Silent Hill 2 Review
Konami is back in an attempt to outdo them self again, presenting us with a survival horror that is more eerie, frightening, and outright creepier than their first venture into the world of Silent Hill. When looking back at the first title, my impressions of the game were very high. Konami had given us a game that stretched the bounds of its genre, and offered a title different than its counterparts. When looking at the survival horror genre, Resident Evil will always be the basis of comparison, and Konami's Silent Hill stood strong against the competition and in many ways showed gamers a unique vision into their idea of what molded a title like this. With Silent Hill doing extremely well in the eyes of many who played it, the news of a sequel was strongly welcomed and highly anticipated as more and more screenshots were given of the game. The videos we were being shown were spooky enough not even playing the game, so it was no surprise what type of scare Silent Hill 2 could achieve. The question, however, is whether or not the game is just scary, or does it contain a story and gameplay features that make you want to continue playing?
When simply viewing the game, the visuals are superbly done. A distinct atmosphere is created, and the character definition is excellent. At times, such features as fog and lack of lighting can overcast the graphics, however, this is meant to add to the environment, and it does just that. The CGs are beautiful as they should be, and are one of the reasons the game can be as spine-chilling as it is. The detail that is shown in these scenes is sick, and that's what is great about them. Silent Hill 2 is absolutely a gross depiction of your worst nightmares, and is just that much more fun to experience while you are awake. Be warned, though, SH2 may seep into your subconscious and be waiting for you when you close your eyes, that's how detailed a few cut scenes can get at times. When speaking solely of gameplay graphics, SH2 does a terrific job. The game doesn't quite compete with titles such as Devil May Cry, ICO, or Gran Turismo 3, but then again, those types of games aren't trying to create the atmosphere SH2 is hoping for. When attempting to create a setting that is eerie and mysterious, brilliant graphics are not what is desired. Konami has achieved a very paranormal affect, and the overall feeling of the game benefits because of it.
The story in Silent Hill 2, although taking place in the same town, is completely different then the first. If you recall, the original Silent Hill dealt with the character Harry, who was searching for his daughter, Cheryl, after a terrible car accident. SH2 tells the story of James, who has received a letter from his wife, Mary, saying she will be waiting for him in Silent Hill; the problem, however, is that Mary died three years ago of a severe illness. James knows his wife is dead, and although thinking the note may be a hoax, decides to journey on through the hellish conditions of Silent Hill. The gameplay is similar of the first, as it is your task to search the town encountering some of the most twisted and perverse images your mind can handle. Armed with only a wooden plank (stick) to begin with, you will soon be treated with a handgun to fight off creatures. I found, however, the 3-foot wooden stick to be very affective against the random creatures you encounter, especially since you need to save your handgun bullets for more ferocious enemies. Entangled in the game are clever puzzles for you to solve, which gives the gameplay an element of adventure that is nice to see. The difficulty of the puzzle is determined on the game setting you choose: Easy, Medium, or Hard, and the same is done with the Action level. What I like most about Silent Hill's gameplay is the constant paranoia that you will feel. Given the constructed camera angles, at times things will literally jump out at you, immediately putting you on the offensive. The feeling of vulnerability and helplessness is played out perfectly, and truly gets your heart racing at points in the game. It is obvious that this aspect was looked into heavily by Konami, and in my eyes, they have succeeded.
The sound in Silent Hill 2 works perfectly with the surroundings, and makes for an intense encounter every time you turn around. When moving from room to room the musical score changes to accommodate your progression, and hints at unique happenings as they occur. Nothing gets your blood pumping faster than the gradual rise of supernatural music, with the added elements of small details creaking in the background. Without SH2's sound, the game would be in no way at the level it is. Every door opening, every corner turn is executed with great presence, and allows the gamer to get the full feel of what Silent Hill is about. The voice acting is one of the best qualities in the game, as it is pulled off nicely. Konami could have rushed past this element, but I am very happy with what they have done. The background music is a mix of eerie tunes and the in-game sound affects are just as well done; stellar sound all around, which adds beautifully to the disposition.
I guess I've always been bugged by the rotational control scheme revolutionized in Resident Evil, but I've gradually gotten used to it over the years. Silent Hill 2 utilizes this same control package, where pressing a specific direction does not take you where you want to go, it merely turns you in the direction you select. Pushing up is the only way to gain ground, and the down button simply moves you backwards without turning around. However, Konami has been wise enough to allow gamers to choose the option of analog control most widely used in adventure titles. Very good choice I'd have to say. Like I said before, I felt the camera angles were well done, and allowed the player to see his/her surroundings. By pressing L2 at any moment brings the camera in front of you, if you feel you are ever missing anything. The layout is rather traditional with X being to select, triangle for going back or to look at your map, square is held if you want to run, and circle is to turn on and off your flashlight. As for the start button, it is your key to accessing items you have obtained, and the shoulder buttons are as followed: L1 and R1 shift you left and right, R2 is held when drawing your weapon, and L2 is used to move the camera angle while utilizing the left analog stick (another reason I enjoy the camera scheme). Many people may still get frustrated with the control, and that's understandable. However, with Konami's added features, I find the control to be above average, with very little responsive problems.
For all lasting appeal purposes, it all comes down to the preference of the player. Silent Hill 2 has multiple endings, and therefore if desired, can have a very good replay value. For those who enjoy playing the game through once and stopping, obviously the replay value isn't significant. To put it simply, if you enjoy the journey of the Silent Hill, you may very well want to venture another go at things. With the game being about 10-15 hours long, players may find themselves wanting more, and maybe changing the levels from Easy to Hard. Konami has allowed fans of the game excellent replay value, and have added elements that make this option possible.
In conclusion, to me, Silent Hill 2 did everything it set out to accomplish. People who are not fans of this genre may miss out, but in the overall picture of things Silent Hill 2 is a success in almost every category. Obviously, if you were as big a fan of the first game as I was, this purchase is a no-brainer. People who dislike survival horror games may find themselves not enjoying some truly wonderful gameplay features. However, in the end, Konami's twisted look into the town of Silent Hill is quite well maneuvered, and possesses qualities that every fan of survival horror titles will appreciate.
10/22/2001 Matthew Stensrud