Silent Hill 2
- Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (HD Collection)
- Suggested Platform: Debatable.
- Developer: Konami
- Genre: Survival Horror.
- Release Date: 09/24/01 (NA)
- Why Play It?: Great story, environments, puzzles, and unsettling vibe.
- Why Skip It?: If you don’t like survival horror or can’t get past the tank-style control scheme.
If Silent Hill was a home-run, Silent Hill 2 is a grand slam. Silent Hill 2 had big shoes to fill after the work of art the first Silent Hill was, and oh man, did it ever fit the bill. Silent Hill 2 is widely regarded as one of if not the best survival horror game, let alone one of the best games of all time.
This time you take control of James Sunderland, a man who drives out to Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his wife stating that she is waiting for him in Silent Hill in their “special place”. The catch? James’s wife, Mary, has been dead for 3 years. James comes to Silent Hill to see if he can find her, and if he can’t, at least he can put this mystery to rest. Along the way, James will meet a small cast of characters, each with their own quirks, bordering on the insane. Silent Hill 2 has a amazing characters and a fantastic story and tells it wonderfully. The story alone makes this a great game.
I’m not going to go too much into the story to prevent spoilers, and I’m not going to go too much into the mechanics as I’ve already recounted the Silent Hill style in my Silent Hill review for the Best Games Ever list, feel free to read that to get a refresher if you need it. I will talk about the differences between the two games, however.
Controls and combat are identical to the first Silent Hill, which is great for survival horror games, as being a bit cumbersome easily adds to the tension, especially when surrounded or in tight hallways. Thankfully, there are no flying enemies in Silent Hill 2, making traversing town far more forgiving. In Silent Hill, the flying enemies were more or less guaranteeing a hit, or at least a panicked circle you had to run to shake them. In Silent Hill 2, there’s none of that, and the fact that most enemies are humanoid in nature means that you can easily outrun them if you so choose. Silent Hill 2 is also much more forgiving in terms of ammunition. Although you get the handgun a little later than in the first Silent Hill, ammunition for all three guns is far more plentiful, and a quick jaunt around town will reveal plenty of ammo, if you’re willing to look for it and dodge enemies in the streets. I personally feel as though Silent Hill 2 is more balanced than the first, simply because the enemies are more fair.
Puzzles are also an integral part of the Silent Hill formula, and Silent Hill 2 is no slouch. Like the first game in the series, puzzles range from simple to brain-busting. That said, I would argue that Silent Hill 2‘s puzzles are a little more cryptic, difficult, and more numerous, seeing as Silent Hill 2 is a bigger game. Silent Hill 2 also utilizes a “combine” feature, where you can combine multiple items that you’ll find to create a solution to a puzzle. On my first playthrough, I often forgot about the combine mechanic and ended up getting myself stuck from time to time. That said, solving a puzzle is still immensely satisfying once you finally do figure it out.
The Silent Hill series always does atmosphere so well, and Silent Hill 2 is no exception. Everywhere you visit is creepy or somehow uneasy feeling and the tension in hallways is done really well, creating a claustrophobic effect. Effectively using the environment and camera angles, and great music, Silent Hill 2 creates a terrifyingly beautiful world to get lost in. The fog effects look great and add to the unease of wondering what is just beyond your field of vision. The enemies are far more disturbing this time around with sacs of humanoid flesh that spit bile at you, to the instantly recognizable (and terrifying) Pyramid Head, and various other abominations of flesh. Each enemy moves in a strange way that is both familiar and horrifying at the same time, shuddering inhumanly fast, lumbering towards you slowly. That said, the mannequins are always the scariest enemies to me, how they just wait in the distance for you… Ugh…
Okay, so you’ve read this page and now you want to play Silent Hill 2. But which version should you play? Well, it depends. Firstly, do not play the HD Collection version on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360! This version is awful, plagued with movement stutter, lesser fog effects and various other issues. Just stay away. The PS3 version was patched, but it’s still bad. Firstly, make sure you get either Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams (or whatever the equivalent is named in your country) for the Xbox, the Greatest Hits version for the PS2 or the Director’s Cut for PC. Each of these are the best versions, as it adds a shorter second scenario prequel to the main scenario. So which one now? Well, with mods, the PC version has the best graphics, but suffers from a few small glitches, though nothing game-breaking. The PS2 version has the best fog effects of any version, but the Xbox version has shorter load times and slightly sharper graphics. I’ll let you make the decision.
After you finish Silent Hill 2, you’ll be left thinking about the story and the characters for quite a bit of time afterwards. I can’t recommend this game more to anyone as it is a fantastic game, and EASILY worthy of the title “Best Game Ever”.