Restless Dreams provides very little new content.
In 1999, Konami introduced players to the city of Silent Hill. It's your typical Midwest American town, an isolated place, filled with fog and the occasional paranormal activity. The game was a mix between the survival horror genre - established by Resident Evil, with fixed camera perspectives and horribly mutated creatures - and a H.P Lovecraft suspense novel. Two years later, Silent Hill 2 was released for the PlayStation 2, and three months later, for the Xbox and PC, dubbed Restless Dreams - or Inner Fears, in the European version.
James Sunderland finds himself in a rest station in the borders of Silent Hill looking himself on a mirror. What took him to such a place? He received a letter addressed to him, written by his wife. It told him she was waiting for him in their 'special place', in the town of Silent Hill, where they apparently had spent vacation in. The only problem with this letter is that James' wife has been dead for three years. With a map in hand, he walks through the endless myst in search of an answer to this riddle. What he finds is a nightmare filled with disturbed characters, hideous creatures and many more questions than anything.
Playing Silent Hill 2 is an exercise of exploration, and less of fighting monsters. Controlling James from a third person view point, you'll run across letters, books and notes containing clues for puzzles, and background information on the denizens of Silent Hill, along with items that can be used as either weapons for defense, like a handgun and a rifle, or for environmental use, like paint thinner. Their use, however, isn't always obvious, which makes finding these vital and a puzzle in itself. The pocket flashlight and static radio both make a comeback, the radio working as a beacon indicating monsters are nearby, and the flashlight, well, lighting the way. Maps can be found for most of the places you'll visit. James will be nice enough to tick off with red ink doors you crossed, or closed off sections that can't be accessed, making it easier to track down the points you'll be running to in order to progress in the game.
Along in your explorations of various Silent Hill landmarks and the streets themselves, far and between, some threats will make their presence known. These creatures, ranging from bizarre mannequins and pyramid head, meat cleave-carrying goons, act as obstacles that most of the times seem psychological than physical barriers to James. Like a classic George A. Romero film, the creatures are the least of the protagonist's worries - the other humans pose more of a threat. You'll quickly meet the cast of unbalanced and disturbed individuals as you make your way through town. The most notable of them is Maria, a woman that shares James' wife Mary's looks, but differs personality wise. Sometimes playing the role of partner in certain sections of the game, she's the constant reminder that something is afoot in Silent Hill.
The atmosphere plays its own role in Silent Hill 2. The constant fog and dark sections are gloomy and at the same time inviting. Images are constantly popping on screen in the form of blood on the walls of an apartment building, or a simple rust stain on a door, that wasn't there the first time you stopped to notice. A noise filter, a sort of old home movie grainy screen provides a layer obscuring your view. In this new version of Silent Hill 2, this effect can be turned off, providing cleaner graphics, but taking some of the mood away. The graphical presentation is on par with other Xbox games, and is a bit sharper than the PlayStation 2 version. Characters are detailed nicely, but animated in a rough fashion. The obvious difference in quality between pre-rendered scenes and normal game play is striking enough to notice, with more died out colors and details in these scenes, and more color, with far more sharpness in normal game play. Movement and transition animations look robotic and unnatural. Monsters look gruesome and are disturbing to look at, with fleshy textures. The various locations obviously received a lot of attention, with very well crafted texture work and detail. The level design doesn't stray off the function of the buildings you'll explore, at first glance - for an example, the hotel has halls with rooms and employee area - but present interesting, and dark secrets. Unlike the first Silent Hill, there aren't exactly two versions of the same environments, with a more suspenseful transition that is not as obvious as before.
Not all creepiness is provided by the visuals, however. Ambient noises and the "boos" typical of terror films apply to Silent Hill 2. The musical score is limited to tense sections, with very little presence in between. Character voices and performances are mostly delivered in a dry fashion, and have that campiness usually found in direct to video and B/C movies in matinee sessions at early hours on TV.
The main game mode varies in length depending on the difficulty settings. There are two adjustable difficulties, one for combat and another for puzzles. Setting the combat to easy makes enemy encounters even more toned down, while setting the puzzles to hard is to ask for a brain bruiser, with less tips and more complex pieces. On normal difficulties, the adventure is a short one, clocking at around five hours. Different endings can be attained depending on actions taken during the main game, giving it a short replay value. This Xbox version features a second game mode, titled Born from a Wish, that tells a side story with Maria, as she too gets a chance to explore the myst of Silent Hill. Not nearly as long as the main game mode, this second adventure takes around an hour to complete, and acts more like a story in a book's appendix section, showing a bit more of Maria's character background.
Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams can be compared to a Director's Cut DVD - it doesn't change the overall game with anything strikingly new, the bonus sub section isn't that big of a reason for Silent Hill 2 veterans to explore, but for new comers, it's totally worth the bus fare to Silent Hill.