Silent Hill 2: Director’s Cut
To say that Silent Hill 2 is one of my favorite PS2 games is an understatement. Quite simply put, I feel that the game is a breathtaking example of ìnew Hollywood,î the idea that video games will surpass Hollywood as the major entertainment source for millions of people. Looking at Silent Hill 2 with this idea in mind allows you to appreciate the subtle beauty of the games design, style, and originality. Welcome to a new era in entertainment, folks. And now, you can experience all of the glory of Silent Hill 2 with enhanced features in the Greatest Hits edition.
While there are dozens and dozens of other games that come together to populate the survival horror genre, nearly each one takes a different route to scare you. While the Resident Evil games oftentimes choose to use noises and jolts to scare you, games like Fatal Frame use the idea of being surrounded by entities you canít see to send chills down your spine. Silent Hill 2 relies on another method, and thatís through creepy story telling. You play as James Sunderland a man who should complain about the postal service, as there appears to be a major delay in the receiving of his mail. He got a letter from his wife, Mary, telling him to go to Silent Hill to see her. Thatís not a problem, but the fact that his wife has been dead for years and heís just getting the letter today is just a small one to say the least.
So as you begin the game, youíre already a little bit tense. The town is draped in a foggy veil, which could be viewed as a representation of Jamesís current situation. As James trudges through the woods surrounding Silent Hill, he eventually stumbles across a woman by the name of Angela who pleads with him to leave the town. Still curious, James ignores her warning and continues on into Silent Hill. From the very moment James steps into town, heís aware that something is extremely wrong here. The town, no pun intended, is silent. Besides Angela, thereís no one to be found. His only company is a mysterious blood stain on the pavementÖ
Since thatís the only clue James has to work with, he decides that heís going to follow the blood trail to wherever it leads. Unfortunately for James, the blood trail leads to something entirely unexpected: some sort of diseased, disfigured mutant that looks like itís ready to tare apart anything that comes near. Scared, James grabs hold of a board with a nail through it, and begins smacking the ugly out of it. Once itís finally down, James discovers that a nearby radio, which crackled with static when the creature was alive, is now silent. James picks up the radio, and it soon becomes his shield during his trip through Silent Hill. The radio allows James to detect when enemies are nearby, and using it, he can avoid combat and stay alive long enough to survive Silent Hill.
Combat should be avoided, but as James moves slowly through the buildings and dimensions of Silent Hill, heíll undoubtedly need to engage in at least a little bit of combat. Fortunately, as you move through the game, youíll discover lots of tools you can use to take down the enemies. Thereís your standard pistol, a powerful shotgun, and even a chainsaw! But donít worry Evil Dead fans; James isnít nearly as adept with the chainsaw as Bruce Campbell is. Even with the arsenal, James is still a regular man, and he isnít particularly good with any weapon, so you should try your best to avoid unnecessary combat.
The creatures are the least of Jamesís problems in Silent Hill though. Almost as soon as heís done slaughtering his first enemy, James runs into a woman named Maria. Now, heís run into Angela already, but things are much different this time around. Maria looks strikingly similar to Mary, his wife, except sheís more sexual, and her personality is much different. Imagine the surprise on Jamesís face when he meets her for the first time! Maria leads James to even more questions than answers and as the game moves on their stories (and lives, for that matter) become increasingly entwined.
While the town of Silent Hill may seem small on your first glance, it actually is quite large. With all the areas youíre allowed to explore, youíd be surprised at the attention to detail taken. Though sometimes youíre in the same building, which are sometimes ‘twisted’ at the hands of some unknown entity and turned evil, no two rooms look alike. Dirt and grime cover walls, blood and rust cover floors, and though there are quite a few blocked paths, every area included is utilized in at least someway.
Like most survival horror games, Silent Hill 2 doesnít shy away from puzzles. Fortunately, for those of you out there who donít particularly care for puzzles, you can crank the difficulty level down and most of them are pretty simple. Donít be expecting a walk in the park though, they can be pretty challenging, even on the easier difficulty levels. Thankfully, youíre also given unlimited time to solve them (unlimited if you don’t die first), so if you like to take a slower pace thereís really no need to worry. At my pace, I was able to beat Silent Hill 2 in about 6-8 hours, which also got me the ìbestî ending available out of the almost half-dozen available.
What makes Silent Hill 2 stand out most is the way the characters develop. Each is extremely original, both in their looks and personalities. Angela is dark and mysterious in looks, but her personality is open and revealing with inspection. Maria acts much like a child star today, overtly sexual on the outside, but still innocent and naÔve on the inside. The other characters you meet, such as Eddy, a fat man met puking his guts out, all develop similarly throughout the game. Itís very interesting to watch to say the least.
The Greatest Hits edition of Silent Hill 2 is actually a re-release of the Xbox version, which was a re-release of the original PS2 version. Included inside the package is exactly the same main game, but also a quick bonus mission which has the player control Maria during her attempt to leave Silent Hill. While not nearly as entertaining as Jamesís quest, Mariaís offers a unique second look at the turmoil in Silent Hill. While the more hardcore fans of the series will probably get a lot more out enjoyment out of it, even casual fans will be entertained for the duration.
I said earlier that this game was quite similar to a Hollywood production, and the graphics really show that. The areas in the game are all wonderfully textured, with scarcely a single repetitive texture. While a lot of the objects in the game world are static and unusable, many of them can be manipulated in some way, most of the time in the effort to solve puzzles. Silent Hill itself is quite expansive with little loading or slowdown as you progress through the town. And donít even get me started on how wonderful the cutscenes are. Even well after its original release, they rival almost any other cutscene on any system. Then thereís the characters; each one looking very distinct and original.
As for the audio, Silent Hill 2 makes good use of its resources. The radio I mentioned earlier works in a feigned surround-sound mode that lets you judge the distance and direction of a monster on a conventional television, without the need for fancy speaker systems. The game wouldnít work as a cinematic experience if it didnít have solid voice acting and music to back up the graphics, and thankfully theyíre both top-notch. Though some of the dialogue is a bit stiff, every character is given a surprisingly strong voice over. And to top it off, a beautifully composed soundtrack follows you through Silent Hill, capping off a wonderful experience.
In the end, the Greatest Hits release of Silent Hill 2 trumps the original because of the additional storyline, but even on its own, it still stands strong as the top survival horror game of the decade. Silent Hill 2 is leading the way for all video games into an era of beautiful, wonderful games designed to entertain the masses. Wonderfully, after playing through the game once, you can play through again and again, as the games multiple endings make it well-worth the trip back into Silent Hill. Pick up Silent Hill 2, and prepare for one of the best experiences of your gaming career.