I did a blow-by-blow on my Facebook, but since I'm not partial to people stalking me I can't really link it. But considering all the back-and-forth that has been going on over this HD collection, I thought maybe giving a brief recap of my experiences might help in a purchasing decision. Sort of as filler before I get a review up.
As background: I'm playing the 360 version. I heard the PS3 version is a lot worse. I'm also an absolutely insane Silent Hill fan. I've played 2 and 3 on both PS2, Xbox, and even had PC copies. When I played through the openings of these games, after hitting the first (or second, in SH2's case) save point I switched to my PS3 and booted up the original PS2 games to compare. Here is what I think, for each game, after about an hour or so into both.
Silent Hill 2
- The new voices sound better in conversation (like they sound like they are actually having a conversation instead of being in a voice booth) but the new James sounds confident and like he's swaggering rather than being the timid, sort of weak man he was in the original.
- So far the environments (minus the fog; I'll cover that) look very nice up-rezed, as do the character models. This was a good looking game on the PS2, and with the graphics scaled up it almost looks modern on the Xbox 360.
- So the big elephant in the room: the wall of fog. I'll just copy this straight from my Facebook:
"The whole game has a grayer, darker look. Silent Hill 2 had very white fog that was very prevalent. It gave it a weird, claustraphobic feel that made you feel like you were blind. It's kind of like how darkness was in Silent Hill 3: both invoked the fear of not seeing something awful just beyond vision, and you couldn't actually SEE there until you were practically on top of it.
The wall of fog is there, especially if you are looking for it. But honestly, it wasn't nearly as bad as the videos and screenshots I'd seen. Is there less fog? Yes. Does it give you a wider field of view? Yes. It actually sort of messes up the initial scene with the bloodtrail and the shadow of the monster lumbering off. However, I don't think it's bad enough to kill the mood. It does invoke a different feel to the game, but not dramatically and not in a bad way. I still got chills when I saw the first enemy reveal, and running down the forest path at the beginning was just as creepy as it ever was.
Point: I'm sad it isn't like the original, but I don't think it's as bad as people have made it out to be."
- That being said, being able to see enemies earlier than previously dramatically changes the feel of running around town. Before you had to rely on the radio, now you see them WAY earlier.
- New radio is so bad, I hate it so much. That is actually my biggest complaint. Not the fog, but the radio. It hiccups and doesn't whistle as much as it did in the original, which was very creepy. I'm sad.
- I haven't gone indoors yet to check the dark/light contrast, but I'll post a response with that later.
- Overall for SH2: It isn't as good as the original, but if you've never played it before it's fine. As a fan, I'm sad but not offended. I'll keep playing it.
Silent Hill 3
- All the new voice actors are inferior to the originals, but especially Heather. She sounds like she's 30 rather than a kid. I don't know why the had the original voices for SH2 and not SH3.
- Less fog in the opening scene doesn't bode well for when I actually get to Silent Hill.
- The HD environments actually look really good on this game, the improvement much more dramatic vs Silent Hill 2. For those worried: they are still bloody, rusty, and grainy. It looks a lot like the high-resolution PC version, which is actually the first version of the game I played. I really, really like it.
- Here's my biggest issue with it so far: it isn't dark enough. Silent Hill 3 original had a very large range of brightness. What I mean is the darks were straight up pitch dark, you could see NOTHING without a light. This made the flashlight much more potent and powerful and more important to the game. The HD version tones both down. The light isn't as bright, but the world is brighter. For me, the scariest part about Silent Hill games is the unknown. The creeping fog that obscures your vision, or the pitch blackness surrounding you at all times. Toning that down also toned down the scares for me, as that was my biggest draw to Silent Hill 3. It isn't BAD (there are still some very dark contrasting spots in the Mall's Nightmare World) but it isn't as good.
- It isn't as blurry (obviously) and the color pallet is a little muted, but I'm ok with it. It isn't the greatest, but it still looks very good.
- This game up-rezed looks like a modern game. It is a testament to how well this game used the PS2's power that the HD version looks fantastic.
- Radio is so, so bad. Whistling is almost completely gone, and the hiccup in volume isn't scary, it's just poor. Why on earth would you change this?
- The audio channels are switched on my system. Left comes out of right, and vice versa. How the hell do you mess THAT up? Somebody should be fired; patch a fix, Konami.
- Overall for SH3: Also not as good as the original, but closer to it than SH2 was. This game still really creeps me out.
If you don't own a PS2, Xbox (original), or PC capable of running these (or finding copies), then pick this collection up pronto (on the Xbox 360; dunno about PS3). These are two of the finest horror games ever made, and while this isn't their most glorious rendition I still think it's totally acceptable, especially for new people.
If you are a fan you might want to pause and consider. If you can get the PC version, there are mods to widescreen it and up-rez it which are easy to use and would be the definitive version of both these games. However, despite all the backlash they are getting, as someone who has played through Silent Hill 3 probably a dozen times and Silent Hill 2 around five or six, I think the remake is decent. It is different, I will say that is certain. But I don't think it's as bad as some people are making it out to be.
But I AM offended that Konami wouldn't take all the care and respect they did for Metal Gear Solid for this collection. I honestly consider Silent Hill 2 to be one of the greatest games ever made, and probably the cleverest aesthetically. Just sort of going through the motions on these collections is really telling for Konami, showing how much they really "care" about Silent Hill fans. It's hard to not be a little upset, especially considering how damned excited I was when I heard the announcement.
I hope this helps. If you have questions, I'll be more than willing to answer them. I really want people to experience these games, one way or another, and hopefully giving some answers will help with that.