When Konami released Silent Hill for the PlayStation in 1999, it took the survival-horror genre by storm. At the time, Capcom’s Resident Evil series was the undisputed champion of horror games, but Silent Hill was more than up for the challenge. Opening with one of the best introductory sequences in recent memory, Silent Hill immersed gamers in a dark and twisted story that kept you on the edge of your seat. Silent Hill went well beyond the generic “hunt for clues, slay the undead” horror formula and as a result, it was extremely successful. It came as no surprise when Konami announced the development of a sequel, this time for the PlayStation 2. So without further ado, let’s take another trip to the small town of Silent Hill and see what evil lurks.
In Silent Hill 2, players assume the role of James Sunderland. As the game opens, James stands in a sordid bathroom, perplexed and unnerved by a mysterious letter he’s received. Signed by Mary, the same name as his late wife, James wonders if this cryptic message is a hoax, or whether Mary could somehow still be alive. Driven by a desire to uncover the truth, James sets off for the small town of Silent Hill, a ghostly place shrouded in fog and mystery. Konami has opted to go with a completely different storyline in Silent Hill 2, so those who missed out on the original game won’t be lost here at all.
When I play a horror game, one of the most important aspects I look for is a menacing environment. I’m glad to report that Silent Hill 2 has this in spades. Arriving on the outskirts of the small town, you’ll immediately witness the fog-drenched atmosphere that made the original so creepy. Struggling to see five feet in front of you, you’ll weave your way through shrubby pathways and across city streets, all the while wondering what evil lurks in the bushes and behind parked cars. Wielding nothing but a wooden stick, you prepare for the worst. You can hear something in the distance, but you can’t quite make anything out through the fog. Your heart begins to beat a little faster, an emotion conveyed through the vibrations of the controller, and just then, your worst nightmare jumps out in front of you. Welcome to Silent Hill, a visceral experience unlike any other.
Silent Hill 2 is a story-driven third-person survival-horror game that features elements of exploration, puzzle solving and combat. You’ll begin by exploring the city streets before making your way inside various buildings and structures within the town. Silent Hill is a meagre town at best, but it’s still quite easy to get lost amongst the fog. Luckily, with the push of a button, you can bring up a map of Silent Hill that not only shows its layout, but also indicates the location of important areas, items and clues that James marks down en route, to help guide you in the right direction.
When you’re not exploring or fending off the un-dead, you’ll be likely solving one of the many puzzles found within the game. While the puzzles aren’t particularly diverse, often involving some kind of locked mechanism, such as doors, chests and safes, they certainly are tricky. If you find they’re too mentally straining, you can fiddle with the difficulty settings at the beginning of the game to suit your needs.
There aren’t many gripes to be had with Silent Hill 2, but I did find that the camera was restricting at times, especially in tight quarters. You can manipulate the camera angle as you please, but there will be times when you’ll end up with a blind spot, no matter what you try. In terms of the audio, the voiceovers weren’t as convincing as they should have been and the script wasn’t quite as smart as the original.
When all is said and done, Silent Hill 2 is beautifully crafted. The story-driven gameplay is compelling and the atmosphere is a visual and aural masterpiece. If you enjoyed the original Silent Hill, or you’re a fan of survival-horror games in general, Silent Hill 2 is not to be missed.