in the classic sense and applied the same craft to Silent Hill as any team of novelists or film-makers. In Harry Mason we had a believable protagonist - not the buff athletes of the Resident Evil games, but a flawed, out of shape, middle-aged man. Add the stupid dialogue, his amateur use of firearms and the wheezing fits that follow any serious exertion, and we had a very human protagonist. And above all, he was driven by something we could all relate to: the need to rescue a loved one. The story of Silent Hill is far from black and white. Harry’s protective fatherhood contrasts with the abusive motherhood of the game’s antagonist, Dahlia. There are characters like Lisa who you cannot save and characters like Kaufmann who you cannot figure out. Some monsters are malevolent while others are pitiful. And with multiple endings you can choose to save your allies, strike the face of God or murder your own child. These are the benchmarks by which Shattered Memories will be judged by Silent Hill fans. As we are reunited with Harry Mason, will we be thrown into a world of half-seens and half-heards, our senses bombarded till we are forced to run with racing hearts through the streets? And moreover, will we enter a story where there are no easy answers, where human impulses clash and some are saved while others are damned? Either our memories of Silent Hill will be shattered, or we may just be reminded of what a well-crafted and well-written game truly feels like.