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Silent Hill HD Collection (Xbox 360) artwork

Silent Hill HD Collection (Xbox 360) review

"Maybe it's watching James descend down one deep hole after another…only to wind up outside on ground level with no indication that he'd been following a steadily declining path; or perhaps it's Heather having to frantically check doors in a shopping mall while constantly being chased by durable monsters she has nowhere near enough ammo to put down — these are not emotionally relaxing games."

Silent Hill HD Collection asset

If one doesn't have some sort of nostalgic affection for the old days of survival horror, it's hard to imagine them getting too much enjoyment from Silent Hill HD Collection. I mean, when I bought this XBox 360 disc containing both Silent Hill 2 and 3, I'd guess most of my first half-hour with it was devoured trying to re-familiarize myself with the clunky, tank-like controls that games of this ilk were infamous for possessing. In fact, every single time I've picked this one up, there's been a bit of an adjustment period where I bumble through things until muscle memory takes over.

Overlook that stumbling point, though, and you'll likely find the hellish locale of the town of Silent Hill to be pure heaven. Simply put, these games do horror right, delivering an atmosphere that starts out kind of creepy and then does nothing but get more and more so. A sense of dread coats everything in these games thanks to an ambience that takes glee in proving the "nothing is scarier" trope to be correct. To give just one example:

In Silent Hill 2, protagonist James Sunderland finds himself in an abandoned prison's restroom. One of the stalls is shut, so he knocks on the door to no response. As he turns to walk out of the room, a bloodcurdling scream is heard…but he'll never find out what may have made it. Just like he'll never see whoever (or whatever) is muttering a word sounding like "ritual" in those hallways lined with cells and just like the source of those galloping hooves in the jail's courtyard will also remain a mystery.

Moments like those pervade both games. Oftentimes, a player's psyche will be more threatened by the fear of the unknown than anything they actually do set eyes upon, as these Silent Hill games delight in messing with a person's mind. Outdoors, the terrain is typically dark and foggy, so you have to rely on your ears to help stay out of danger. A big gimmick in these games is that your character will quickly obtain a small radio which starts emitting static whenever monsters get close. In areas of low visibility, either due to the fog or awkward camera angles, that radio becomes a life-saver, telling you that something hostile is approaching long before you'll actually set eyes upon it. But not even this can prepare you for all the horrors this town has in store for unsuspecting visitors.

Silent Hill 3's Heather really has a rough time of it when she steps foot inside Brookhaven Hospital, a dungeon explored in both games in this collection. Not only does it seem like the inmate Stanley is stalking her around the place, but one particularly diabolical room is a nightmare come to life. Tendrils of blood will start oozing onto the floor in this room, which is dominated by a giant mirror. Her reflection will seemingly get "stuck" in the mess and stop moving no matter how active she really is. If Heather flees the room as soon as she's able, no harm is done…but if she's slow to move, she will eventually die. It's creepy and it's lethal, but her radio will not prepare her for it.

Silent Hill HD Collection asset

Even now, after I've played through both games, there are plenty of moments which can get to me. The longer I play either one, the more tense and unnerving the experience gets, as one creepy scene is replaced by the next and the next and I find myself starting to feel my sanity erode a bit under the strain and pressure my on-screen avatars must be feeling. Maybe it's watching James descend down one deep hole after another…only to wind up outside on ground level with no indication that he'd been following a steadily declining path; or perhaps it's Heather having to frantically check doors in a shopping mall while constantly being chased by durable monsters she has nowhere near enough ammo to put down — these are not emotionally relaxing games.

And even though I've been discussing them jointly so far, the second and third installments in this series are not the same game. In fact, I think when I initially reviewed their original PS2 versions that I may have been too hard on Silent Hill 3 simply due to its many differences from 2. Silent Hill 2 could easily be considered a gaiden game, while 3 eventually is exposed as somewhat of a sequel to the PlayStation's series originator. Both the first and third games involve people attempting to stop a cult from succeeding in their quest to bring back a godlike being which is centered in the town of Silent Hill. In the second game, the town seems to be a sort of purgatory — a place where people come to be judged (and likely punished severely) for their past sins, making it somewhat of a mystery as you try to figure out exactly why James has been brought there.

I found that really intriguing. It was the sort of thing that kept me playing because I had to solve the mystery and find out what happens next. Silent Hill 3's story wasn't as interesting and so I found myself fixating on its flaws. For the first time, the insanity wasn't confined to the town of Silent Hill, for example. Poor Heather is besieged by horrors in whatever city she lives in as she goes through a mall, subway, sewer system and office building before finally hitching a ride to the place where all this stuff is supposed to happen. I don't know…it just sort of detracts from the whole "Silent Hill" experience when someone apparently can snap their fingers and transform any old place into a dank, hellish location seemingly devoid of normal human beings…but cluttered by all sorts of hostile monsters.

Silent Hill HD Collection asset

Silent Hill 3 also takes away virtually all of the "town exploration" that the first two games had. Personally, I had a lot of fun running through the streets of Silent Hill in the first two games. You'd watch your road map gradually get altered to illustrate where roads were blocked off and what buildings you actually could enter and it really gave the experience of a lone person in unknown territory just trying to find their way around under adverse conditions such as heavy fog concealing all sorts of lethal obstacles. The sort of immersing thing that really puts the "horror" in survival horror. That isn't in Silent Hill 3 and the atmosphere suffers for it.

However, the difficulty is raised noticeably as a result. The simple truth is that for a person with any competence with these games, those outdoor regions are little more than easy ways to replenish ammo and health items, as the streets are wide and those slow-moving Silent HIll 2 enemies haven't a chance of keeping up with a sprinting James. In that game, the difficulty probably peaks midway through with the hospital. The undead nurses are powerful, durable and quite numerous, so I found myself low on all my supplies by the time I'd cleared that place. And then I spent the next 15-20 minutes leisurely strolling around the streets, running circles around monsters and picking up enough ammo and health items that I found myself able to cruise through the rest of the game.

You don't get that benefit in Silent Hill 3 as you get sent from one dungeon to another without those long walks down sparsely-populated streets. It seems like you're almost always in confined locales where dodging around monsters isn't always simplicity itself. But if you don't get good at dodging and using melee weapons, you'll get stuck in the same situation I was the first time I played this one — in the final dungeon, completely out of ammo and knowing there's next-to-no chance of getting through the final rooms in one piece. While 2 might have the most effective horror, the survival part of the equation is a good bit trickier in 3.

Silent Hill HD Collection asset

In short, I was more than happy with Silent Hill HD Collection. It combines the amazing depressive atmosphere of Silent Hill 2 with the series' third game, which was a decent bit more engaging than I remembered it due to its higher degree of challenge. Putting two fun games that I can see me coming back to time and time again on one disc is a sure-fire winner in my book; however, the lack of much additional content could be a turn-off to some. Both games have new voice acting and Silent Hill 2's sub-scenario "Born From a Wish" is included to give players a bit more insight into the enigmatic character of Maria, but that's it. Maybe it's a case of me being greedy, but it seems like Konami may have missed out in not including the original Silent Hill in this collection, especially considering its connection to the third game. But I'm not going to complain about this too much. I'm really enjoying the two games that are here and besides, knowing my luck, if they'd included a third game on this collection, they'd have stayed with the PS2 and I'd find myself having to stomach Silent Hill 4: The Room instead.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 30, 2013)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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zippdementia posted August 31, 2013:

Yeah, I'm playing this right now! Haven't been able to get far BECAUSE it is an emotionally distressing game and I've been dealing with too much stress at work to want to add more!
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maboroshi posted September 04, 2013:

there have been precious few games that have made me go "okay i need to put the controller down now" and Silent hill 2 is one of them, the only other ones that i can think of right now are "to the moon" and "spec ops: the line". Personally i consider SH2 and 3 to be excellent companions to each other,

SH2 focuses highly on the quiet and psychological kind of horror that i love, it's a very demure game, the otherworld isn't "dirty" it's very drab, subdued, subtle and sterile.

SH3 on the other hand is a bit more in your face, everything is disgustingly filthy and loud and the "industrial" aesthetic is turned up to 11.

if anything SH3 has to be commended for it's for giving the main character a personality though. Heather is much more appealing as a main character than James Sunderland

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