Silent Hill 2 Review
Two years ago when I first sat down with Silent Hill, I was expecting a rather average horror title that tried to clone the Resident Evil franchise. To my surprise, Silent Hill stood out on its own as a unique horror title. Despite being unique the game offered little to keep me interested. Sure it was sick and twisted, sure it had great cut-scenes but half of the times I found myself mindlessly wandering around the town. Silent Hill just wasn't my cup o' Joe, and I made it quite clear. Although, I insisted that survival horror fans check the game, as it may be very suitable for them. While I myself am a survival horror fan, I didn't find anything captivating about SH, and there are many more like me, as well as many more unlike me. So when it came time and Konami announces Silent Hill 2, the feelings towards the game were mostly positive. After all, we are talking Konami here. Even though I wasn't impressed with SH, I still looked forward to the release of Silent Hill 2. From the early screens, the game looked fantastic and unbelievably gory. As time, went by we got to see more and more of Silent Hill 2 during E3 and the Tokyo Game Show. So then, the summer comes to an end and SH2 finally sees the light of day, but does it live up to what it was promised to be?
Visually, Silent Hill 2 looks great on one hand, but lame on the other. The graphics' most notable nuisance is the unbearable, and over done fog effect. The fog literally covers up the whole scenario, in turn completely limiting you to your level of sight. The effect, while spooky in a sense, is more or less ridiculous. It's just completely over done, and can get somewhat dizzying after a while. Silent Hill 2 isn't a hardware pushing title, while it does feature nice visuals, the game lacks polish in certain areas. The character detail is extremely good, but at the same time motions look clumsy. James, the game's protagonist, moves as if he's got something biting him in his pants. He moves very awkwardly, and that bothers me for some reason. Silent Hill 2's structure detail is wonderful. Everything looks almost pre-rendered, when in fact it's all generated in real time polygons. The backgrounds are interactive as well, so they don't just sit around there, you will put them to use. My gripe with the visuals is that everything is just too dark and foggy. I understand that this is supposed to be a horror game, but not even Resident Evil games were this dark. On the other hand, the CGs look stunning. Everything present is close to movie quality. The goriest of scenes can make even the strongest at gut feel queasy, as the level of detail is insane.
The original Silent Hill's story bored me. On top of that, so did the gameplay. The game just didn't appeal to me. Despite disliking the original, I was still quite excited about playing the sequel. Though now that the time has come, I'd be pretty safe to say that I feel the same about the second SH as I did towards the first. Let me begin by mentioning SH2 is a slow game to get into. It takes about two hours for some real action to begin, and quite frankly I don't want to play a game that progresses like a turtle. By the time I had reached my second hour, I lost all interest I had in playing Silent Hill 2. The game began to feel like a chore and a tedious adventure. Despite being unthinkably repulsive, content wise, SH2 doesn't break though the mold and offer anything groundbreaking in terms of overall gameplay. The sequel still takes place in the same town, but the story is 'different.' I use the marked word lightly though. While in general Silent Hill 2's story is different, the basis has remained the same. In the first title, Harry was set out to look for his daughter who mysteriously disappeared after Harry's car swerved off of the road. The second title stars James, he is looking for his wife who is presumably dead, but he eerily gets a letter from her which was written recently, and even featured her distinct signature. The letter ends with a sentence telling James to meet his wife at their secret place. This is where the game picks up and you assume your role as James. If you decide to play and complete Silent Hill 2, chances are it'll take you 10 hours to beat the game. Fans of the first should check it out, but everybody else must rent first. Even though this is potentially a blockbuster title, SH2 has too many things missing to make it even a nominee for anything extraordinary.
The puzzles in the game can get quite redundant, especially when you will be required to travel from one of Silent Hill to another, pick up an significant object, and then run back to the starting point. What I strongly note is that Silent Hill 2 is a very widespread title in terms of appreciation. Just like the first game was, SH2 will not appeal to everybody. Ask any 20 people who played the game, and I guarantee you that half will say they disliked it, and the other half will say they enjoyed it. The game is built strongly upon preference. If you played the first title, then the sequel will suit you well. If you are a horror junky in general and enjoy being freaked out, SH2 is your call once more. But if you are looking for something action packed and full of excitement, SH2 is just the opposite. It's a very cloudy game in terms of personality; everything is just so dark and empty which ultimately hurts the game. From a fan's point of view, SH2 is a great game, but from my point of view it's boring. Because it starts out slow, Silent Hill 2 is hurt in the gameplay. The story feels already clichéd, and on top of that, the puzzles can get tedious at times. This score more or less reflects a combination of my feelings towards the game, and what a fan would think. If you're confused on whether or not to purchase Silent Hill 2, rent it and see for yourself.
What I initially disliked about Silent Hill was the voice acting. While the actors were decent for the most part, the poor latency effect they were treated to really hurt the sound's overall score. Thankfully with the DVD and the streaming capabilities of the PS2, that plague has been abolished for good. The voice acting in Silent Hill 2 is exceptional. The cast of selected actors do a great job of fitting their roles accordingly. The atmospheric effects, while spooky, could've used a little orchestral push, if you catch my drift. The footsteps, and every other present sound effect sounds great, but once again a musical touch would've been the key to establishing near perfect sound.
I've heard many people complain about Resident Evil's control scheme...no wait, I've heard everybody complain about the control scheme. The first two titles weren't really hampered by this, but when Nemesis and Code Veronica came around, gamers were begging for a change. Silent Hill 2 offers this change, and at the same time offers the historic controls as well. You have a choice of styles, you can go with the preferred full analog control, or the RE control. Now while that may be a great inclusion, the thing that bugs me about the control is the stability of the camera. It -the camera- tilts too much, and shifts quite abruptly at times, making it incredibly annoying to navigate certain portions of the game. The camera is in fact nauseating at times and requires time to be dealt with and gotten use to.
Despite being a 10 hour adventure, Silent Hill 2 does feature extra options for you to come back and re-experience the game differently, whether it would be eliminating the grainy motion picture-esque effect or making the puzzles even harder. Those who don't tend to come back to games after they are done with them must only rent Silent Hill 2. It's not quite a title I'd play second time through, once is enough. Aside from all of the mass media hype, I feel disappointed by Silent Hill 2. Instead of being more action oriented, the game takes too long to get into and loses its appeal. There are many things wrong with it. Despite featuring flashy visuals, the gameplay gets repetitive and offers little to nothing new. The camera has issues, and the game could've used some background gothic like sound. Preference is key, remember that! If you liked the first, by all means get the sequel. If you are skeptical, then I suggest at least renting.
10/5/2001 Arnold Katayev