Gaming Flashback - Silent Hill 2: Welcome to Your Sins...

#1 Posted by hodkurtz (41 posts) -

Let's cut to the chase: Silent Hill 2 may still be the greatest character study in gaming history. It's also still one of the most consistently organic games ever made.

To start off, I must say that if you are reading this, you should expect a lot of spoilers, as this is a retrospective on a game that, if you haven't already played it, you should immediately stop reading and go find a copy of it to play.

Now back to the topic at hand.

In many ways, it is actually inappropriate to look at Silent Hill 2 as any kind of sequel, despite the fact that it shares the location of its predecessor. Realistically, Silent Hill 2 redefined why the town of Silent Hill existed, and more importantly, gave it a valuable purpose.

Gone were the conspiracies and cult conflicts of the first game. Silent Hill 2 didn't even require you to understand the history of the town, and realistically, you were better served without knowing it when playing the game. Instead, the sequel (in name only) created a more intimate portrait of a smaller cast of characters, and gave the town a utility for existence. Silent Hill wasn't just a living, breathing game world. It was a personified character all on it's own, with its own motivations and intentions.

More importantly, Silent Hill 2 was successful in the way that it fused the gameplay experience metaphorically into the inner conflicts of each of its characters. To the little girl, Laura, Silent Hill was simply a normal town that had been deserted. She had no inner demons to cope with, or past sins for which to atone, and as a result, no origin for reconciliation. She was a pitch-perfect portrayal of innocence not yet lost.

In contrast, for James Sunderland, Eddie Dombrowski, and Angela Orosco, Silent Hill was a proving ground for facing inner demons and a place of punishment for the guilty conscience and past transgressions. Those who were unable to cope were destroyed, be it physically or mentally. However, for those strong enough to survive, Silent Hill was also a place of self-redemption.

That determination was left up to the player, and it is also in this function that Silent Hill 2 elevates itself to one of those few masterpieces where gamplay, story, and outcome intertwine into one unified purpose. Choices made by the player, and therefore James, affected whether or not James would find self-redemption, and unlike other games, where player choices can be arbitrary and usually unrelated to the story itself, Silent Hill 2 made them organic.


Examining the suicide knife left on the table by Angela? Then you've made James realize suicide as the means to an end. Do you look at the portrait of your wife and the drawing that Laura left on the window? Then James would realize the error of his ways and disengage himself from Maria, allowing him to leave the town with Laura and have his moment of confession with his wife. Do you ignore all of those, and simply attach yourself to Maria, the double of your wife meant to punish James for his sins? Then you better be prepared for James to leave Silent Hill with Maria and be punished all over again with her becoming terminally ill, just as Mary did.

Even the monsters you fought in Silent Hill 2 also existed seamlessly with the town and plot, each being a physical manifestation of the very demons and sins the characters were facing. Angela, who was facing both torment and sin, was forced to face her childhood molestation in the form of a boss shaped like a disfigured bed. Unfortunately, for Angela, she was not able to overcome her torment, nor the sin she had committed when she burned her house down and killed her mother and father. Her fate, then, was left with an eternity of burning, oppressive flames.

As for James, nothing was more perfectly symbolic than facing his sin face-to-face, with a crimson-colored version of his wife, through Maria. Throughout the entire game, every moment of James' interaction with her was a deliberate dance, started by luring James in with seduction and nostalgia, followed by driving against him with persistent guilt, and then ultimately making him watch as she is repeatedly killed in horrifying ways, all while James is helpless to stop it.

It is for all these reasons, and so many more, that Silent Hill 2 remains as one of the most complex and poignant character studies ever attempted in a video game world. By providing a dichotomy of punishment and redemption, the town of Silent Hill creates doubt as to whether or not it truly is evil. For those drowning in their sins and inner struggles, Silent Hill may be their only hope of coping.

Silent Hill is of your own making.
#2 Posted by hush404 (742 posts) -

Interesting, but I dun see why its here in the PS3 forums.

#3 Posted by McPaper (254 posts) -

This is a good analysis.

#4 Edited by RaccoonusDoodus (324 posts) -

@hodkurtz :
 
That's a really good analysis. Except for one thing, what you left out something about Laura.
 
In the letter from Mary that you get from Laura, it mentions Laura's 8th birthday approaching. But this note is from years ago. And when James asks Laura how old she is, Laura says that she just turned 8 a week ago. Because of that, it is widely believed that she is a spirit. But what you said about her being a portrayal or innocence, that is true.
 
And even past the characters, there's so much to look into in SH2. Almost everything in the world represents something about James psyche, from things like the geography of the town to the monsters you face to the notes you find to the characters you meet, just...everything!
 
Even the biggest, most popular quote from SH2 says something pretty huge about James' mental status.
 

 
 
 
"There was a HOLE here. It's gone now." 
 
This game just goes so deep. 
 
Oh and have you seen the list of things that determine the outcome of the game? It's so crazy how the littlest things you do can change the ending completely. Here...
 
 
http://silenthillheaven.com/main/sh2/sh2_endings/
 
This is just an amazing game. Best in the series. One of the best ever.
 

#5 Edited by Meowayne (6084 posts) -

There is nothing really to discuss here. 
 

  Silent Hill 2 may still be the greatest character study in gaming history. It's also still one of the most consistently organic games ever made.
[...]
 This is just an amazing game. Best in the series. One of the best ever. 


 However, Shattered Memories is, finally, a worthy successor.
#6 Posted by RaccoonusDoodus (324 posts) -

@Meowayne
While Shattered Memories may finally be a new Silent Hill that's actually worth while (unlike 4, Origins, and especially Homecoming) Silent Hill 2 still holds up as the best of the series. Along with 3. In my opinion. It can be argued that Shattered Memories is better, with the new direction they went with and all, but it's narrative quality is still nowhere near Silent Hill 2's. 

Either way, Silent Hill is one hell of a series. No pun intended.
 
EDIT- Oh, and I don't know if you meant that Shattered Memories is a better game than 2 or if you were just saying that there's finally a worthy sequel, but either way I'm just sharing my opinions of Shattered Memories compared to the rest of the series.  ;D

#7 Posted by Meowayne (6084 posts) -

I meant there's finally a worthy sequel. Not that Shattered Memories is better. It clearly isn't. 
 
But I do think it's better than SH3.

#8 Posted by OwnlyUzinWonHan (1478 posts) -

I think Silent Hill 2 was definitely one of those things that since I didn't get really into it, I missed a bunch of what made it special.
While I definitely regret that, it's a pretty good game if you just play it through.
In other words hey! I reviewed it!

#9 Posted by Meowayne (6084 posts) -

Not to sound harsh or anything, but judging from the review there is a LOT of stuff you missed or didn't understand, story-wise. Like "why don't the other characters comment on all the monsters?" 
 
But hey, it's great that people are still going back to it!

#10 Posted by RaccoonusDoodus (324 posts) -

Well in that case, I agree. Shattered Memories IS a good sequel. Even though I'm still a little angry about it, I mean, if you're going to "re-make" a game, and you change the gameplay AND the story, why not just make a completely new Silent Hill? Why "re-make" the original? That still kinda ticks me off, but Shattered Memories is still great. And we all have our own opinions I guess, I still like 3 better than SM. But that doesn't matter.
And about that guy who reviewed it, yeahh. When I beat this game the first time I just thought "Well, that was... pretty good." But I didn't really start to appreciate everything about it until I played it again, heh. But yeah, I had the same impressions the first time I played it. :D
SH2 is my choice for Game of the Decade 2000-2009. I love it.

#11 Posted by Hailinel (23928 posts) -
@RaccoonusDoodus said:
" Well in that case, I agree. Shattered Memories IS a good sequel. Even though I'm still a little angry about it, I mean, if you're going to "re-make" a game, and you change the gameplay AND the story, why not just make a completely new Silent Hill? Why "re-make" the original? That still kinda ticks me off, but Shattered Memories is still great. And we all have our own opinions I guess, I still like 3 better than SM. But that doesn't matter.
And about that guy who reviewed it, yeahh. When I beat this game the first time I just thought "Well, that was... pretty good." But I didn't really start to appreciate everything about it until I played it again, heh. But yeah, I had the same impressions the first time I played it. :D SH2 is my choice for Game of the Decade 2000-2009. I love it. "
Shattered Memories isn't meant to replace the original.  It's simply a very different take on the original scenario, which in my mind turned out to be a better decision than if Konami had simply redone the original game with a graphic upgrade.  Shattered Memories is able to stand on its own as a good game, and not because it's a remake.
 
And besides that, the development team nailed the idea of what it is to be a Silent Hill game far more than the fools that made Homecoming.
Online
#12 Posted by RaccoonusDoodus (324 posts) -

@Hailinel
Yes, I realize that what they did with Shattered Memories is better than just remaking SH1 with better graphics, but I meant that, like...hm...I don't know quite how to put it. Why didn't they just make a *new* Silent Hill? I mean, the story and plot in SM is so much different from the original, hell, it pretty much is a new Silent Hill. I'm contradicting myself.  lmao. Look, what I meant was that they should have just made a new Silent Hill, instead of taking the premise of the first game and then changing everything else about it. But whatever. SM is still great.
 
100% true. God was Homecoming just an awful game. Just horrible. And that Pyramid Head cameo.....gggggGGRGGRGRRRRRRR. The people that made Homecoming just seem like they know nothing about Silent Hill. And same with that movie. Blegh.

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