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Do not assume that all Silent Hill games are created equal. With the introduction of Silent Hill: Origins, the games stopped being developed by Japan and the quality suffered for it. American horror is about jump out scares, gory villains and love stories (Homecoming, take note). Japanese horror, and so the original four Silent Hill games, are cerebral in nature, and evoke psychological fears like violent offscreen sounds, questioning of you’re alone or not and discovering the deeper meanings of what is going on and why it’s happening.
Silent Hill HD Collection for PS3 and Xbox 360 came out on March 20, 2012 mostly overshadowed by the recently released Mass Effect 3, about the time frustration with the ending reached its high point. The original Silent Hill 2, a late 2001 PS2 game, scared the crap out of me as a youngster, and I decided to give myself another coronary, this time in High Definition!
Yep. It’s that kind of a game
James Sunderland is an unfortunate human being. At the game’s opening, receives a letter from his wife who died of disease three years ago. She is waiting for him in their ‘special place’ and as James astutely notes, dead people can’t write letters. So instead of going the logical route of assuming a prank, he heads into the titular town to track down his zombie wife.
Watching James’ quest in HD is definitely an interesting experience. The same pre-rendered cutscenes from the original return and although they were amazing in 2001, they seem a little dated next to today’s offerings. The same applies to the general gameplay. Those old school Resident Evil-style tank controls can frustrate you, but the nostalgia factor compensates for it fairly well.
The original noises and Akira Yamaoka soundtrack is intact as well, and that is wonderful news. Every song is well composed and the placement makes you think the moments were written around them. And the random low volume scratching around the corner is still enough to make the toughest gamer jump out out their seat. Or cry. Probably cry.
The Main Event
Scary jump, or metaphor for getting to the bottom of things?
The big draw to this game is the story, and for good reason. Unconnected to the game before, it allows new and old players alike to enjoy it thoroughly. As you fight, or flee, through the town, you meet people along the way that seem to be as out of place as James, and you start to wonder if they’re seeing the same things you are. Fleshed out locations like the Brookhaven Hospital, Toluca Prison and the Lakeview Hotel are unique enough to keep you interested in the town itself as much as the rest of the story. Your quest becomes even more bewildering when you meet Maria, a woman who looks almost exactly like James’ late wife Mary. And no, Mary didn’t have a twin. Even if she did, I doubt their parents would be so unoriginal with names.
The town has three sides to it; a fog world, a dark world and a hell world, all of which appear at thematically appropriate times. The game has an impressive twist to it as well, one that is as hard to accept as it is appropriate for the characters involved. The endings have a very original requirement system, as looking at an item more than once, how you manage your health and how close you stay to your NPCs can dramatically change the closing cutscenes, and somehow, they are all written well enough that any of the finales make sense and cut close to the heart, which will be a familiar feeling by the end of this emotional roller coaster.
New and Improved
If you only knew what she really sees…
This edition packs more than just a graphical upgrade. New voice acting was recorded for this particular iteration. Anyone who remembers the voice acting of the time (not counting the Metal Gear series) will welcome the effort modern voice actors put into their work, though true masochists can use the original track as well. Although not new, the Born From a Wish scenario from the Restless Dreams rerelease of Silent Hill 2 makes a return with all the same upgrades of the main scenario.
Who’s gonna shoot first?
Concept: Terrify audiences at every moment and keep them coming back for the incredible story.
Story: Simply outstanding, with perfect pacing, direction, character design and payoff.
Gameplay: The controls are a relic of the time. Simple combat makes you feel powerless at times, which actually compliments the story but can be frustrating.
Graphics: Compared to the original, spectacular. Compared to 2012 releases, lacking but rightfully gritty.
Sound: Every song fits a moment and every sound tingles and crawls up your spine.
Fun Factor: If scary is fun, this game is great fun. The experience will be a story you’ll remember for years.
Replay: Lacks multiplayer, but six endings and a short side campaign keep you playing moderately longer.
Moment of Truth
Pyramid Head, Old Silent Hill’s Judge and Executioner
It is a strange thing to say I’m not completely happy with this game. The main goal of the Silent Hill HD Collection was to give the games a graphical update, but it really fell short. It uses the same engine, the same cutscenes, basically the same game, almost entirely. Sure it looks prettier for the most part, with better definition in every aspect, but it was 2012 when this game came out. New games make old games look like crap, and shinier crap is still crap. If Konami had put some work into a new engine more suited to modern graphics and kept every other detail the same, they would have accomplished their goal and they wouldn’t have needed to tack on another game to make it sell.
As for the rest, well, if you played this game before you know what to expect. Great story, horrifying visuals and great music. For new players, this will be a great introduction to when the series was at its best. This game will make you rethink horror in a very big way. It’s a game that makes your imagination the thing that scares you the most. You have a flashlight, but non-lit areas become impossible to see in and it draws enemy attention. You have a radio that screeches when enemies are near, but it scares you when you hear it and it draws enemy attention. People who hate to be scared, this is the worst possible game you could ever buy. Anyone else should pick it up and realize that people who miss the old days of gaming have more of an argument than previously thought.
Silent Hill HD Collection is Rated M for Mature for Violence, Blood and Gore. It includes remastered and updated versions of Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3, both originally released on the Playstation 2. Though not noted by ESRB, disturbing images are also present, and deserve to be noted.
Anyone play something scarier than this one? Drop a comment and tell us about it!