Silent Hill 2 (PlayStation 2) review
"A few years ago, I was one of the many people who assumed Silent Hill was just going to be another Resident Evil. Turns out I was wrong, and Silent Hill actually turned out be a truly scary game with an original storyline. Sure, the storyline was confusing as hell (pun intended), but the atmosphere is where the game shined despite some spotty graphics and “collect the keys” gameplay. With Silent Hill 2, the graphics have been upgraded, the storyline is coherent, th..."
A few years ago, I was one of the many people who assumed Silent Hill was just going to be another Resident Evil. Turns out I was wrong, and Silent Hill actually turned out be a truly scary game with an original storyline. Sure, the storyline was confusing as hell (pun intended), but the atmosphere is where the game shined despite some spotty graphics and “collect the keys” gameplay. With Silent Hill 2, the graphics have been upgraded, the storyline is coherent, the gameplay is pretty much the same, but it’s still as creepy as games get. Thank god.
The protagonist James Sunderland is just an ordinary guy, like the hero of the last game. He has just received a letter from his wife. Spooky isn’t it? Well, the thing is she tragically died 3 years ago. In the letter she asks James to visit her at their “special place” in the resort town of Silent Hill. James decides to go to Silent Hill, but car troubles force him to take the forest trail into town (in a movie I wouldn’t let that cliché fly, but in a game it’s acceptable this one time). After meeting a disturbed woman in the woods he finally gets to the town. Turns out the whole place is deserted except for disgusting monsters roaming the streets!
The only way to find out what’s going on it to go to the “special place” mentioned in the letter. James meets a few people in Silent Hill and all of them are so intriguing in their motives and back-story that they sometimes outshine the main character. This is very story-driven game, and where other games end up being cheesy when the drama occurs, Silent Hill 2 shines, which makes the whole game more intense since you actually care for characters.
As I said previously, the game hasn’t evolved all that much in terms of gameplay. You fight off (or just run away from) hordes of disgusting creatures in dark, spooky areas. James finds some guns and a wide array of melee weapons. Some of the melee weapons include a huge sword that would make Cloud jealous, a wooden plank with a rusty nail at the end, and a rod. Running is sometimes the only thing to do, since ammo can be sparse and James’ aim is bit crappy. He also moves a bit sluggishly, so backing up can be problematic. Thankfully there are 2 different types of movement that can be set in the options menu. All buttons can be customized to fit your needs. Thankfully, there are 3 difficulty options for fighting in the game, so newbies can dive right into the game while getting adjusted to the slightly cumbersome controls.
Of course, what survival horror wouldn’t be complete with out lots of puzzles? Clues are cleverly strewn throughout the dilapidated areas, and there is even different difficulty levels for the puzzles, so people who hate having to think can make things easier while puzzle freaks will enjoy wracking their brain trying to solve the brainteasers. It’s too bad that most of the puzzles just give you keys of some sort. When Silent Hill 2 first game out the “find the key to unlock the door” formula was getting a bit stale, and now it’s totally rotten. If the item you’re looking for isn’t a key, then it’s an item to get a key. Having to trek halfway across town just to find one item isn’t fun. It is also totally unnecessary. Hopefully not many future survival horror games consist of finding so many damn keys.
Despite the gameplay, I was actually able to overlook it because of the amazing atmosphere. Honestly, the pinnacle of Silent Hill 2 is the creepy and foreboding atmosphere. A grainy filter is utilized, so the game has an old VHS tape look to it. The filter works perfectly in this game. It’s hard to believe how spooky something like an apartment complex can actually be. The flashlight James uses is an excellent way to create suspense. Imagine walking down a dark empty hallway and all you see is wherever your flashlight shines. The radio that James has emits static whenever a creature is nearby. So not only can you barely see, all you can hear is the radio static gradually getting louder and louder. The creatures’ howls and screams will make you jump whenever they’re heard and the loud clanging noise that seems to happen randomly is a solid, albeit cheap, scare.
A great attention of detail has been paid to the environments you explore. Blood streaks, decaying walls and strange writings all add up to a creepy experience. The outside locations are intentionally filled with fog, making it harder to see what’s around you, so I was freaked out even more. The best way to describe the atmosphere is to picture the opening apartment scene from the movie Se7en, only with disturbing monsters occupying the place.
James moves incredibly realistically thanks to the exceptional animation. The klutz even trips once in a while, so it becomes easy to empathize with the hapless hero- something most horror movies should strive to do. All the characters emotions are conveyed effectively during the CG scenes, which is an impressive feat considering the amazing storyline that unfolds. They all look and feel like real people, which is part of the reason you care about them so much. The voice acting is some of the best I have seen in a videogame. Not once do you get the feeling that the voice actors ruined some of the drama, although there are occasionally awkward pause in the dialogue. The few noticeable tracks sound great. The best track “samples” bits from the first Silent Hill and turns out to be quality, alternative song. The creatures’ howls and screams will make you jump whenever they’re heard. So will the loud clanging noise that seems to happen somewhat randomly.
This game is just oozing of creepy atmosphere, memorable characters and a gripping storyline. The gameplay is second string when compared to such fine features. If you’re looking for a great story and terrifying scares, then don’t read a book- just play Silent Hill 2. It really is the high point of the series and the one game that other survival horror titles are judged by.
Community review by djskittles (December 07, 2004)
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