Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams
This just in: Konami makes interesting games with characters that aren’t named Snake. I know that it is hard to comprehend these days, but in fact it is true. It has been met with critical acclaim for its incredible story lines and realistic characters. The series? Silent Hill. While not as action-packed as Metal Gear Solid, it has more than enough to scare the crap out of you. Silent Hill 2 begins relatively oddly, in a bathroom of a rest area. You are introduced to James Sunderland in the first of many amazingly realistic cut scenes. James is your average man, about six feet tall or so and about 170 pounds maybe- definitely not your action hero. James has been summoned to Silent Hill in an interesting letter from his wife Mary. We soon learn that Mary is dead, and has been for the last few years.
The story develops and slowly becomes incredibly psychological and deep, playing on the basics of what makes a human a human. Though somewhat confusing, you can easily understand it from the start of the game. It is a story of human pain and misery and all in all the story of how much a human can love and how much they can hate at the same moment in time. James decides of course to investigate Silent Hill and find out whom…or what…sent that letter. Silent Hill is seriously messed up. The like side town is engulfed in fog and you can’t see two feet in front of you After an eerie encounter with a women named Angela, you move on to the town. The town of Silent Hill is completely abandoned, save a few cars here and there. You soon stumble upon a mysterious blood stain, and you are beckoned to follow it. This is where I will stop, as I don’t want to reveal anymore of the story.
Silent Hill is a small town. The huge lake surrounding the town is a key point, and a bar, a cemetery, and all sorts of other random buildings add into the mix. And a good amount of them are ready to be explored, more than in the original game easily, though there were still some strict limitations. The towns design is quite well done, except for a few things, like the giant walls that bar your path or the gigantic holes in the earth that you can’t pass through. These are still unexplainable, even after playing through the game.
As James progresses through the game, he encounters strange monsters that have overtaken the once peaceful town, and must use very unfamiliar weapons to defeat them. James eventually finds a pistol, shotgun, pipe, board with a nail through it and a few other weapons. He isn’t very skilled with the use of weapons, so it is actually much better to run from your enemies rather than try and kill every single thing. One thing however that doesn’t make too much sense to the overall progression of the game is why James is willing to run around the town and not react even slightly to the devilish monsters that have taken over Silent Hill.
The enemies are fun, and finding them is fun too. Stumbling across a monster in the dark is always an unpleasantly disturbing surprise; however James has a few tricks up his sleeve. Early in the game, James discovers a radio that emits static when he approaches enemies. By using the static, James can avoid most confrontations and save his pasty white skin. The games sound is an invention in itself, no other game in the genre has ever relied on sound as much as Silent Hill and they create innovative ways to implement it. In the PS2 version, they used a program called S-Force to create 3D sound on a regular plain old TV. The sound is better however in the Xbox version especially with Dolby Surround Sound.
The characters are all true to life, realistic beings that portray emotions and express them. And fortunately, the voice-acting of which the game relies heavily is on the ball and works well. There are some strange dialogue problems though; dramatic pauses are in full effect with nearly half of the game having dramatic pauses that interrupt the plot in hopes to build up drama. However, it isn’t implemented very well, as there are subtitles, which you will have most likely read by the time they start speaking again.
The characters in the game maintain there realness by having incredibly detailed models. Maria and James specifically are very well designed, each complete with wonderful facial animations. The other characters in the game are very nicely animated as well; however they aren’t nearly as pivotal as James and Maria are to the overall plot. The monsters in the game are amazingly creepy. The straight-jackets, mannequins, pyramid head, and other monsters are all uniquely designed and I assure you that you won’t find them in any other game. Freakishly slimy and shiny as they creep through the night- it brings tears to your eyes and chills down your spine.
Time and weather progresses as you play Silent Hill, just as it does anywhere else. It may be dark and raining when you enter a building and explore, but when you leave it may be light and foggy. It is an interesting thing to remember how many times the weather changed as you play through the game. By the time you get to the end (which took me about 7 hours my first time), you realize everything that has happened, all the changes in the game and have a sudden and complete understanding of the events in the game. And then you play it again to get another ending. And then you play it again to get another ending. And then.well there are 5 endings, unlike the most common opinion that there are four (to get the fifth, you have to get the other four and collect a series of difficult to find objects). There is also the Xbox exclusive mini-game, the Born from a Wish mission. This is simply a minor distraction that unfortunately reveals nothing new and is something more hardcore fans will find enjoyable.
On the surface, Silent Hill 2 is just another survival horror game, but for those willing to give it a chance it turns into an extremely deep and psychological game for those willing to give the game the time of day. Pick up the game as a Platinum Hit for the Xbox and prepare for the ride of your life.