Is Konami's First PS2 Survival Horror Epic Still Worth Exploring?
Ten years after the release of Silent Hill, I finally got around to experiencing this renowned Survival Horror series. The first title impressed this post-Resident Evil 4 Survival Horror fan with its open-ended storyline, horrifying sound effects, unique gameplay mechanics, and interesting characters. I was never a huge zombie fan, so I appreciated that Silent Hill brought something new to the Survival Horror genre. That terrifying adventure's storyline really gripped me -- so much so that I wanted to piece together every detail of the experience afterwards.
However, after completing and contemplating Silent Hill, I still yearned for more. I'd heard that its sequel was excellent, so I decided to determine the truth for myself.
Being an intrepid adventurer, I decided to revisit a chilling resort town called Silent Hill -- just this time as a different character. Instead of frantically searching for Harry's daughter, I'd return as a man named James who received a mysterious letter from his long-dead girlfriend.
James' girlfriend passed away in Silent Hill three years ago due to a terminal illness, but he was unable to accept that tragic event. Hoping that she might still be alive, James set out to Silent Hill.
When James arrived, he discovered that the highway was out, so he got out of his car and proceeded to the waterfront. As he started walking, a thick mist enveloped the area. Was this dense fog part of a normal weather pattern? Or was this mysterious fog a sign that Silent Hill was just as dangerous as it was for the hero of the first game? James would soon find out.
Shortly after his arrival, James attempted to enter a barricaded area. As soon as he realized he wouldn't be able to make it through, James was attacked by a monster. Fortunately, he managed to fend off this mysterious creature with a wooden plank and escape to an equally dangerous looking cemetery. There, he encountered a woman who appeared to be living, but was struggling with an issue of her own. She warned James not to continue, but he headed into Silent Hill anyway.
When James finally reached a park on the outskirts of Silent Hill, he encountered a seductress who appeared to be a skanky version of his girlfriend Mary who'd passed away. She denied there being any relation, but begged to go with James. He reluctantly accepted her companionship, then headed into the town of Silent Hill that was covered in a dreadful fog and was swarming with monsters.
During his journey, James would enter creepy apartment buildings, the abandoned hospital from the original Silent Hill, creepy catacombs home to a Civil War-era prison, and a resort hotel where Mary supposedly perished. These environments are gritty like those of the original Silent Hill, but they're more realistic thanks to Silent Hill 2's improved graphics engine.
Silent Hill 2's draw distance is greater than that of the original, so the game has to rely on clever scares other than cramped corridors. Fortunately, there is still plenty of horror to be found due to the game's creepy sound effects and terrifying enemies. While you're in an underground prison, you'll internally beg to leave, because of the terrifying atmosphere provided by eerily realistic sound effects and the gruesome images you'll witness.
Likewise, the enemies will provide plenty of scares. During his quest, James encounters terrifying nurses with rearranged limbs, he crosses paths with a horrifying, invincible creature known as Pyramid Head, and he runs into many other creepy humanoid enemies.
Silent Hill 2 also provides plenty of scares thanks to the return of Silent Hill's alternate world. The game never really describes what this world full of barbed wire, torture, and blood is, but by the end of the journey, you may be able to discover the reality of this dark, disturbing environment.
As with the original Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2 has a decent control setup and provides you with plenty of ammo, so you'll rarely be struggling with the game itself. Some puzzles may stump you if you had trouble with the first game, but you're in luck this time, as there are difficulty options for the puzzles in addition to the combat. With these options, most players should be able to find a suitable difficulty level (I recommend 'Normal' for combat and 'Easy' for the puzzles).
For the most part, Silent Hill 2 was a thrilling experience, but my anxiety temporarily turned to anger during a portion of the game involving a boat. Fortunately, this brief boat rowing segment only takes a few minutes when you know what you're doing, but the controls and direction you're supposed to go aren't entirely clear, so you may spend twenty minutes struggling with the controls as I did. It's unfortunate that this confusing segment broke the game's scary atmosphere momentarily, but at least it didn't ruin my experience.
Something Silent Hill 2 shares with its predecessor is its open-ended nature and intriguing storyline that concludes with multiple endings, but there are some unique factors that differentiate the two titles as well. The first Silent Hill has some additional characters besides Harry that are important to the story, but you never fully understand their struggles. Silent Hill 2 on the other hand has a number of interesting side characters that all seem to be battling internal demons while in Silent Hill. It's difficult to piece together their experiences until the very end, but there are many hints of the horrors they're experiencing during their time in this mostly abandoned city.
One thing that that the initial two Silent Hill titles have in common is that they're both engaging tales that are fun to ponder after the experience. Silent Hill 2's visuals and control setup are a bit dated when compared to more recent Survival Horror titles such as Dead Space, but the game's atmosphere and storyline are still impressive nine years later. For those who don't appreciate darker titles, I recommend staying far away, but people who enjoy rich, chilling storylines should experience what is often considered the PS2's best Survival Horror title.
· Chilling sound effects and soundtrack
· Rich, open-ended storyline that you'll continue to think about long after the experience
· Pyramid Head is one of the most terrifying enemies you'll ever encounter
· The game's side characters add depth to the story
· Dated visuals
· Mediocre voice acting. Some puzzles are annoying