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Silent Hill 2
Review By:  Jared Black
Developer:   Konami
Publisher:   Konami
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Survival Horror
ESRB:   Mature
Date Posted:   10-17-01

The original Silent Hill was something of a landmark title. Released during the height of the original PlayStationís lifespan, it was really the first survival horror title to offer something different than the standard RE zombie-fest. Unlike the RE series and itís generic sudden-scare tactics, Silent Hill relied more on a slowly building sense of fear that truly struck terror with most gamers.

Although critically acclaimed, the original Silent Hill was never a huge best seller. Nevertheless, it did well enough for Konami to start working on a sequel (with much more commercial backing this time). The result is Silent Hill 2, an evolution of the concept that made the first one such a hit.

This time around, youíre dealing with an entirely new cast of characters. James Sunderlandís life is shattered whenever his young wife Mary tragically dies. Three years later, a mysterious letter arrives from Mary that beckons James to return to their sanctuary of memories. That place is the town of Silent Hill. Thus James sets out to return to their "special place", and discover the source of the letter. Could it really be that his wife is alive?

Although it relies more on a slowly building sense of fear than quick and cheap scares, it still plays largely like any other survival horror title. The meat of the gameplay lies in solving a myriad of different puzzles as you make your way through the town of Silent Hill, as well as battling numerous monsters bent on killing you. Unlike a lot of other games in the genre, the puzzles are varied, unique, and very logical. In addition to simply finding objects and using them in the appropriate places, on several occasions youíll have to combine items to get the desired result. These usually require you to think a bit "out of the box", but these combinations always make sense. The downfall to this type of game is that, if you miss an item, you can quickly become stuck and confused. Thus, on several occasions you might be forced to backtrack and press "x" a lot until you locate that item. Fortunately, this isnít too terrible as James will automatically look in the direction of any item that can be picked up or manipulated. Thus something hidden in the environment wonít be almost impossible to locate.

So the puzzles are awesome, but whatís been the weakness of horror games have always been the control schemes. Silent Hill 2 is better than most in this respect, but itís not without its faults. The best improvement is the addition of a "normal" control scheme. For those of us who donít prefer the typical RE-style control scheme (based on where your character is facing, not the actual direction on the screen), the included 2D control scheme is very welcome. The combat is generally OK, but it feels somewhat clumsy with any hand-to-hand weapon. Distances can be difficult to judge at times, and the camera system requires a good bit of user manipulation. Despite combat being a big part of this genre, a perfect combat solution still hasnít been discovered.

So the gameplay itself is serviceable to awesome, but what has always mattered in these games is the atmosphere and storyline. Itís here that Silent Hill 2 excels. The storyline is incredibly spooky and gripping, and the endings (4 in all) actually wrap up the storyline pretty well. The characters in the game all have their own unique personalities and motivations, and are all fleshed out pretty well.

The graphics go a long way towards making this game what it is. Each and every environment is detailed and accurately represents what you would expect to find in that location. All of them are very creepy as well. The lighting effects are simply amazing, with virtually every light source casting itís light in a realistic fashion. Not only do they add greatly to the mood, but they also enhance the gameplay as youíll need to utilize your radio (which indicates a monsterís presence with static) to locate and destroy enemies. Most of the game is also spent in dense fog and/or virtual darkness (broken up by the light from your flashlight), which goes even further towards creeping you out. Not only do they display technical excellence, but also the general style of the graphics really impresses. Everywhere you go, youíll be greeted with images ranging from grotesque to insane, further creeping you out and adding to the ever-growing tension.

Konami also utilized sound to a wonderful degree. Sound plays an integral part in the gameplay, as you must use your radio to detect enemies and get the jump on them. All of the voice acting sounds excellent (even if the script is a bit off), and really adds to the atmosphere. The sound effects are wonderful, as everything sounds exactly the way it should. And for those things that have no real-life counterpart (zombies and such), each has its own unique sound. 3D-surround sound is greatly used, and sounds excellent on even a simple stereo TV system. In one location, dripping water sounded so real that I actually paused the game to check my ceiling. Itís that good.

HIGHS:

  • Incredible atmosphere.
  • Graphics and sound are both technically excellent.
  • Camera system is better than most survival horror titles.

LOWS:

  • Seemingly inherent to the genre, the controls can be somewhat sluggish at times.
  • Awkward hand-to-hand combat.
  • The game is fairly short (8-10 hrs.), with little replay value other than a few special items and alternate endings.

FINAL VERDICT:

Although there are control problems with combat the creepy atmosphere and tense storyline more than compensate for any control problems. Silent Hill 2 is a wonderful horror title that not only stands out from the competition but also manages to creep the player out to a degree rarely seen in any medium. Just make sure youíre in the mood for macabre.

Overall Score: 8.8

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