Note: This is one of two reviews for Silent Hill 2. To see our review of the Original Xbox version click here.
It all started with me begrudgingly putting the Silent Hill 2 HD disc into my PS3. Once I had the courage to start the game I was introduced to opening credits with a frightening musical score but severely outdated cutscenes that were almost too blurry and pixelated to make out. After the cutscene, I was reintroduced to Silent Hill in full HD and this game’s protagonist, James Sunderland.
James Sunderland finds himself in Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his deceased wife asking him to meet her in their favorite place. Dumbfounded and curious I took control of James, instantly noticing the outdated controls and camera angles that may rank more horrifying than the game itself. After adapting to the controls I hesitantly entered the thick fog encompassing the ominous forest, knowing nothing good ever happens to those that are curious in a horror, but with the help of liquid courage I descended into Silent Hill. While transcending the forest I could hear noises in the distance and with every turn I made I expected some twisted creature to attack me but it never happened. After the forest, I stumbled upon a graveyard and was introduced to the first person in Silent Hill.
Once we departed ways, James finds himself at a construction site, but he is not alone. Here we are presented with our first otherly world encounter as well as our first weapon, the wooden plank. Battling took some time to figure out and was clunky at first, but once I got the hang of it, nothing could stop me and my wooden plank. However when I was discovering how to battle and went into the menu I encountered another enemy that would stay with me throughout my entire playthrough, a game breaking bug. The bug occured when leaving the menu screen and caused a 2-3 second delay before showing anything on screen, but during that time the world of Silent Hill remained active and could cause health loss if close to an enemy creature.
The creatures in Silent Hill kept the scare factor fresh for a main portion of the game from deformed mannequins to crazy axe wielding nurses. The scare factor didn’t last the full extent of the game and I was desensitized half way though. Although I wasn’t as scared as I was when I started I was still fully immersed and invested in James Sunderland and his story.
Before James’ story is revealed we meet several human NPCs that seem to be trapped in Silent Hill as well. Personally, I didn’t find any of these characters likable and hated Laura more than any villain in the game, but their overall backstories mostly revealed why they were in Silent Hill, from sexual abuse to murder. This game does a great job in telling a story with little narration. Towards the end, the creatures start to make sense and one could theorize that the people stuck in Silent Hill see different creatures and nightmares depending on their past.
As a survival horror veteran, I knew how bad the controls were back in this era of games and also the importance of conserving ammo and health drinks but other than the niche gameplay mechanics of an aged survival horror, the overall gameplay was lacking and stale. The boss battles lacked challenge. Every boss was beatable by running to one side of the room away from the boss and shooting, rinse and repeat until the boss it down. Key items to open new areas didn’t make much sense and were conveniently placed all over town. James also encounters various unrealistic scenarios such as jumping down eerie pits to progress through the story. Who in their right mind would jump down a pit without knowing how deep it is? Either James has a death wish or the town is really sadistic and loves playing mind games. However I did appreciate the refreshing feel of not having objects, clues, etc. handed to me as current gen games tend to do.
Silent Hill 2 is a solid game and has passed the test of time, however this rushed copy has three issues including bugs, glitches and design flaws that made me lose immersion during the gameplay, resulting in a decrease to my final score. Other than the menu glitch, which was pesky but also had a work around, my immersion was plagued by another bug. The development team in charge of the HD remake reduced the fog density which in turn revealed 3D plains the original development team hid using increased fog density. This issue was really apparent during the a scene where James had to cross the lake on a boat. The other issue I have with the game is the overall design of the final boss. The final boss had so much potential compared to the final boss in the original Silent Hill, but instead it was designed using the assets of the second boss making it fall flat.
Silent Hill 2 is a must play for survival horror fans and if you haven’t played it, do yourself a favor and do so now. If Silent Hill 2 HD for the PS3 was ranked on musical score and story alone it would rank a 9, but with it’s flaws Silent Hill 2 on the PS3 earns a 7.0/10.