Friday, July 15, 2016

Review #336: Silent Hill 2

 Silent Hill is the world's best therapy course ever.
 Silent Hill 2 is known as one of the best, if not the best Survival Horror game ever made, it's undeniably one of the most important entries in the genre nonetheless. The game is over 15 years old, and everyone and their grandmothers know the big plot twist by now, and even then... it feels as if it hasn't aged one bit.

 The story follows James Sunderland, who receives a letter from his diseased  wife, telling him to meet her at their 'special place' in Silent Hill. On his trek through the misty, and apparently abandoned, sans monsters, town, James will come across a few individuals who have issues of their own. It's hard to delve into why the story is so good without entering spoiler territory, but there was a lot of detail put into James interactions with these characters, heck, into his interactions with the ways in which he must proceed, that mirrors James psychological state and personality. A lot of care went into designing the monsters and environments of the first four Silent Hill games, heck, even in Silent Hill 0rigins, but this one shines the most in this regard. It's nothing short of awe-inspiring. The voice acting could be considered bad, but once you learn more about these characters, you'll see that it fits them perfectly.
 The game progression can be somewhat divided into two 'phases', firstly you explore the Town of Silent Hill, while using a map that shows you where you should go, but you are free to explore, and you should. While the town is infested with monsters, it's also filled with supplies for you to find, so going out of your way to explore every street and locale pays off in the end. Once you are done exploring and decide to go to your objective, you'll initiate the 'second phase', which is exploring the building of interest. While avoiding enemies on the street is relatively simple, buildings offer dark environments, with stretch corridors, and corners that may hide enemies, alongside a plethora of riddles and puzzles to solve. And that's the basic flow of the game, you 'clear' your objective, and it's back to town for more exploring before going towards your next objective, etc.

 Before starting the game, there's two difficulties to select: Combat and Puzzle. I played the game on the Normal difficulty, for both of them, and I found the 'combat' to be way too easy. I had healing items and hundreds upon hundreds of bullets to spare. I had over 20 healing medikits that I never even touched, heck, I didn't even used the health ampoules, I simply relied on the health drinks and I even had a few of those to spare. The Riddles, however, kinda kicked my butt. I'm not gonna lie, some of those stumped me and I had to go online to get some help.
 Controls are what you'd expect from the genre, tank-controls(Although you can change this on the options menu) and clunky and slow combat. There's a strafing feature, but the couple times that I tried to use it ended up with me taking damage, so I just forgot about it altogether. One major mechanic is the use of the flashlight, without it, James can't interact with some objects, or even pick up some items, since he can't seem them(Even if you, the player, can). But having the flashlight on will also alert enemies of your presence. It's an interesting concept, since you can sneak past some enemies by turning off the flashlight, but you won't be able to use the map in the dark, or even open some doors.

 I played the vanilla PS2 version of Silent Hill 2, but it's missing some content that was added into the Xbox and PC port, and the PS2 Greatest Hits rerelease down the line. What it changes, it adds a new prologue where you play as one of the secondary characters, which lasts between one and two hours, adds a new ending, albeit a 'joke ending', for a total of six, as well as making enemies hit harder. Honestly, I don't think the 'Born from a Wish' prologue nor the joke ending are worth it, but if you can get more content at the same price, why not? Plus, the game lasts about 5:30 hours, probably less if you know what you are doing, so having more stuff to do might not be an unwelcome addition.

 While Silent Hill 4 remains my favorite, the amount of care and detail that went into this game's story is absolutely incredible. The story and characters are memorable, and I'll admit that the game managed to make me jump a couple of times. Silent Hill 2 is a fantastic game, and deserves all the praise it gets.
 8.5 out of 10

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