Silent Hill 2
My grandmother was going away for the weekend, so I got to spend the weekend sitting around the house hanging out with my grandfather. However, we didn’t really talk much, because I rented Silent Hill 2 and brought along my PS2, my system of choice at the time. I didn’t really know what I was in for. I had played the original Silent Hill to completion, but never really cared about the fledgling franchise too much. Silent Hill 2 however came up along side me and punched me in the face. Yes, it’s that good.
Silent Hill 2 is the story of James Sunderland, a man in desperate peril. His life just hasn’t been the same since the death of his wife a few years ago. James lives a solemn life, constantly questioning all of his actions, unsure and unaware. A letter has beckoned him to come back to the town of Silent Hill, one of the last places he and his wife were happy together. The town is of little importance to the workings of the world. Nestled between a forest and a lake, it’s a town most would miss on a map. A town where evil can lurk with little hesitation…
James normally wouldn’t have gone to Silent Hill that day. The cryptic letter received telling him to go to there came from his wife: two years after her death. As you can see, he’s quick to question the origin of the letter, and he busts out of his normal routine in an effort to find the truth of what happened to his wife, who died of a mysterious and unknown illness. His arrival at Silent Hill finds the town abandoned and empty, save a few different people, each searching for they’re own peace of mind. James constantly questions this motley group of people, never knowing whose side they are on and always wondering if they know more than they say they do. The game mechanics prey on this paranoia. As you play through the game, you never have any idea of who is who, what is what and where is where.
The basic gameplay is fairly simple. Run around until you find a cryptic hint luring you to an area that just happens to be unlocked, run into it, fight a bunch of crazy monsters that appear out of no where, fight a giant monster and find a cryptic hint and finally leave. Repeat. While this would quickly grow repetitive, the game is divided up by a series of cutscenes and a very involving storyline that keeps you entertained even while performing puzzles that are sometimes a bit boring. The areas are phenomenal to explore, but I wish game developers would find a better way to bar rooms that you can’t enter ever. It’s quite easy to realize where you’re going to go and where you never will go when some doors are locked and others are jammed.
All of that may sound like it creates a confusing romp. In actuality, the adventure can be a bit perplexing at times, but it works very well. The story is much more together than in the original Silent Hill, and the enhanced graphics provide a much more realistic experience. The game progresses through the actions of James. James really isn’t an action hero, just a man on a mission, and when someone is determined, they don’t give up. James is a bit of a hassle to control, but as a character he develops more than any characters in Final Fantasy. As you progress in your journey through Silent Hill, you realize more and more things about the hero that you are controlling, and begin to understand more about the human psyche. The only thing that doesn’t make sense is how calm and cool he is when in a town completely overrun by monsters. The supporting cast of characters in the game is a disturbing bunch that does a great job heightening the tension of the title.
An aspect I was particularly happy about was the ability to change the difficulty level of the game. I like puzzles, and I was able to control if I wanted beginner, normal, or hard puzzles, which was quite rewarding, but I could also control the gameplay difficulty as well. A few times I set the gameplay difficulty level low and puzzle high, and puzzle low and gameplay high, each giving a different experience. Plus, the additional half-dozen endings make this a game you keep coming back to.
Another entertaining thing is combat. Not the actual fighting, which you actually aren’t supposed to do a lot of, but the way you sense your enemies. Yes, the radio from the original Silent Hill is back, but with a vengeance. Konami, armed with S-Force technologies has reinvented the way games sound. S-Force allows for surround sound to be recreated on a conventional TV, allowing for some crazy scares when wandering the halls of a building. The voice acting is equally well-done, yet to this day I still don’t quite understand the motivation behind survival horror game makers have so many dramatic pauses throughout the game. I especially don’t understand why they display all of the text in the subtitles below, because the character may have said ¼ of the line when you’ve already read it, and then you sit and wait for them to finish.
Graphically, Konami continued its trend of creating the best looking games on the PS2. Though a fairly underpowered machine, it has no problems displaying the beauties and oddities of the town of Silent Hill. More impressive are the characters in the game. James’s animations are smooth, and the supporting cast’s facial expressions are full of life. The town looks great, and the traditional Silent Hill fog is in full swing. What was originally a graphical compromise on the PS1, the fog is in place to elevate the tension in Silent Hill 2, and it does a tremendous job.
Overall, I must say that Silent Hill 2 is one of my favorite games that I’ve played. You might not like it if you’re a fan of linear games like Final Fantasy, but if you’re up for a bit of exploration and some challenging puzzles, Silent Hill 2 is definitely a game to pick up. The greatest hits version of the title also features and additional mission in it, so at the low price this is a game you can’t afford to miss.