Developers: Konami (original devs) | Hijinx Studios (HD versions)
They always say you should never go back. And considering the gruesome nightmares of the body and mind that the Silent Hill tourist board have been selling for years, perhaps we should heed the old adage. Against our better judgment though, we’re going to go and poke its festering corpse with an HD stick.
There have been plenty of HD re-releases of late and the majority of them have been awesome. God of War, Metal Gear Solid and Sly Raccoon are still fantastic games to play. Silent Hill may prove to be a rotten horse flaying too far though.
PS2 gamers will barely need reminding that Silent Hill 2 was a pioneering powerhouse of survival horror. The lonesome soundtrack, the “what the f**k was that!” sound effects, the atmosphere and the story still stand up today. And holy shit that ending? Still one of the most emotional to come from the gaming medium, but I’m afraid the journey there hasn’t aged particularly well.
While the puzzles are still nicely balanced in terms of practicality and difficulty, the relentlessly dull exploration is just exhausting. Rummaging through near-identical apartment and hotel rooms feels way too old-school for my liking today. It doesn’t help that there’s a long(ish) pause for checking the map screen.
The camera’s demented behaviour can be very trying. If it’s not following you on a trolley with one stuck wheel, it’s pointing at your face every time you come through a door, requiring a long button hold to sort it out. Thanks to the many fixed angled-areas you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enter a room only to accidentally run straight back out of it when the angle switches. It shouldn’t be this hard to walk through a door, but it is. After half an hour of Silent Hill 3, I was pining to be put out of my misery.
The combat is as stiff as ever. In Silent Hill 2, there’s an awkward delay between button press and response, but the connections with melee weapons feel satisfyingly meaty. In SH3 the response times are much better, but you don’t get the same sense of impact as the blows don’t seem to physically connect as brutally. Full 3D controls are available if the retro ‘turn on the spot’ method isn’t to your liking and it does at least make running away much easier.
Silent Hill 3 has always lived in its predecessor’s shadow, but I found that it stands up quite well. Newcomers to the series that have seen the movie will find plenty of familiar story elements to ease them in. Well, as much as you can ease anyone in before throwing walking, rotting corpses at them.
The decision to re-record the dialogue for both games feels odd, especially as only SH2 gives you the option of using the originals. Ok, the originals weren’t great, but the new ones aren’t notably improved, Maria sounds especially awful in a manish way. On the plus side, the voice acting for the conclusion of the game is still packed with enough emotion to avoid ruining your fond, chilled memories.
Perhaps more effort should have been dedicated towards optimising the game itself. The frame-rate is sluggish throughout, which is particularly damning as the PS2 games were fine. The FMV cutscenes that used a more detailed graphics engine from back in the days where in-game graphics took a back-seat to important movie scenes, have been utterly butchered. Smudgy, blurry textures give the impression you’re watching them through a dirty steamed-up window. SH3 is the better-looking of the two, with the character models being clearly superior, it’s just a shame that Heather’s incredibly annoying in a videogame brat style that Japan is eerily good at (Hope from Final Fantasy XIII is still number one on that particular shit list though).
Sadly, I found Silent Hill 3 to be riddled with bugs. The most annoying being the way certain sound tracks would go missing. Seeing as the sound effects are such a huge part of the atmosphere these games aim to sustain, it’s simply not acceptable. Some moments where Heather talks out loud to indicate where she needs to go, just don’t appear half the time. After getting stuck in the subway level, having no idea which platform I was supposed to be aiming for I resorted to checking an online FAQ, only to find out that Heather is supposed to say out loud where she wants to go. Another pleasure the game likes to screw you with is random crashes, fantastically fun after going an hour without seeing a save point. When the pre-title screen warning said, “Some parts of this game may be considered violent or cruel,” I didn’t expect to be on the sharpest end of it.
Silent Hill 2, never crashed on me, but I did have to reload a few times so I could pick up some items that either didn’t appear or just wouldn’t react to presses of X to pick them up. If you’ve not played the game before, this can be infuriating as you start wandering around looking for other clues only to give up and check a guide to find out you were right all along.
There are about fifteen hours’ worth of gameplay here and multiple endings, but unless you’re in the know, it’s very unclear on how you obtain them. The repetitive nature of the games makes it hard to recommend playing through more than once though. I found once was enough and the rest are on YouTube anyway.
- Excellent sound design
- Silent Hill 2’s ending still hits hard
- Silent Hill 3 looks pretty good
- Pointless new voice recordings
- Crashes and glitches hamper the experience
- Repetitive and dull by today’s standards
The Short Version: Silent Hill 2’s ending is still absolutely brilliant, but the journey to get there just feels like too much of a slog. Gameplay and exploration in both games feels incredibly dated and the NEW technical flaws I found in both titles makes it hard to persevere. For such a pair of revered titles, the amount of care displayed here is appalling.