It’s not often that a genre-defining game that’s also a sequel becomes such a massive success. You might think of games such as DOOM 2 and Street Fighter II, but when it comes to horror, one title will always come up, Silent Hill 2. After the success that was Silent Hill on the Playstation 1, Konami quickly decided to create another game in the series. You will probably notice that I didn’t use the word sequel because SH2 isn’t exactly a direct sequel to the first game.
Developed by Team Silent, immediately after the completion of Silent Hill, in June 1999. The story was written by Takoyashi Sato, with the help of Hiroyuki Owako who wrote most of the lore and dialog. Silent Hill 2’s story was inspired by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and elements of it, can be seen throughout the game. The budget for the game was small compared to today’s standards, and according to Sato, the budget was around 7-10 million dollars.
Compared to, the first game’s protagonist Harry, James is also a common man, but the story is more focused on him. This time we’re not searching for a lost child, or saving the town, but instead James is determined to get the answers for the thing he’s searching for.
In this game, we’re also in a different part of Silent Hill, and upon arrival we found that the road to the town is blocked. Following a small detour through the forest James finally arrives in the titular town. As you might have guessed, the town is seemingly, abandoned, and there are monsters roaming around. While exploring the streets, you can interact with corpses and get gameplay hints and story bits. The overall impression is that this time the setting is after the first game since the town is now in ruin, and there isn’t a single living thing in sight.
While not a direct sequel to the first game, this is handled very cleverly. There are many nods and callbacks to the first games, but they don’t affect the plot in any way. James can find various books, signs, and items that explain the background of the town, the cult, but he’s nothing more than a passive observer. As a matter of fact, the cult doesn’t even play a major role in this time.
The best aspect of the game is horror, obviously, but this time, the approach is different. Instead of shocking images, jump scares and cheap deaths, here the horror is much more psychological. Yes, you still fight monsters, but all of them, puzzles and even the environment all related to James’s character. As you progress further into the game, you’ll notice more and more subtleties and clues related to the story. It’s not all out in the open, but more covert making you think about it, when putting things in perspective. He will also team up with Maria, a woman, that looks exactly like his wife, as they continue looking for clues.
Silent Hill 2 also follows less is more rule in many aspects. One of the first things you’ll notice is that there are only four characters besides James, and each one, is unique and memorable. Similarly there aren’t many monsters to be fought, only five of them, not counting the bosses. This might sound lackluster at first, but the every monster has symbolism behind it, and the game uses them masterfully.
The presentation is cutting edge, and it still holds up today. The fog system from the first game is still around, where the fog is used to reduce render distance. One of the massive improvement are the graphics, which are a giant leap forward and Team Konami used all aspects of the new PS2 hardware. The cut scenes deserve a special mention, along with the amazing voice acting and music.
OST in the game, is some of the best in the series, and it fits the atmosphere perfectly. Every sound is a clue or a warning, and combined with the visuals it creates an amazing horror experience.
Gameplay in large part is relatively the same, as it was in the first game. You can expect the same tank controls when it comes to movement and combat. There is a reasonable amount of weapon to use, and is everything you can expect an average man would use. Puzzles are mostly either environmental or item based. The environmental will usually have clues for you to find, and these might consist of riddles or simply by paying attention to detail. Item based puzzle will require that you find corresponding items that need to be put in a specific order. Silent Hill 2 also has a puzzle difficulty, which is a huge plus, and an option that is always welcome.
Interestingly enough, at it’s initial release, Silent Hill 2 was an “average score” (in some cases 7/10). As the time passed, the game was fondly remembered, by fans and it became a “cult classic”, then it evolved into a legendary genre defining game. It’s psychological approach to horror, it inspired countless horror games, and rightfully so.
Silent Hill 2 isn’t a game that uses just jump scares, or hideous monsters designs to frighten the player. It uses a correct amount of monsters, timed events, puzzles and the fear of the unknown, to build up the tension and then capitalize on it. The supporting cast also does an exceptional job, and they aren’t some cardboard cutout characters, but actually feel believable.
However, the game is not without problems or flaws, if you like. For example, the game will have you trek large distances, and in some cases you need to backtrack the path. The labyrinth section of the game could be a bit less confusing, but thankfully it’s just one level.
In 2006, Konami re-released the game, and bundled it with Silent Hill 3 and 4, named Silent Hill Collection in Japan and Europe. Not to be confused with Silent Hill HD Collection, which is a high definition remaster of SH2 and 3, complete with new voice actors. Thankfully there is an option to select the original voice cast.
Overall the game is a must play, if you’re into horror. It’s approach to psychological horror is still unmatched, but the game is more oriented towards adult, because it deals with serious themes, such as grief, violence, depression, ans others. Some of the subtlety, can easily be missed. If possible, see that you get the Director’s Cut, since it has an additional side scenario, which adds more depth to the story.
And that’s my review done for today, make sure to check out my other reviews linked below!
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