Developer: Konami Computer, Entertainment Tokyo
North American Release Date: March 20, 2012
European Release Date: March 30, 2012
Trophies: 10 | 12 | 5
A couple of years after James Sunderland’s wife Mary passed away due to a debilitating illness, he travels to the town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter recently addressed by her. In her letter, she claims to want to meet him at their “special place” in the town. As he arrives at a rest stop outside of town, he notices that the entire area is covered in a thick layer of fog with strange and disturbing noises coming from deep within the surrounding forest. After taking a path through the woods into the town, James comes across a deserted and deteriorating Silent Hill with strange moving shapes in the distance that stay just out of sight.
Soon after finding that he is surrounded by monsters and trapped within Silent Hill, James begins to realize that there is another danger lurking around every corner. A horrific creature in the shape of a man, impossible to kill and trap and totally without mercy, has begun to stalk James’s every move with the ability to appear at any place and any time. As James progresses through his journey to find out what really happened to his wife and how she is still alive, he will be thrust into a nightmarish landscape that exposes him to his deepest, darkest fears and secrets and will require him to make the ultimate sacrifices in order to get out of Silent Hill alive…and sane.
Silent Hill 2 is a good example of a survival horror that requires you to think about situations such as where you need to go next, remember codes and combinations to the various electronically locked doors you come across, go into every room possible in case there is an item you might need, as well as to decide whether to fight an enemy or run away to conserve ammo and health.
The odds of you exploring every nook and cranny of this game in order to find that one last item you need are quite high. Something that I respected about the exploration aspect of the gameplay is that Konami did not just set you off on a linear path from start to finish. You are literally dropped into the middle of abandoned Silent Hill and are forced to look for clues from other unseen residents (both alive and dead) on where to go next. You are also able to find maps pertaining to the various buildings and areas of town that you explore. As James runs through town and encounters dead ends, cliffs and locked doors, he will mark it on the map so you don’t mistakenly try and go there again. Even if you do know where you need to go in order to move the story along, the scale of the game is large enough that you can go off on tangents along the way to find ammo, health, or history on the town that might just come in handy later on.
Exploration is one of the key parts of the game
If you want to change things up a bit in Silent Hill 2, there are several combat and puzzle difficulty levels to try out. Unlike other games, changing the combat difficulty does not just increase the damage you take. It also increases the distance at which enemies will react to your flashlight, lowers the amount of damage you do, and increases the number of enemies you encounter. While on easy difficulty you might find one non-aggressive enemy in a room, on hard you will encounter three enemies that immediately go and attack you. The way that puzzles are affected by difficulty is a little different. Instead of having to find more clues or solving different puzzles, the game simply increases the difficulty of solving the same puzzle by adding in variables, leaving out hints and clues, or making the description of the answer much harder to understand.
Since Silent Hill is a survival horror, it makes a lot of sense that the combat system is entirely optional with a few exceptions. You can go almost the entire game with less than a dozen or so kills. That being said, the combat of the game does seem a little stiff to use, but that could just be because the game is over a decade old. James can attack monsters one of two ways; he can melee them with items he finds such as a steel pipe or a plank of wood or he can use firearms like a shotgun or pistol to quickly dispatch them. Once an enemy is bleeding and twitching on the ground, James can either run away while leaving the monster to recover, wait for it to get up in order to attack it some more, or run up to the downed creature and stomp on it to instantly kill it.
A big aspect of the game is the inclusion of solving puzzles. As I mentioned above, puzzles are a big part of the game and are impacted by the level of puzzle difficulty you chose at the start of the game. While some puzzles share solutions across difficulty levels, others will have increasingly difficult solutions as the puzzle difficulty increases. This is not to say the game just throws you into a puzzle while saying, “Solve it!” Scattered in the general area of the puzzle are various clues and pieces of information pertaining to the solution. You might find a handwritten note saying something about getting one of the pieces of the puzzle to work but not the others.
While I found the game to be great to play with fun gameplay and an intriguing and in-depth story, one of the few things that I found lacking was the actual overall length of the main game. For a game that has such a diverse repertoire of things to do, buildings and rooms to explore, history to discover, and secrets to be found, it can be easily be completed within three to four hours. However, do note that I am basing this time on players who know where everything they need is and the fastest way to get it. For the new player who is going into the game without a guide or a general sense of what to do, it could take upwards of seven hours to solve every puzzle, get every key item, and find out where you need to go next. So this negative point can be considered a double-edged point. It can be viewed as a short game for an experienced player with a guide but can also be a fairly long game for a player who does not want any help in beating the game.
The game does make up for its short length with extra features such as New Game Plus as well as the “Born from a Wish” side-story that you can play separately from the main game. This side story is a prequel to the main game and describes what happened to Maria, the woman James found in Silent Hill, directly before he arrived. As for the New Game Plus; once you beat the game you will be able to start a new one and find new and unique items in hidden locations that tie into theme of the game as well as Maria’s side story. While separately each of these items are nothing special (aside from the trophy obtained for finding each of them), gathering up enough of them will allow you to view several special ending to the game.
The town of Silent Hill is large enough to get lost in
There is another reason for coming back and starting a new game after beating Silent Hill 2. Once you kill the final boss and watch the ending and credits roll, you will be asked to save your game as well as receive a score out of 10 stars of your performance based on criteria such as: damage taken, items found, time taken to beat game, difficulty level, etc. If you receive a certain score and then start another game, you will be able to find one of several unique weapons early on in the game.
Silent Hill 2 is a game that ends based on your decisions throughout the game – and I like that. If there is one thing I like about games, it is that your decisions on what you do throughout them impact your overall result. If, for example, you every so often take a look at the picture of Mary in your items over the course of the game, the ending that you receive will be heavily impacted by it. So depending on your choices, you can receive one of three normal endings to the game. On top of that, once you beat the game, you can go back and get a fourth ending by finding several new items scattered throughout the game. But that is not all, Konami decided to introduce a little fun and added in two secret endings involving dogs and aliens that have nothing to do with the actual story of Silent Hill 2 but are still fun to try and get.
The environment of Silent Hill 2 is just dreadful and horrific – in just the right ways. In order to limit your ability to respond to enemies or a change in the environment, the game limits your field of vision with thick white fog outside and pitch-black darkness inside buildings. Using the flashlight inside would help to navigate the darkness but at the same time, it will attract unwanted attention that you sometimes cannot afford to have. The narrow corridors and hallways, convoluted passages, locked doors, abandoned streets and fully-furnished rooms all work together to bring a sense of utter loneliness and terror that has been forgotten in recent horror and survival games.
Messages like this are your only clues that you are not alone...
The atmosphere and overall ambience of Silent Hill 2 are superb with emphasis placed on making you second-guess your goals and hesitate to complete what needs to be done. If the only way is through a morgue filled with bodies and James is thinking to himself that he saw movement, you will hesitate on going through the morgue even though it is the only way forward. Earlier in the game you will come across an empty room with a chair and an off television. If you leave and come back after completing a specific task, you will hear a scream in the distance and come back to find the chair pulled up to the television with a bloody corpse in it that was not there before. After examining the body, James begins to realize that the blood on the body and ground is old…very old. Blood stains old enough to have been there for week
One of the best highlights of the game is the music. Konami spent a lot of time and effort making the background themes of each area specific to what is going on as well as downright horrifying. Let me put in this way: there is an area called the Blue Creek Apartments that is the first indoor area that you explore where the flashlight first really comes in handy. As you make your way into the foyer and turn down all other sound effects besides the music, you will start to here a creepy and disturbing sound of someone dragging something heavy, sharp and made of metal on the ground in the distance. There is another area later in the game that has music involving a person screaming as if in pain in the distance and as you explore the area you encounter…nothing, absolutely nothing. The terror-filled scream you heard was meant to simply put you on edge and scare you.
Of course, there are a few technical hiccups in the HD port from the Playstation 2 to the PS3. I have noticed several times that while running James will start to slow down. He could be running down one of the foggy streets at full pace and then just start to slow down while the rest of the game continues at normal pace. The only way I found to fix this minor issue most of the time is to simply stop moving and then start running again. Another issue is the view distance of the game. When the game was ported over, the developers changed the way the player can look through the fog. This made the fog more realistic but also increased the overall distance you can see through it. The problem is that the fog, in the Playstation 2 version, was made to cover up graphical clippings and the edges of the game. If you position the camera correctly in this version, you can take sight of the clipped edges of the game through the fog.
I found the inclusion of trophies into Silent Hill to be a nice addition because the developers did not try and add any padding. What I mean by padding is that every game that has platinum requires a certain amount of trophies. A lot of HD collection games simply do not meet these criteria and the developers are forced to include trophies that require excessive amounts of grinding or exploration in order to have a platinum trophy. For Silent Hill 2, the inclusion of trophies did not add any grinding that did not exist already in the original version of the game. While there are trophies for getting each individual ending and others that require killing ‘x amounts of enemies’ a certain way, the time needed to get the trophies is not as bad it is seems and can be gotten in a short amount of time if you know what you are doing.
I really enjoyed playing Silent Hill 2 HD mostly because I was not spoiled by the initial release on the Playstation 2. The amount of time I spent trying to solve puzzles or figure out what key item or code I was missing wasn’t annoying; rather, it was exciting. The missing item implied that there was some place that I had yet to explore which meant more enemies to kill. When I compared the overall quality of the game to recent releases, I am proud to say that this game still ranks up there as one of those great games that last over time. Graphics aside, the amount of time and effort put into making this game implies that the developers wanted people to continue playing this game long after it was released and I concur. Silent Hill 2 HD is a game worth getting not for the platinum, but for the experience of playing a great game.
The gameplay is solid and heavily influenced by the level of difficulty for the combat and puzzles. While the number of different types of enemies are small are you will encounter many of them over the course of the game, you are simply too busy trying to survive to take note. The game also invests heavily in exploration – which you will most likely do. You can expect to look everywhere in order to find that one clue, that one item, you need to pass a locked door.
As I mentioned above, the overall length of the game is shorter than I expected. This shortcoming is made up in spades by the inclusion of the ranking system at the end of the game, the New Game Plus feature, the prequel short story “Born from a Wish”, and the multiple happy and sad endings.
The atmosphere and ambience of the game is breathtaking with a lot of time and effort put into making the game immersive and realistic. The music is simply mind-blowing as well with each area having multiple tracks to convey each of your deepest fears. The prison has tracks involving ticking clocks and dripping water; the Blue Creek Apartments have sounds of screaming in the background and someone dragging something sharp and heavy in the distance. The only shortcoming was the normal port problems that some games have when upscaled to HD quality.