I first got Silent Hill back when it was released in 1998, and I was completely blown away. The setting was a dark, twisted world of unspeakable horror, with demonic enemies, dark environments, and horrific sound effects that kept me on the edge of my seat through the entire game. Most of all, it was the first game I’d played that had a full “town” you could explore with all the fixings: signs, lightposts, mailboxes, picnic tables, everything. Not only that, but the town was doused in a creepy fog, and was without power, so when night fell it was DARK.
When I heard Silent Hill 2 was coming out, I became very excited. As a huge fan of the Resident Evil series, and owner of the first title, I knew this would be a welcome addition to my library. And I wasn’t disappointed…
You play as James, a lonely man, who lost his wife years ago to an illness, and has gotten a letter recently addressed to him from her. She says she’s waiting for him in their “special place” at Silent Hill. James immediately rushes to the small American town to try to find the reason why he received this letter, and to perhaps bring his late wife Mary back from the dead.
After that, everything goes wild. You battle an assortment of strange, twisted enemies, and explore the same deserted, dark town for clues and answers to Mary’s whereabouts. You also meet a few survivors, struggling to find their places within Silent Hill’s grasp. People like Eddy, an obese teenager with mental issues, and Angela, a young woman trying to find her family.
The stunning real-life graphics make this game very appealing. Not only are you able to explore the town in great detail as you did in its predecessor, but now the detail level of the buildings and background is even better. The cutscenes are done in mastered CGI graphics, with fluid animation that almost looks too real to be done by a computer.
Another feature, which is often taken for granted in games, is the sounds. Most games have a trite array of sound effects for selecting items, picking stuff up, using them, etc., but they’re there mostly because the player knows doing those actions would merit sounds. In Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2, the sounds are integrated as part of the experience. The creepy groans of old iron gates, the eerie squelch of your pocket radio when enemies are nearby, the docile music in the background that chills you each step you take. Definitely keep the sound on when playing this title; it’s not the same without it.
The weapon choices have not made a whole lot of progress; you still get the handgun, the shotgun, and the rifle, plus a two-by-four and a steel pole. Eventually, you get this giant knife that swings real slow, but does an extraordinary amount of damage to enemies, often killing in one hit. Still, they don’t compare with Silent Hill’s best weapon, the fire hammer! A couple swings with that thing tore just about anything up. Of course, you will also find puzzle items you need to put here and there to go on, as well as keys to open certain doors and gates.
As with any title, Silent Hill 2 is not without its flaws. The game offers different endings, depending on how your progress went, but none of them really give a solid resolution to the game. You still feel like there’s more of the story to tell. Also, it’s easy to get lost, since the areas are not very well lit. Plus, some of the puzzles may be confusing, as you’re not sure exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And finally, the main character’s (James’) voice characterization isn’t very good, but I was expecting that. Harry from Silent Hill wasn’t that great either. I’m thinking this might be done on purpose by the Konami designers, since they did it on both titles, but I’m not sure why.
Overall, I give this title the highest rating I can: a 90 of 100. Definitely a must-have for anyone who likes to be scared. But I don’t want to necessarily recommend this to Resident Evil fans; if you like the action and fast-pace of the RE series, Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 are not for you. The combat scenes are not nearly as frequent, nor as rewarding. The best aspects of the game are the plot and the atmosphere, not the combat. So if you don’t have a copy of this game, get one today! At least rent it first. You will see how true horror is done first hand.