Silent Hill 2 Reviews
''I was weak. That's why I needed you... needed someone to punish me for my sins... but that's all over now... I know the truth. Now it's time to end this.''
Players find themselves placed in the role of one James Sunderland, a lonely, depressed man who was once happily married. His former wife, Mary, died three years ago to a terrible disease, and ever since, James hasn't been able to pull it together.
Then one day, James receives a letter, signed by his "dead" wife Mary, pleading for him to meet with him in the town of Silent Hill. It reads, "Silent Hill, our sanctuary of memories...I will be waiting for you there." Disturbed, perplexed, and intrigued, James lets his emotions decide against logic, and drives to their former place of memories, Silent Hill.
Players find themselves placed in the role of James Sunderland, a lonely, depressed man who was once happily married. His former wife, Mary, died three years ago to a terrible disease, and ever since, James hasn't been able to pull it together.
Naturally, a letter from the dead can only mean one thing, trouble. And James is headed straight for it. It's kind of subtle when you pass through the first major area, a cemetery and the fog is so thick, you can barely see which way you're going. But the point slowly seeps in, you're on a long, wild goose chase and the few people who are around can barely help you, let alone help themselves...
Guy Cihi: James Sunderland (voice)
Just like Konami did in its first original Silent Hill on PlayStation, Silent Hill 2 is a study in surrealism and eerie, psychological terror. The game is perfectly set up from the start, slowly drawing players in with loads of atmosphere, unsettling environments, and unstable characters. As James learns about the town and what he is up against; A sense of creepiness doesn't subside a bit. Strangely, every little thing in the game works to create a chilly feeling. Footsteps on grass, cement, broken glass or water, all sound differently. The clanging metallic music and sound effects are more than effective. The radio even works to scare us. Just like in the first installment, the radio volume grows louder with static as nearby monsters approach, signaling what's coming up next. But instead of lessening my fright, it did just the opposite. Whenever that radio static grows, so does the closeness of a ghoulish enemy.
The sheets and sheets of enigmatic fog create a claustrophobic feeling that somehow shrouds the user with a personal significant vibe.
Inside buildings, players have different visuals to deal with. Once inside any building, players usually are placed in dark hallways and the chest-high flashlight helps to create an additional effect, much like that in Alone in the Dark: A New Nightmare. Only in this case, the flashlight is attached to the character's chest. Players can only see as far as the cone of light protrudes. James also recognizes objects, turning his head when an enemy or object comes into sight, making locating objects less cumbersome.
As for the gameplay formula seemingly inherent in the survival-horror genre, Silent Hill 2 certainly doesn't disturb the "action-puzzle-exploration" balance from the norm. It blends a healthy amount of exploration with key-based fetch-quests, and delivers some intriguing puzzles. There are standard style puzzles, such as disseminating scratches on a wall to unlock a clock puzzle, and collection puzzles involving riddles (Three Coins in Five Slots), and even an interesting radio quiz show. And there's even a simple Rubic's Cube style puzzles later in the game. For those who had a hard time with the puzzles in Silent Hill 1, the puzzles here can be adjusted independently of the game difficulty in the options menu. Playing on the medium difficulty, most puzzles are do-able, neither too easy nor too hard.
Playing the game on hard is the best experience ever, not just the puzzles, but when you get to the final level in the Hotel. Where you have to turn off your light and your radio, otherwise it results in death due to such sensitive evil creatures that roam the corridors. This is thrilling, intense, orgasmic and certainly rewarding.
As for the exploration aspect of the game, it is a triumph. What is especially nice about it would be that one would never feel horribly, redundantly backtracked. In other words, the key quests seemed natural. for example: "Go get the key to my apartment, I left it in this room." Or "find the wrench to unscrew the hidden box behind the statue." Part of the reason these little searches work is because Silent Hill 2 takes place in an ordinary town, and James is an ordinary guy, so the puzzles and quests can't be too far out, or they wouldn't work at all. The whole game feels like a terribly bad nightmare that just gets deeper, more elaborate each and every progression you make resembles a drill being executed into your own skull. Jump in a hole, put your hand in a toilet or hole, explore a dark hospital or hotel... Do whatever it takes, without any fear for searching for truth through the electric storytelling.
One of the best aspects of the exploration works in juxtaposition with the map. Silent Hill is a huge town, and it's natural to get lost. Quick cut-scenes and markers on the map identify where you should go. Not only that, the markers indicate where you have been and which doors, taverns, parks, and boundaries you have visited with distinct marks, so unnecessary backtracking can be avoided. The quick-map button, used by hitting triangle, is a big help, too.
Players also see a good bit of action. Players who enjoyed Silent Hill 1 or any other survival-horror game should feel comfortable playing Silent Hill 2. X is action, Triangle summons the map, R2 plus X enables players to attack or shoot, depressing Square is run, Circle turns on/off the flashlight, and L1 and R1 independently are strafe, while depressed together, they automate a 180-degree turn. The strafe function is a nice addition, because it adds more control, and the 180-degree quick-turn is a natural for this kind of title. James can walk and hold any weapon, and he can reload without dipping into the menu system. Weapons include a handgun, plank, long, steel rod, shotgun, and a rifle (yes, there are others, but they're spoilers). Numerous gadgets and accessories, such as knives, wrenches, rings, keys, faceplates, and other items assist on your quest.
Despite the inherent dilemmas in the control system, what makes Silent Hill 2 so enjoyable is that it frightened me in so many ways, and it also compelled me to know the full story. Not once in Resident Evil Code: Veronica X was I scared, and the brother and sister bad guys were mere caricatures. In SH2, gamers are constantly being thrown off balance with such a huge array of variables, causing nervousness, anxiousness and pure fear, but it's the characters that remain strangely, uncomfortably real. Each time Maria speaks she becomes creepier and creepier. Creepy, eerie, creating lingering doubts in your mind about your character, and what you believe has happened to you. It creates internal, psychological fear. Not the fear caused by shocks or jolts, like from dogs crashing through a window. The diseased fear created in Silent Hill 2 is a steady, unsettling one, induced by claustrophobia, unnerving silences occasionally pierced by metallic, harsh sound effects. And finally, no matter how settled you might feel, you still feel so incredibly lost and rudderless, that it is almost uncanny that you're merely playing a game. This is real and yet surreal. You have control over proceedings, unlike a film or book, while restricted to the programming and code, which you manipulate to decide the conclusion/ending (Four endings including a secret Dog ending). Silent Hill is a nightmarish struggle of our reality blurring with the subconscious, which sometimes needs to burst through; An explosive release and then, peace...
0 comments, Reply to this entry