I'm not your Mary…
Graphics: 10 (at the time of release, to get the best exposure needs a high range PC)
Sounds: 10 (brilliant)
Value: 8 (multiple endings however some cannot be achieved unless you go for a second run)
Tilt: 8 (some memorable moments)
Actual score 8.4
If you think the above statement is confusing enough, there's plenty more of where that came from in Silent Hill 2. However, fear not as I also felt the same way until the very end. Silent Hill 2 therefore can be very confusing at times leaving you in the lurch with too many unexplained answers and much obscured sentences / puzzles that can easily leave the player giving up in frustration. Not in the sense of not finishing the game but giving up caring for the main characters due to its bizarre nature.
Yet I thought I was used to this 'bizarre' idea as I love movies like Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway where the movie ends without any true conclusion therefore throwing it back to the viewer to make up this / her mind. That was pretty cool however Silent Hill 2 endings are pretty clear cut however the path taken is somewhat irrational at best of times. It's a little too much ambiguous information or maybe it's a case of 'lost in translation' that caused me to lose the plot and lost caring for the characters.
Examples like the above 'I'm not your Mary' or 'I can be whatever you want me to be' makes me want to say 'whatever' and simply just leave it to fate. However, looking in hindsight, there were many mechanics moving in the background that wasn't apparent during my gameplay. The game was cunningly monitoring my actions therefore provided me one of the three (or five if you decided to play it again) endings and I have to admit, was very satisfying. So you can say there are no 'happy' endings, just endings to suit your playing style.
And this is where the game truly shines and separates itself from any survival horror, or generally, any game. As explained before, I felt the game struggled to find its place and to those who played Silent Hill 1, understands initially it seems that Silent Hill 2 is trying to follow the same path just with different characters. This is far from the truth as it's a game that tells a love story of a man named James Sunderland, receives a letter from his dead wife, who passed away over three years prior, telling him to meet her in their 'special place'. Of course James is confused with all of this, goes to Silent Hill to make ends meet.
So the game plays out as a survival horror – meaning you need to take care of your supplies as its quite limited, and basically to uncover the truth behind this letter. The controls are clunky to begin with, and the blurb did mention the use of the gamepad is preferred. Nevertheless, I used the keyboard without the mouse (yes, without the mouse) and after a few practice runs, I had no real hassles.
The major hassle though is the camera angles. Typically, survival horror games use these unusual camera angles to emphasise movie like shots. So expect to see you character top view / side view / whatever view and the most dreaded, front view. Why this is so is because if you are getting attacked by the demons of the dark, you have extremely little time to time your aim. In addition, most weapons have a slow attack swing so there will be times that your character will stumble because of the lack of vision. There are ways to counter this like run to a spot where the camera angle is favourable, or press the default 's' key to slowly swing the camera angle facing behind the character.
The stronger points of this game are the graphics and sounds. Graphically (for its time) is a masterpiece. Everything from the locations to the characters themselves is nothing short than marvellous. The areas feel depressing, run down and simply ugly – the way it should be as Silent Hill currently is a place of redemption. And because all of the character's movements are fluent, places a great emphasis on storytelling. Even their facial expressions do show human emotions like fear, anger, paranoia, love and so on.
For any survival horror to truly shine needs great sounds as it places an important role to enhance that scare factor. Granted that this game wasn't as spooky as the first Silent Hill however you cannot deny the impact of hearing a very slow moan that shakes your speakers or the creaking floorboards where you are not doing the walking. Apparently, the developer took over one hundred recordings of footsteps alone, so as you can imagine, they are taking sounds very seriously. This also includes the excellent musical scores as it enhances the mood.
I've spend over thirty hours playing this game thus far however each 'run' can take around the 10 – 12 hours mark. Pretty typical for a video game however the reply value is reasonably high. This is mainly due to the multiple endings however some endings will not display until the second / third play through as you'll discover different items. I'm certainly not a big fan of this as why not incorporate all the endings save one for instance, so the player gets the full experience instead of doing the entire campaign again. Thankfully though, the game is very enjoyable and the second run actually feels a little different so I can forgive them – just.
Because of the strong storytelling elements, crisp graphics and sounds, this game will be a memorable experience as it doesn't play like your 'typical' video game. It's a love story that the main character James, is trying to correct and the way he does this is via your actions. There is absolutely no right / wrong answer, no good / bad endings, just a conclusion that's dictated by you. Yes the controls are a little hard to get used to and the plot can be confusing at times however be patient and you will reap its rewards – in the way that Silent Hill does.