Silent Hill 2

Overview

Three years has elapsed since James Sunderland’s wife fell seriously ill and left the mortal world . James has tries to piece his broken world together and resume his life after the tragic loss but the emotional pain, emptiness and the loss of sense of direction in life, leaves him in constant state of dazed confusion, between accepting the facts of life, and denying the loss of his beloved wife. One day, a cryptic letter arrives signed mysteriuosly by Mary, his late wife. The letter beckons James to go to Silent Hill or as how the letter was put......’Silent Hill, our sanctuary of memories ...I will be waiting for you there.’ Perplexed and unnerved by the mysterious letter and driven by a desire to uncover the truth, James sets off for the small town of Silent Hill, a ghostly place shrouded (literally) in fog and mystery. With the only road to the center of town blocked, James picks a map showing a single path leading through the forest and into Silent Hill and sets out to meet his fate...

Gameplay

The controls are your standard Resident Evil-ish-like controls. Pick up a weapon or two (you start of with a stick with nails at the other end, and steel pipe further along the way) and hold down a trigger while swinging. Sounds pretty simple enough, but facing the incoming onslaught at the correct angle also plays a crucial role of delivering the blows. At first , it seems unfair that the zombies can get a few hits before you even raise your stick( this can further be improved upon once you get the hang of the analog buttons) - but then finding handguns and rifles evens things out. The game interface and menus are simple to use. Minor gripes about the controls would be when fighting in tight, claustrophobic corridors where blows need to be precise and need to be delivered at the correct angle lest you would be the first to receive hits before your weapons would finally adjust and gets the job done.

Silent Hill 2 combines adventure and action gaming. Traveling from one place to another, searching for key items, solving the puzzles , then moving on; this generally makes up the general premise of the game. Hell-spawned monstrosities inhabit these environments, making the task of finding Mary and uncovering the truth a difficult task indeed. The actual puzzles are varied, abundant, and cleverly executed. Most require a numerical code, progressive sequences, or placement sequence to be solved from a cryptic informations at hand. On ’normal’ difficulty the average adventure gamer shouldn’t have much trouble in solving any of the puzzles; the more difficult task is finding the information or items required to complete them.

Being an average guy who’s cast into an environment filled with terrors and danger, James of course is not your Leon Kennedy/Chris Redfiledwannabe with matching skills. He’s not the hunter, but always being hunted.Fear plays with the mind and fear further degenerates one’s ability to thinking and act concisely. Thus his aim is not pinpoint accurate, his speed not lightning-quick. Realistic touches such as gradually slowing pace while running due to fatigue and the tendency to trip and stumble occasion further proves that the player is not in control of a killing machine, but an average man with limited abilities. At the same time he’s not critically inept. Taking down some of the monsters becomes second nature, and while bashing down hellspawns might be appropriate at some point, running from others is sometimes a better course of action. A balance is struck between control and helplessness in this way, and is carried brilliantly throughout the game to keep player tension consistently high. The default control scheme consistes of a button for running, one for ’action’ , and L2 for toggling between attack and exploration modes. Close combat weapons include a board tipped with rusted nails, lead pipe, and a cleaver, while James can use the handgun, shotgun, or rifle for long range attacks. Depending on the weapon, reload time in between shots can be frustratingly long, allowing some of the quicker enemies to move in for an attack while James remains frozen and helpless. Hand-to hand attacks can be frustrating as well due to the lead-time (swings and actual deliverance of the hit) that is required. Two striking degrees are possible in close quarter combat: weak and strong. The execution depends on how hard the attack button is pressed. In the hardest game mode this turns out to be a large and seriously frustrating gameplay issue since there’re plenty more enemies to dispose of. On the ’normal’ and below settings it’s a minor grievance.

Action is viewed from a third-person perspective by the controllable camera. It’s flexible enough to allow for easy observation of most environments, though there are times when the game forces a static camera position for cinematic effect. One quirk occurs in tight corridors, such as the hallways that players spend so much time traversing. The camera has a tendency to get ’stuck’ between the two narrow walls, preventing a view shift to the opposite direction. This can be a problem when an enemy is close by, just out of camera range. For the most part, the camerawork is smooth and functional , avoiding the problems associated with strictly static camera placement.

The aural presentation, or for a better word,the lack of sound, is what turns the chill factor of this game. As an example to this,the lead character, James initially finds a tiny transistor radio. The transistor radio static noise is triggered when misshapen creatures are visible/close-by or stalking you. When they do come on to the scene, the static noise sound they make literally put your teeth on edge - killing them is the only way tot to make the noise stop. Dramatic scores are also abundant to signal the arrival of monsters, along with chilling ambient sounds.

The aural presentation in Silent Hill 2 is utilised to convey a sense of constant uneasiness and perpetual fear. From the distant moans ,howls and strangled choking sounds of enemies and the shuffling sound of their slow, staggered and different footstep sounds on the different ground footings, to the use of radio static to build up tension and fear - the design is excellent and unparalleled. Music takes an atmospheric form, some consisting of eerie chimes in broken overtones. Entering an enemy-filled environment ques a hard-edged and chaotic sounding industrial track. Music progression and application is constantly changing and dynamic, always accompanying but never overpowering, as to reinforce the aim of Silent Hill 2’s experience: to create fear through saturating the player’s aesthetic senses. Sound also plays as a direction finder. Since enemies often can’t be seen but almost always heard, marking their locations is possible through simply listening.

Graphics

The graphical nature and grotesque design of the enemies is particularly disturbing, and the grainy film filter further adds an element of sadictic realism to an already upsetting game.Awesome and disturbing cut scenes mixed together with interactive dialogue perfectly exemplifies the power of the PS2. It is due to this fact that a much better lip-synching is possible, and facial expressions that may start out bland, but change with different moods. Character and creature details are also very good, with slick, rubbery textures and a limping gait to the zombies/marionnettes and the photorealistic dirty textures implanted on various other creature-monsters inhabiting Silent Hill. The game play is filmed through a grainy, rough filter, giving the game a cinematic ambience not unlike those taken from horror movies - examples that comes to mind would be like the grainy filters and color schemes from the movie Seven .

The visual detail packed into Silent Hill 2 is simply unbelievable. Decaying steel fences, town storefronts, full dumpsters,abandoned cars and plenty of unique locations such as gas station, lakefront park, and cemetery, complements the variable, dark and foreboding outside environments. Step inside a building, there is even more variance; a slaughter/splatterhouse hospital with demon nursesarmed with stell pipes, blood-drenched surgical instruments on surgical theathers and steel tables; an underground prison, rows of cells, howling desperations of inmates, and a madhouse with padded rooms with old blood smeared into the fabric walls. The environments clearly depicts resemblance to a ghost town ,achieved through detail, moody real-time lighting , and variance between outdoor and indoor environments. The creatures designs tethers between human form and grotesque mad-scientist produce, taking the form of gross mutations of Silent Hill’s original inhabitants.The creature geometric models are smooth and detailed, with intricate textures with fluid, horrifying monster animations . James and the other supporting casts look and move convincingly, all sporting high-count polygon models (to the point of mirroring closely with its FMV counterpart) and, like the enemies, with detailed textures. Environmental textures are entirely diverse and detailed, depicting images of dilapidation and rotting decay. Konami truly has created an atmosphere of horror complimented by superb sound ambience, making for a genuinely chilling experience.

Fun Factor

If there is a serious complaint about SH2 it is with the story, which begins cryptically and ends even players asking even more questions. On one hand the new questions that the unfolding narrative continually creates a sense of need and compulsion to reach the next area and the next part of the story. On the other hand, the story does tend leave issues unresolved and unclear. The player is made to feel confused throughout and especially after. It’s not a matter of purposeful and artistic abstraction, but simply to make the players assumes its own interpretation of what is actually happening in the world of Silent Hill.

Overall

Silent Hill 2 is scary and terrifying because every element is entirely focused towards creating fear. The play pacing, contrasting between action, puzzle, and exploration, slowly builds tension, allowing it to fluctuate at different points. It also provides for a good mix of gameplay elements, preventing the 10 or so hours required for completion from ever growing laborious. Konami has done a masterful job here. Having the hell scared out of me has never been so satisfying.

Minor problems aside, Silent Hill 2 does what most other games try to do - it scares the living hell out of you. Once you get into the game, and explore the creepy environments of the town, you’ll find that you’re hooked on the fear. It’s like playing an episode of a horrow show where no one knows what the end is going to be like. Silent Hill 2 really does exemplifiesthe essence of videogaming and whats its all about - brash ,bold and controversial, but with a solid foundation of good game play and story.

The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.