Published on October 4th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2, the reputed peak of the series was released in 2001, not too long after the original on the Playstation, the game is set after the events in the first game and shows a different part of Silent Hill, offering up more touristic sites such as lodges, Toluca Lake, park and hotel, with the return of the hospital, but not the same as the one in the previous game, so perhaps there are two large hospitals in Silent Hill?
The main character is James Sunderland who has arrived in Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his wife, asking him to come and meet him in their “special place”. The only problem is that she’s dead.
He arrives in the everfog town and decides to go to the park, the place where he believes she may be, as he isn’t clear on where exactly this “special place” is. On the way he mights a couple of strange individuals as is the usual case in Silent Hill games.
The game shares many gameplay elements as the first game, the camera is moveable and is fully 3D unlike in Resident Evil, the game is a mixture of puzzle and action, it features a male protagonist who is looking for a female who is close to him and the hellish psychological horror is of the same ilk.
The upgrades to the game include better rendering of character models and fog effects, there are a different range of weapons and the gameplay is a little smoother, with the gun being more accurate. The story is vastly improved and the game design has been made a little more linear and the puzzles have dropped in difficulty and are less abstract. The radio static is less noisy and aggravating too, which is probably the greatest improvement.
The game is heavily influenced by Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the whole of the game was built around the story and its characters as opposed to the other way round like before, the enemies are designed to reflect the psyche of the main character and are much more humanised, like the mannequin legs that are stuck together and the nurses with deformed faces.
The Silent Hill we see in this version is much more personal and tailored to James Sunderland, he is more integral in this story, the people he meets are more involved, with him and their own ties to Silent Hill, one woman is the exact image of his wife, but has a different personality.
Silent Hill is without a doubt, the scariest game series ever.
The closest to it, are probably Amnesia, Siren and Zero series, all of which are great and terrifying in their own right, but none but Silent Hill cover all the bases of the truly horrifying, difficult, visual, psychological and suspenseful, while also provided a rich and intelligent storyline.
The game’s horror is slightly different than in the first game but stylistically the same, it’s pretty divisive which out of 1 or 2 is the scariest, but I found the second to be more frightening and the former more unnerving and creepy. The beauty of Silent Hill is that it is primarily a Japanese horror game, with the paranormal and grisly aesthetic of the East, but it fuses this with the Western setting of the town and distinctive well-developed story.
Psychological horror is used not only as a plot device but also as a gameplay element as the teleporting rooms of the first game make another appearance as well as the sudden appearances and disappearances of a certain well known enemy.
Music was once again by Akira Yamaoka, who provides haunting and memorable pieces as themes and openings, with atmospheric music dancing between scenes involving characters with slow and steady violin and the industrial effects of the dank Silent Hill.
This game is a major achievement in not only games but horror as a platform, it’s influence can only grow with the rise in popularity of horror games, although Team Silent are no longer working with the series, we can always hope to see other titles inspired by this crowning piece of gaming.
Extra thoughts. SPOILERS!
I really think this is the first ever spoiler warning I have seriously issued and it’s one of the most important ones as this game was spoilt for me before I had had a chance to play it, so I wouldn’t like to ruin it for others.
Pyramid Head has now become a staple character of the Silent Hill series, where he serves as a constant reminder of James’ deed, the use of him is one of the many incredible uses of game mechanics in horror, with various encounters that include running away avoidance or simply just not being able to react, however I have a bit of an issue with the first in-game encounter. You have to avoid him for a certain length of time, which is really long and when you’re able to do this, you have already figured out his movement AI, making a threatening adversary quickly reduced to a game component in a very early stage of the game.
The addition of the character Maria was brilliant and allowed the much needed perspective on James, outside of the usual bunch of nutters found in Silent Hill, she was the sexual version of his dead wife, the envisioned guilt of the reasons behind why he killed his wife as opposed to the punishment that Pyramid Head serves as. However despite her appearance in the strip club presumably coinciding with James’ arrival, it leaves me the question is Maria a conjuring of James’ or Mary’s? Is she really James’ desires or might she be Mary’s own fears of ugliness? Maria is after all very overt sexually compared to the nurses which express a more subconscious desire.
There are multiple ends to Silent Hill and a lot to the game in terms of analysis, so it looks like I might one day have to return to Silent Hill 2…