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Silent Hill 2 – Until Death Do Us Apart [RETRO-2003]

RETRO – James Sunderland and his wife Mary lived in a happy marriage. James thinks about Mary almost every day, and one day he gets a letter from her asking him to come to Silent Hill, where they spent many romantic days. The story seems to be such a romantic cliché so far… except for one minor detail. Mary has been dead for three years.

 

Alone against the nightmares, in the half-light in a desolate city. You only hear the rattles first, that come closer and in the end swarm you at the most unexpected times. Just to slaughter you, and tear down your flesh, but you still somehow kill them, survive and go forward since you want to know the end of the story. Which is sometimes contains more despair than the beginning of it.

This is the basics of the „survival” genre that was launched by Alone in The Dark and raised to the pedestal by the Resident Evil series. The game today I am about to write today, however, is somehow even better than the previous two series, a more interesting and intriguing series in the survival horror genre, aka Silent Hill 2.


Three years of loneliness

Silent Hill 2’s first ace is a complete reality check. Our main character, James Sunderland is not a super soldier with elite training, or a half vampire special agent, nor an eternal knight. Instead, he is a normal man, entirely everyday generic protagonist. He’s only the “hero” here due to a tragic event, his wife dies of a terminal disease, and he is unable to process her passing from the living.

Then three years later he receives a later from his dead wife asking her to meet in at their “special place “ in Silent Hill. The poor man arrives half-crazed into the city and becomes more scared when he sees that the city is entirely wrecked, and after a bit of wondering around finds that there are deformed monstrosities out to get him. I was able to identify with the main character in the beginning, who was lonely and desperate to find his love.

 

Of course, Silent Hill 2 does not start with bombastic zombies or another demon like creature. It begins in the restroom near the town where our hero looks into the mirror depressingly while thinking if his wife is really in this town. Once we leave the restroom, the letter is read to us by Mary’s sad voice. While the monsters do not attack us instantly in this forsaken town, the eerie fog that engulfs the town provides a great sense of dread. We don’t know where the rattle is coming from, but we turn back and see nothing.

 

Yes, Silent Hill 2 is not the typical “survival horror” game, and starts out slow/methodical, like an old Hitchcock movie. If you play this alone at night your nerves will be at an end when you finally see the first monster
The fear factor is heightened with the found radio that will emit a white noise when the enemy is near and will become louder as they approach you. The monsters in the levels are placed carefully and will immediately be torn to shreds. I would not recommend this game to our most faint of heart readers.

Weather report: thick fog, and dead bodies

The dreadful and the scary atmosphere are elevated by the gorgeous, and detailed graphics. Well… as much as run down and nightmarish town, where every blood splatter and broken furniture is a sign of struggle. Konami did a great job porting Silent Hill 2 to the PC: the game can be played in 1600×1200 resolution, and can even switch off and on effects such as len’s flare, high-resolution texture, or advanced filters. The fog effect is another fun part: it’s utilized quite effectively!

Then there are the characters – while in other over-hyped PC games – the character models here are spectacular and beat any PC textured. Although we only meet five characters besides the monsters, the characters are James, Maria / Mary, Eddie, Angela and Laura are detailed, so good I haven’t seen it in. The animation is first class, James’ movement is entirely lifelike, running, breathing and the strikes. It’s like watching a movie, while is a cliché is still true this is how you make a proper game with great graphics that puts some of the PC games to shame.

 

Nightmares in Silent Hill

The monsters are so grotesque in Silent Hill it’s unbelievable. Maybe the most disgusting monsters are in the hospitals with their shambling gooey rotting “nurses”. But the Angela Papa is horrifying, and the spine-chilling monster that implies the rape of her daughter when she was young. (Yep this is not a joke for getting an M rating). The pyramid head main boss is crazy, especially since the boss can’t be defeated.

The graphics and the visuals are well tuned and are very similar to David Lynch’s work, or to David Fincher. There is an option to enhance the fear which is called the “noise effect” which will make the screen whiteish as if watching the screen with bad reception. (This was a non-optional part in the PlayStation 2, and could only be turned off once the game completed, while in the Xbox and PC versions this could be turned off instantly). If you don’t like this feature don’t swear at the game, go to the options menu and shut it off.

 

Whispers and screams

Besides the horrifying and atmospheric graphic, there is Akira Yamaoka who created the soundtrack, where sometimes it’s chilling, or at times lulls the player into a deep depression. Yamaoka mixed the classical instruments (such as the piano), with different drums and other nerve-wracking instruments.

Never such a game had such a harrowing imprint on my soul as Silent Hill 2 with its sound and music design. So basically Akira Yamaoka’s work gets an album of the year award from me. It was a long time since I heard such music may be from Jeremy Soule (maker of the OST for Dungeon Siege and Morrowind)

 

The sound design is also worth note to mention: not just 5.1, but 7.1 sound system is also supported (Although I don’t know who has such a system). As there is nothing more frightening than hearing the undead’s scream, growls and scrapes. The sound designers did good work, and if you play alone in the night you might turn around to check if the door got opened. This game will make you check that it’s so good.

Personal nightmare?

Of course, the terrifying atmosphere would not be enough, if the story would not be great. For me the story is really important in a survival horror game, as if I can identify with the main character, I’ll be able to care and try to protect their lives. That’s why I did not like the schlock that Resident Evil provided, even though it had a great fear factor.

Silent Hill is really great in terms of story, even though the story, in the beginning, seems basic (man searching for his dead wife in a town full of monsters), later becomes more complex, and interesting conversations will be had with the five (living) characters. This game – finally – is really thoughtful, even if you completed there are still twists and turns that will still remain foggy, so multiple replays are encouraged. Although I do not wish to spoil everything.

A lot of newspaper clippings and journals are found, and most of them are related to the puzzles, but not to the story, and the makers also made sure that the reason for the town being cursed. Even if we’re talking about a “real town” at all. Some have commented that Silent Hill is hell incarnate and works on its own twisted ways – Konami, of course, did not comment on it but did not deny this rumour of the story.

The cat has nine lives, James has five fates….

In Silent Hill 2 the environments are kinda surreal- just as much to have a weird feeling, not to figure out what is real and what is not in this town. In one building there is a tunnel leading down, down down, and there is no sense of time or distance, only to encounter one of the most dreadful and horrible places in Silent Hill 2, the prison used in the American Civil War called Toluca.

It was really weird to see a prison underground but that is why Silent Hill 2 is great, as it provides grotesque and weird environments creates a unique theme – just like watching a David Lynch movie. Although if you read about the story on the internet you’ll get a lot of answers to the questions that you encounter in the game.

The story is so well made that it has five endings, and we’ll achieve these endings by behaving correctly to the characters, how many times we talk to them, what we investigate, and what we skip. The creators, however, did not do a good job at this part as you’ll need a guide to attaining certain endings or the internet. These endings will make the game more replayable: I completed it three times, just to reach “Below the water”, “Maria”, and “Leaving” endings. Totally worth it.

 

Survive this horror! If you can…

I did not talk about the gameplay which is always a problematic discussion within the survival horror genre. In these games besides the constant paranoia, there should be adrenaline pumping killing, but also different puzzles so that we won’t feel the game is a mindless zombie slaughtering mess. Most of these are ruined at the controllability and the puzzle’s difficulty.

Luckily there was no issue with the controls, with the proper keys I was always able to pinpoint where to strike and shoot or aim with James. I really liked all the different weapons. They were not just varied, but also well designed in their use within the game world. The plant with the nail can be swung differently than the long iron pipe. We shoot differently with a simple shotgun and with the hunting shotgun. The developers even limit the movement depending on the weapons’ size and weight.

We can run fast with a plank, a little slower with the iron pipe, but trying to run with the large sword that the pyramid boss has will not be a good idea. The only issue was caused by the camera system at times. By pressing a button the view gets centralized near James so that we can see the enemy directly in front of us. This did not work for us when it was needed in short corridors, although that is when we would have needed it the most.

The positive side of the puzzles is that there was ample supply of them. Final the action and adventure is equally satisfying. Where in other games the adventure part was just tacked on. However the difficulty of the puzzles was not always the best, as some were too primitive and hand-holding types: “Use this key on room 205”, or they were so complicated that I needed online reference to finally figure it out, as the game barely hinted at the proper result, and nearly drove me crazy.

“I’m here for you James… See? I’m real”

As you can pretty much guess from the above, I was really pulled in by the story of this masterfully crafted, and terrifying story. Honestly, after the disappointing sequel of Alone in the Dark, I thought that the survival horror was done for, and I did not think that the PS 2 and Xbox console game would ever arrive at the PC.

The PC version also boasts a number of upgrades: including graphical enhancements, 1600×1200 resolution, quick save (so that we don’t have to worry about going back to the little red boxes to save). However, because of this, the game became too easy in a way: It heightened the tension of finding a good red box in a safe spot. So it’s now better to play this game on hard difficulty.

The PC version is also different from the PS2 version that the spin-off chapter that was on the Xbox is also available here. In short: If your nerves are good, and love surreal environment with a depressing story, then do not miss out on this horror adventure.

-BadSector- (2003)

 


Pro:

+ Great atmosphere and ambience
+ Fear factor to the max
+ Multiple endings, superb story

Against:

– Some of the puzzles are insanely difficult
– Poor remaster of PS3 (2013 PS3)
– Anyone who loves quick action


Publisher: Konami

Developer: Konami Japan

Genres: Túlélő horror

Publication: 2001 (PS2), 2002 (Xbox), 2003 (PC), 2012 (HD remaster PS3, Xbox 360)

RETRO - James Sunderland and his wife Mary lived in a happy marriage. James thinks about Mary almost every day, and one day he gets a letter from her asking him to come to Silent Hill, where they spent many romantic days. The story seems to be such a romantic cliché so far… except for one minor detail. Mary has been dead for three years.   Alone against the nightmares, in the half-light in a desolate city. You only hear the rattles first, that come closer and in the end swarm you at the most unexpected times. Just to slaughter you,…
I was really pulled in by the story of this masterfully crafted, and terrifying story. If your nerves are good, and love surreal environment with a depressing story, then do not miss out on this horror adventure.

Silent Hill 2

Gameplay - 8.7
Graphics (2003) - 8.9
Story - 10
Music/audio - 10
Ambiance - 10

9.5

MASTERPIECE

I was really pulled in by the story of this masterfully crafted, and terrifying story. If your nerves are good, and love surreal environment with a depressing story, then do not miss out on this horror adventure.

User Rating: 4.73 ( 2 votes)

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