With the recent surge in the popularity of re-releasing older games with remastered visuals, it's surprising it took so long for Konami to jump on this particular bandwagon. Silent Hill 2 and 3 are two of my favorite installments in the series, and after playing them again with their updated graphics and brand spanking new voice work, I can honestly say that very little of that is because of nostalgia.
Let's start off with Silent Hill 2, a game that isn't only my favorite survival horror game, but easily manages to nudge its way into a spot among my all-time favorite video games. If you're unfamiliar with it, the story revolves around James Sunderland, a man who's been grieving for his dead wife until he receives a letter from her beckoning him to the resort town of Silent Hill. It's arguably one of the best story hooks I've seen in a video game, and it successfully sets the unsettling tone for the rest of the game.
When you're playing this game it's difficult to believe it came out over a decade ago. The fog keeps the draw distance uncomfortably close to your character, so you can't see what's lurking until it's too late. Thankfully, you have a handy radio that provides ample warning when one of the many twisted monstrosities is nearby.
There are three things this series is really known for, and that's the foggy town, the monsters that inhabit it, and the musical backdrop that accompanies everything. Some of series composer Akira Yamaoka's best work can be found in the second and third games. It's here where his use of unsettling industrial tones and a creepy, muted piano work extremely well to help build up a deep sense of foreboding. Yamaoka might've left the series after Homecoming -- he's since been replaced by Daniel Licht (Dexter TV series) -- but his influence on Silent Hill will always be immense.
For the uninitiated, Silent Hill 3 follows the story of Heather Mason, a teenage girl who has mysterious connections to the darker side of Silent Hill. Plot wise, SH3 takes longer than its predecessor did to get interesting, but when it does pick up, it's a hellish roller coaster ride of terrifying enemies, locations, and puzzles. One area where this game manages to surpass the original is its selection of boss encounters. There are more of them, and for the most part they're all incredibly disturbing.
One of the two major changes you can expect from these games is the remastered visuals. Unlike a majority of the other "remastered" games on the market, like Resident Evil: Code Veronica X HD for example, many of the textures have been updated with higher resolution ones, so everything looks crisper. This means the games haven't only been converted to HD -- their textures have been updated too. On top of that, it's all in HD, and playing Silent Hill 2 on an HDTV where it isn't horribly pixilated or too stretched out is something I've waited a long time to do.
The other addition to each of the games is the newly recorded voice work. Both have brand new voiceovers - the only difference is with SH2, you can choose between the old and the new audio, whereas in SH3 you only have the new voices. The option to choose between the old and new stuff is a nice touch, and I can't say I miss the old audio in SH3 too much.
There have been many complaints about an abundance of glitches in the Silent Hill HD Collection, but after spending several hours with both games I only came across a few audio issues where things weren't synched correctly, and some sections in Silent Hill 3 where the frame rate slowed to a crawl. Other than that, it was a largely glitch-free experience.
Really, my biggest complaint is the total lack of any extras. There are no featurettes, viewable cinematics, music, nothing. It's disappointing. Konami really dropped the ball on giving their fans, many of which have stuck with the series for well over a decade, a collection that could've been brimming with additional content. This omission makes this a great collection, rather than a must-buy.
It's been around a decade since their initial release, and this duo has aged remarkably well. This is one of the most extensive remastered collections we've seen so far; it's just unfortunate the collection doesn't come packed with any extra features. Whether you're a Silent Hill aficionado or someone who's been patiently waiting for the opportunity to experience some of the best games the horror genre has to offer, this is a collection you really shouldn't miss.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Silent Hill HD Collection provided by Konami.