Silent Hill 2
"In my restless dreams, I see that place… Silent Hill…"
Graphics: The graphics hold up decently well. The game doesn't look as good as some of the newer games in the series, but the graphics do what they are supposed to do, which is to create an atmosphere. And this game does it well. Environments are grimy, run down, and feel like they were once lived in, but have long since been abandoned. The environments are more unsettling in this game; the atmosphere is more bleak and sad than scary. However, this works to the game's advantage, since this is not an ordinary horror game. (More on that in a bit.) Also worth noting are the enemy designs. They are all very gruesome and… well, the word that leaps to mind is mushy. The enemies feel alive, thanks to their great animations. Also worth noting is how these monsters are incredibly strange looking, but it's not without a purpose. I'm not spoiling anything, but, I will say that, like many, many things in this game, they all have a deeper meaning. I rarely encountered any graphical glitches or anything, so, even though they look somewhat dated, the game looks pretty good. 8/ 10
Sound: I have yet to play with the original voices on, but I will say that the new voices are very well acted. The actors do a superb job of conveying the emotions of the characters, although the game isn't without some hammy dialogue. Despite that, the acting shines, especially at the more emotional parts. There are some weird anomalies, though. When the character Eddy is eating pizza in one scene, the audio for him eating a chewing is really loud. Also, after you run for a long time, James will need to catch his breath. And the sound they put in for it sounds just very heavily synthesized and out of place. Aside from that, the ambient sound effects are great and the music by Akira Yamaoka is absolutely incredible. Many of the tunes are just so awesome and well put together, you are likely to get it stuck in your head. This is one of the best examples I can point to to show just how much of a musical genius the man is. (This game and, of course, other Silent Hill games.) Overall, despite some weirdness, the sound contributes greatly to the atmosphere, and the soundtrack for this game is superb. 9/ 10
Story: James Sunderland is running into a very unique problem… He has received a letter from his wife, telling him to come to Silent Hill and meet him at their special place. The problem is that James's wife is dead, killed by an unnamed disease. (It's heavily implied to be cancer.) When he gets to the town, it's nothing like what he remembers; a thick fog is overrunning the town, the streets are empty, save for monstrous abominations. He does run into some other characters, who all seem to have their own reasons for being there, save for one. Now, the twist at the end of this game is very well known, but I am not going to spoil it. I will tell you this: if you, by some miracle, have not had the twist spoiled for you, play this game immediately. However, even if you know the twist, but not much else, this game is well worth playing for the story. It's surreal, trippy and the other characters have their own story to tell. All I'll say is that the symbolism in this game is just mind staggeringly awesome; it goes deep, into just about every part of the game. Almost everything has some sort of meaning, from the characters, the monsters, the locations… there is a ton of detail to find in here. If you love picking apart stories, play this game. The symbolism, double meanings and everything will be right up your alley. The way the story is told, and the story itself surpasses most movies and a lot of books. This is one of the best cases for video games as an art form. The story is, undoubtedly, one of the best ever told in a video game, or any medium of entertainment. It will stick with you for a long, long time. This and Silent Hill Shattered Memories are among the best stories ever. 10/ 10
Gameplay: This is a very old school survival horror game, which means, unfortunately, it's not all that fun to play. Instead, you have to deal with tank like controls, disorienting camera angles, clunky combat and some rather confusing puzzles.
Let's start with combat. The melee combat is extremely clunky. There will be times where you will be practically taking turns hitting a monster, then the monster hits you, you hit the monster… you get the idea. Granted, you can sidestep, but the game's corridors are frequently cramped and narrow. It's a good thing this game gives you a lot of ammo; almost too much. By the end of the game, I had a surplus for all three guns, and this includes the Rifle, whose ammo is incredibly rare. However, I didn't mind this, since it let me bypass the combat to kill the monsters. Granted, it may not be very scary, but it made gameplay a lot less annoying. (Then again, after playing SH3, maybe it's not that the game gives you too much ammo, just too few monsters.) Also worth noting, is what I call the Kick of Death. When a monster falls on the ground, you can press the action button to kick it once, and it will die. Instantly. Maybe there's some deep seeded metaphor, but I can't figure it out.
The exploration aspect is a bit better, although it is fairly limited. As you wander the streets of the ghost town, you can go down out of the way alleys to find extra supplies or items. When you're inside one of the game's "dungeons", the exploration is really limited. Essentially, every room is necessary to go in, and all the others that don't matter… well, they're locked. Yes, the game limits exploration by saying "the lock appears to be broken. I can't open it." Maybe this is for the better, because the buildings you explore often have a huge amount of rooms on the map, and exploring something that big would be overwhelming. Still, it can be annoying to read that message for the umpteenth time.
There are also a few boss battles, which are essentially glorified enemy encounters. (One of them even becomes a common enemy near the end.) They also suffer from the clunkiness of the combat. In one of the encounters, you are fighting another being armed with a gun. Maybe it was meant to be an intense shootout, but it turns into this: "Shoot as many times as you can before they can, heal when necessary." You can pretty much do most of the boss battles this way, since you won't find yourself too strapped for healing supplies.
The puzzles fare a bit better, but they are mostly just item hunts. "Find this item, bring it to the correct spot." Some of them are rather clever, such as one where you must figure out which of six executed prisoners were wrongfully executed. (Using a pretty cool poem.) Sometimes, if you're stuck on a puzzle, you'll have to just retrace your steps to all the previous rooms to find out what to do or what to get. This is typical for a survival horror game of this age.
There is also a bonus scenario, called "Born from a Wish", in which you play as a side character from the main story. It isn't immediately apparent, but this actually expands greatly on the main story, after seeing the ending. However, the mode itself is just a lot of running around and item fetching for about an hour.
Overall, the gameplay is alright, and sometimes killing monsters is fun, but there's no denying that the game doesn't have the strongest gameplay. 7/ 10
Silent Hill 2 is a good game, no doubt about that. The atmosphere is thick and sad, the story is just superb in every way and the sound design is some of the best ever seen in the business. (Especially Akira's soundtrack.) However, like many survival horror games, it doesn't have the best gameplay. However, if you've never played it and are interested, it is very much worth playing. (Especially if you miraculously have never had the twist spoiled for you.)
And now for part 2.
Silent Hill 3
"Listen, suffering is a fact of life. You either deal with it or you go under."
Graphics: Silent Hill 3 has a superior visual style to me, than Silent Hill 2. For one, the environments are a lot more gritty, especially the Otherworld ones. In the Otherworld, the walls become rusty, blood covered, the floors become grates, giving you a peek underneath the ground. The enemies are also much more gruesome, and the game is much scarier for it. Actually, this game is undoubtedly the better pure horror game. The atmosphere is creates has a way of getting under your skin. And, while it looks better than SH2, I did run into some problems. There were a few parts in the game where the frame rate would falter, and it always happened in the same location. Other times, the animation for Heather would stutter, and, again, it happened in the same location. There was also a freeze near the end of the game (but that may be because I had been playing for several hours.) And, after that freeze, the hallway I was walking in became… blurry. Wherever the flashlight wasn't shining, it was noticeably blurry. This was the only occasion that it happened, and it only happened once. Also worth noting, this game's monsters have some pretty deep symbolism, but of a different kind than SH2. So, overall, the graphics are really good, creating a very tense atmosphere of dread and fear. 8/ 10
Sound: The sound is, like SH2, superb. The ambience is amazing (this game is much more disturbing than the other, and sound contributes a lot to that), the voice acting is well done, with good emoting and the music is incredible. (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn made her debut in this game, and it is better for it. The song she sings for the opening cinematic is insanely catchy, and, as always, her voice is gorgeous. Also, the song at the end that's sung by the lyricist is very cool, too.) Once again, Akira has composed some real masterpieces and Joe Romersa has written some incredibly deep lyrics. Seriously, if you have never heard any song by this trio, you have to Youtube it. Search "You're Not Here", "Hell Frozen rain" or "One More Soul to the Call." The only problem I had with the sound was when firing the Submachine gun. It made this really strange, loud static noise, which was distracting. Despite that, the game sounds great. 9/ 10
Story: If you have never played a Silent Hill game before and are going to play this one, I would recommend you do one of two things. Either your play the first one, or you do what I did and look at the plot details of the first one on the Silent Hill Wiki. This game is a direct sequel to the first game, and, as such, there are a lot of details that can easily fly over someone's head if you aren't familiar with the storyline.
Anyways, you play as Heather, a teenager who feel asleep in the mall. After waking up from a playable nightmare sequence, she is confronted by a detective who wants to talk to her "about her birth." Heather, being 17 years old, blows him off and climbs through a window in a bathroom to bypass him. However, it's not long before things take a turn for the worst. The mall shifts into the Otherworld, and she is engulfed in the hellish realm. From there, the story takes a while to get rolling, but becomes pretty good once it does.
While the story is, at first, seemingly a lot more straightforward that that of Silent Hill 2, there is still plenty of symbolism and double meanings to find here, but it's much more subtle this time. The symbolism doesn't really have anything to do with the main story, but is interesting nevertheless.
Also, if you are an extremely religious person, I would recommend not playing this game. There are antireligious sentiments in the game, whether intentional or not. I personally am a person of faith, but I wasn't offended by it at all. It never comes right out and says religion is evil, but the meanings are there.
Overall, the story takes a while to get rolling, but once it does, it becomes an enjoyable horror story. 8/10
Gameplay: The gameplay isn't terribly dissimilar to Silent Hill 2's. The combat is largely unchanged (read: clunky) and the structure is very similar. You wander around buildings, fighting off monsters and solving item based puzzles.
One thing that is different in this game is the amount of supplies when compared to the amount of monsters. While, in 2, you had a surplus of ammo and health, in this game, you will probably find yourself strapped for supplies a lot. Seriously, I had three recovery items at the last boss, and they were saved up from the whole rest of the game. I was going out of my way to not sue them unless I absolutely had to.
The environments are more fun to explore this time, mainly because, in the Otherworld, the game becomes a lot scarier. Now, I am not a pansy. I have seen all of the great horror movies, and I was never really scared. The only movie I ever got even remotely close to scared was with Paranormal Activity. I am also an avid Stephen King fan, and, again, I am not usually creeped out by his work. This game scared me. Like straight up, full on scared me. The atmosphere is so superb, especially in the Hospital Otherworld. I'm not going to spoilt any surprises here, but I will say that, after seeing what happens in a certain room, you aren't likely to look at mirrors the same way again. This isn't a game that tries to scare you with "boo" scares. This game is really heavy on atmosphere. And it uses little things to scare you. At one point, you read a newspaper article about a man who committed suicide by jumping onto train tracks… and, all I'll say is that the person who did this wants to take as many people as possible with them. In another great twist, in the hospital level, there is a patient who is apparently stalking Heather, leaving her love notes and creepy dolls. However, you find out that he is dead and in the crematorium… and, of course, you need to go to the crematorium. You find his body and… well, he's trying to tell you something. There are a lot of really surreal, scary moments throughout the game.
What few boss battles there are are decent enough. However, they are tougher than in 2 since you won't have as much ammunition or health.
One of the things that I found frustrating was that, near the end of the game, here's a certain enemy that becomes very common and is very tough to kill; it was a boss earlier on, and it becomes really common. Add this to how clunky combat is, and how you have little supplies or ammo, and it just becomes frustrating when they hit you with an overpowered attack. There is also a certain enemy who floats through the air that is tough to kill and has a ridiculous range for its attack. Also, I felt the dog enemies were too common.
Overall, despite how clunky the game is at times, the horror elements more than make up for it. 7/10
Silent Hill 3 is the screamer of this duo. It is made to scare you, and it will most likely succeed. It may not be as deep as Silent Hill 2, but there is still plenty of (disturbing) symbolism to uncover. This one is more about just shocking and scaring you. And it does it with hardly any "boo" scares. There is only really one that I can remember, and, even then, after seeing the aftermath, it doesn't even really qualify as a "boo" scare. This one is for anyone who loves being scared.
In review, Silent Hill HD has two great games for a good price. Each one has good replay value thanks to multiple endings and unlockables. Both games are well worth playing for different reasons. Silent Hill 2, while still being a horror game, is more for people who are looking for a unique, well told story. The depth to it is almost infinite. Silent Hill 3 is for people who like to be scared. And not the cheap "wow, I jumped a mile high" scared. It's the "oh my god hold me please" kind of scared. Despite some problems with each game, this pack is a vacation to a quiet town that is well worth taking. So long, thanks for reading and happy gaming!