Spring TGS 2001Silent Hill 2 PS2 hands-on

The demo made us feel claustrophobic and paranoid at times, and those were only two of many emotions the development team hopes to invoke in the player with its sequel to Silent Hill.

TOKYO - One of the most prominent games at the Tokyo Game Show 2001 Spring was Konami's Silent Hill 2 for the PS2, with rolling clips blaring the emotional, guitar-heavy soundtrack and cinematic sequences making subtle allusions to the game's complex story. Konami also had playable versions of the game at its booth and we couldn't wait to get our hands on the demo. The demo itself wasn't very long and took place in the cramped hallways of an abandoned building. The hallways were virtually pitch black and illuminated only by a flashlight attached to the lead characters jacket, much like in the original Silent Hill. However, using the power of the PlayStation 2 and advanced light sourcing and reflections, Konami was able to accentuate the high suspense of not being able to identify objects in your surroundings. Several times we found ourselves shining the light on a doorframe or some other inanimate object and being falsely startled. This adds a new dimension of paranoia to Silent Hill 2 that is lacking in other survival horror games-the enemy could be standing right next to you but you wouldn't know it.

The control scheme works very much like the original game, as the character moves at a deliberate pace and in similar style to other survival horror games such as Resident Evil. However, the camera doesn't remain static and rotates to find the most optimal view. For the most part this works just fine, particularly for players familiar with the control scheme, but there are instances where the enemy character is out of the field of view. In the demo, there were two different weapons, a handgun and a crowbar. The handgun is used by holding down the R1 shoulder button to aim and by pressing one of the face buttons to fire. Of course, it can be fired while walking backwards, which is something we found ourselves doing quite often when disposing of some of the slow-moving enemies in the game. As with the original Silent Hill, players can always walk up to a downed enemy and kick them to make sure they're down for good. Silent Hill 2 won't be overly puzzle-heavy, but the demo we played had a few usable items dispersed throughout the level. Generally, we found keys that could be used to open specific doors, but the final game will have a few more complex puzzles.

The frightening atmosphere of the game is further achieved through the eerie sound effects, which we experience via headphones that were available at the playable booths. In one area of the demo we had to hide from a creature dragging what looked like a large sword on the concrete floors. The ensuing screeching was both irritating and haunting, as you could hear him coming but didn't know from where. Thankfully, the dual-shock controller vibrates like a heartbeat whenever an enemy character is nearby. The voice acting in Silent Hill 2 is typical survival-horror fare. Overall, it has the same type of feeling and emotional expression as Capcom's Resident Evil Code: Veronica, but there were some sequences where the script itself wasn't very convincing. Of course, we'll hold final judgement on such elements as the story and the overall voice work until we play a more complete version of the game.

The PlayStation 2 version of Silent Hill 2 is well over 50 percent complete and on its way to a fall release. In fact, the demo shown seemed to have most of the visual elements and AI routines in place. The original Silent Hill was a creepy experience and it seems that this latest version will further attempt to invoke those eerie emotional reactions. Silent Hill 2 was easily one of the most impressive games of the show and we expect the story, which involves James Sanderland's quest for his wife Mary, to be equally as involved and exciting.

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