Great games, OK ports
Over the past few weeks, I have indulged myself in the crazy, dark, terrifying fiction of the Silent Hill franchise. I picked up the HD collection along with Homecoming and Downpour (my rebound from the mediocre Raccoon City). So this is an HD collection and I would rather focus my review of the ports rather than the games themselves. However, I just want to throw a few thoughts about the games before I get into the meat of my main review.
Silent Hill 2 and 3 are both excellent games, if I could give a second score to these games, I'd give them both 4.5 stars. While you need to get used to the "tank" controls survival horror games relied on back then, it still plays like Silent Hill and delivers some of the scariest moments in gaming thanks to the brilliant sound and camera angles. Both games are absolutely horrifying in every single way. These games aren't for the faint of heart, but if you can brave them you are in for a wild, mind bending adventure that will take you to places you never knew you wanted to go. Overall just talking about the games, they are fantastic and this is coming from someone who has never played them before.
OK now to the actual HD ports, you may be asking how someone who has never played the original can compare and contrast between the collection and the originals. Take that as a negative because it is quite obvious where the missteps lie. Lets start with the most obvious things, the HD graphics. Overall, the game looks really great and spooky. The environments in HD for both games look just nasty and grimy, this doesn't even include the "other world" sections of the game. Due to the clarity that the HD brings, its much more apparent how screwed up the town of Silent Hill really is. Things are dark and its almost impossible to see monsters until they are 3 feet in front of you. Character models for monsters and people look much better and are as unsettling as ever. Now the biggest uproar I've seen about the graphics is the fog and yes the fog does look different. In a way it does look like a "wall-O-fog" but for the most part its ok and is countered by how excellent all the indoor stuff looks. While it is a shame the fog isn't as dense, its really not hard to get over. Another thing I noticed in Silent Hill 2 is there are barely water textures. Im under the impression it was mostly because the original game was covered with fog, therefore it didn't need to be very detailed. So in a few scenes its quite funny to see a lake that sometimes look like its empty or has water that is completely static.
Lastly, and the worst of all this is the framerate. In Silent Hill 2 there was only one small section that I noticed a reduce in it, but overall that game was ok. Silent Hill 3 is a totally different (and unfortunate) story. It has a framerate issue I have actually never seen before. It's not that the game gets choppy due to the framerate, its more like the game actually goes in and out of slow-motion. I'm trying to explain it the best I can but you really need to see it for yourself, picture a Michael Bay movie where one shot is normal speed and the very next is slow mo. Yes it sounds insane but it is true and pretty tragic that it happens so often. To dish out some love to ole' Silent Hill 3, I do think this is the superior looking game in the collection overall, but weighing the good and bad I'd give the point to SH2.
Audio has mostly stayed the same except for a few differences (and again shoddy port work). The biggest addition are the new voices. In Silent Hill 2 I have to say that the voices are much better and more believable than the orignal. There are still a few characters that sound iffy at best, but with Troy Baker voicing James is a huge step forward. He just makes James a better character, one who I wanted to like and sympathize with. So overall the voices are better but if you want there is an option to go to the old voices. Once again Silent Hill 3 gets the shaft, there is no option for original voice work due to some rights they couldn't get (I believe?) The new voices aren't so hot either, I felt like Heather was annoying many times and the rest of the voice work ranged from OK to downright bad. It's nothing game-breaking but its just a small annoyance they could have gone away with.
To sum up audio, the music is still incredible as well as the sounds all the creatures make.Each monster makes a very disturbing and distinct sound that will send shivers right up your spine as you cower in fear. Although, I did run into some nasty sound bugs where characters lines would repeat right after each other but this was only in the intro movie so not a terrible issue. To finish on a downer, the new voice work includes a new script, while it seems to sound better this lead to 2 separate issues, 1) Subtitles are wrong, this is more of a nitpicking from me than an actual issue, and 2) the mouth synch is completely shot with the new voices, maybe another nitpick but it still seems like a large issue.
This is one of the lesser HD ports that have come out this generation. It's a shame to see Konami release such a well made HD collection like the MGS series and just let Silent Hill come to this. Again, these ports aren't terrible and the updated visuals make the game just as tense as they ever were before. However, with the lack of polish and care that these games seemed to deserve, its hard to not be disappointed by Silent Hill HD. With that being said, I would STILL tell people to pick this up if they have never experienced the series and are looking to jump in. They are still incredible games and even with the hitches this collection brings, I encourage people who want to be scared shitless to vist the town of Silent Hill. Pyramid Head waits for your arrival...