Silent Hill 2 - PS2 - Review
It's been a long time since I've played a survival/horror game with sound as powerful as Silent Hill 2. Come to think of it, the last game with comparable sound was the original SH. That useful/annoying/terrifying radio from the first game is back. Just like before, whenever a monster is near by, the radio's volume increases immensely, filling your ears with the sound of impending doom. The only thing louder than the radio's static is the jumpy music, further intensifying the situation. This is a great effect that tries its hardest to make you scared, but somehow falls short of achieving the same fear factor present in the first game. It is still scary and will frighten almost everyone, but after playing the original for a few hours, I had to quit. Period. I could not stand to play it any longer because I was so freaked out. It was a sensation unlike any other, far superior any horror movie out there. Maybe the reason I'm not as frightened by SH2 is because I've grown so used to the survival/horror style. As fun as walking aimlessly down a dark, monster-infested hallway is, after doing it for the 50,000th time, it just isn't that scary anymore. Does that make Silent Hill 2 any less fun? Not at all. In fact, it makes it more fun because I can fully enjoy the experience this time around.
Akira Yamaoka deserves a lot of credit for composing such an incredible soundtrack. Many of the tunes are classics you'll never forget. When you enter the bowling alley, a killer tune plays that is very reminiscent of PE's "Out of Phase." I enjoyed it so much that I actually walked around in circles for a few minutes just so I could hear the song again.
The voice acting, while far from perfect, is much improved over the original, as is the dialogue spoken between the characters, making it a lot easier to SH2's cast. I really felt bad for James. He's a lost soul doing anything he can to find his wife, despite the fact that she [supposedly] died three years ago.
The story of Silent Hill 2 is just as intriguing as the original, though not quite as shocking. Three years ago, a man named James Sunderland lost his wife, Mary, to a terrible illness. Unable to cope with her death, James' life becomes unimportant to him. He spends his days and nights dwelling on what happened, wishing he be with her again. Then one day, a letter comes that just might give him the chance. The letter is from Mary. She wants him to come to Silent Hill and return to their "special place." As crazy as it may seem, James is certain that that is Mary's handwriting. Whether it's a sick joke or not, he's determined to find his wife, or whatever's waiting for him at Silent Hill...
When James finally makes it to Silent Hill, you'll notice that not a whole lot has changed since the last time you were there. You'll also notice that the controls haven't change much either. Pressing up on the left analog stick moves James forward regardless of the direction he's facing, while pressing down will make him move backwards. This style of play has been the survival/horror standard since Resident Evil was released in 1996. SH2 takes advantage of the Dual-Shock 2's pressure-sensitive buttons, but they aren't overly useful. You either tap the X button to swing the plank lightly or press it as hard as you can to slam the plank down on your foe. I would have rather been able to attack fiercely with a tap of the X button and not have to press down so harshly.
Unfortunately, the camera still has the same problems as before, giving you a little frustration every now and then. Don't even bother trying to center the camera when in a small room or an elevator; the pre-set view will fight the camera tooth and nail, causing James to spin around in circles. Aside from that, I have no complaints. Silent Hill 2 is a chilling, thrilling game that I enjoy playing very much.
If you've never been blown away by polygons before, then I advise that you hang onto something. Silent Hill 2 is by far the most visually breathtaking game next to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
The thing that stands out most is obviously the shadow and lighting effects. ICO has incredible lighting effects, there is no doubt about that, as does MGS2. But neither of those games have as high a level of interactivity as Silent Hill 2. The minute you pick up the flashlight, aim it at the mannequin and walk around it. Its shadow will stretch, bend and move perfectly in sync the flashlight. The shadow effects are just as mind-blowing when you shine the light on a shopping cart, bottles, beds or the bars that block your path early on in the game. Shine the light on Maria for even more amazement. It's uncanny. I've played the game to death and I still can't believe it.
Even without the real-time shadows, Silent Hill 2 looks great. Actually, great is an understatement. The graphics are slightly grainy, but Konami packed so much detail into this enormous town that I don't even care. To give you an example of how much work went into the visuals, aside from Gran Turismo 3, most of the cars parked on the side of the road look more realistic than the vehicles in Tokyo Xtreme Racing, Ridge Racer or any other next-gen game. You can't get in the parked cars and drive them, but that's only one small aspect of the entire game. Dozens of trees, street signs, billboards and fences litter the streets of Silent Hill as well. And they all look spectacular, to say the least. It amazes me how close the game is Toy Story and A Bug's Life in terms of computer generated imagery. Words can't even begin to describe SH2's graphical prowess. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I was controlling a movie. Even if you don't like survival/horror games, you should at least rent SH2 for the eye candy and its excellent soundtrack.
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Although it’s a sequel, Silent Hill 2 feels like the first game in the series. While Dino Crisis and Onimusha chose action over horror, SH2 stays true to the survival/horror genre, featuring creepy sounds, a creepy story and grotesque diaries that give Resident Evil a run for its money.
You won’t find lighting or shadow effects as impressive as Silent Hill 2 anywhere else. Not even Luigi’s Mansion can match the depth or detail present in SH2’s beautiful world. The water effects in the sewer are also impressive, splashing with a great deal of realism.
Plug in surround sound system (if you have one) and turn the speakers all the way up. Every footstep, every deformed human’s moan and every noise that comes from your radio will ring in your ears for hours to come. SH2 makes better use of the PS2’s DVD sound capabilities than any other game on the market. Even without a good set of speakers the sound is still nothing short of amazing.
Silent Hill 2 is much more accessible to casual gamers than the first. I used a GameShark to play through the first game and still had a tough time beating it. The puzzles were way too tough and the riddles confused me more than they helped. But SH2 alleviates those problems by allowing you to choose the riddle and game level difficulty before you start a new game.
The creepy town of Silent Hill is nothing new, but the story that surrounds James Sunderland definitely is. Aside from the fact that the original game was a little more surprising, Silent Hill 2’s story is superior and one of the most original survival/horror tales ever told.
With a unique and interesting story, mind-blowing graphics, incredible soundtrack, great gameplay and FIVE endings, it’s hard to find fault with Silent Hill 2. It may not be perfect, but then again, nothing is. The past 10 months have been some of the best in gaming history. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have enough time to play all of the great games available. But I put aside many games, including ICO, to spend more time with Silent Hill 2. It really is that good.