Thursday, October 25, 2012

Silent Hill 2

File:Silent Hill 2.jpg

Silent Hill 2 was pretty much the whole reason I wanted to play these games, and with the continually delayed release of the HD Collection, I had to really wait for it.  I think it's hard not to judge games in a series based on your experiences with the others you've played, so I think it's fair to mention that as I started this game, I had already played Silent Hill 4 through Homecoming and only had 3 and Downpour remaining.  That said, I had heard that this game was largely considered the best in the series and I was looking forward to it.

That largely led me to expect a lot of scares, and so I was initially disappointed.  While our first glimpse of Pyramid Head is certainly very creepy, before then there really isn't much.  I played on Easy enemy difficulty and Normal puzzle difficulty, so there may have been even less enemies than normal, and it certainly made them ridiculously easy to kill, but the game mostly relies on lulling you into safety as you continually search abandoned hallways and rooms in your long meandering search to find your wife Mary, who has sent you a letter asking you to meet her in Silent Hill, despite the fact that she died three years ago.  You run into other characters along the way, all suffering with their own burdens. 

Because of that slow pace, darkness, and mostly silence for long periods of the games, it does set you on edge the moment you hear the music kick in.  And it's almost always haunting and creepy.  As I continued through the game, I found myself needing to take a break for a while because I was starting to feel too tense and needed some relief.

There are a few decent jump scares, and there are two or three moments where you hear creepy whispering as you explore environments.  Menacing sounding voices that you can't quite make out what they are saying, but these people are clearly mad at you and man you hope you don't run into them.  It's really just beautifully done.  And while part of me wants to complain about the slower parts of the game, the fact is that if this game was set at a faster pace, you probably wouldn't be as scared anymore.  I also can't complain about the ridiculously easy setting, because I'd much rather be able to defeat enemies and move on with the story than be stuck at parts.

This game went a long way in expanding the mythology behind Silent Hill.  Harry Mason and his daughter are nowhere to be found, though the town's history with the occult is obviously still present.  What I also found interesting was that I ran into a newspaper clipping which didn't really tie into this story at all, but was related to the major plot of Silent Hill 4.  That's a level of detail you really have to appreciate.

Perhaps my biggest complaint is that once again, the story is not particularly well explained.  When I finished the game, I turned to Jak and asked "So who is Maria?" because while the character is introduced and plays a large role in the game, we never quite know where she came from or why she's here, at least not in the ending I received.  I love the fact that there's so much going on here.  While we follow James Sunderland on his journey, we see that two other characters, Angela and Eddie, are also experiencing their own personal hells within this place, and that's what Silent Hill is largely meant to be.  But Maria's story is left hanging, largely because your choices in the game change the ending, and she's one of the things that can change.  I'm aware that there's bonus content they added to later editions to fill in the gaps (and for some reason is absent from the HD collection) but it's a flaw, in my opinion, that they had to add this later to explain it.

However, it's a fairly minor complaint.  Silent Hill has a dreamy quality to it, and it's natural that there are going to be elements to a dream that don't always entirely make sense.  James' story is complex and difficult and his journey is an emotional one.  No spoilers here because if there's any in this series that I can recommend, it's this one.  Beyond its original PS2 release and  the PS3 HD Collection I own, it was released for the Xbox and PC, so if you stumble upon a copy you really owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Speaking of the HD Collection, I feel that's a little bit of a misnomer.  I wouldn't call these HD quality graphics, either in the gameplay or the FMV segments.  They also recorded new voice acting for this game, which I chose after being burned by the silly voice acting in the first game. It was definitely an improvement over the first game's recording,  but I haven't heard the original one for this game to make a comparison there.

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