Review: Silence is golden.
Try and think hard about what makes you scared. I'm guessing there's more than just one thing that would blow your mind away. The dark can be scary. Sisters can be scary. Even failing a midterm exam can make your pimples pop, I bet. Those frightening experiences are nothing compared to what Silent Hill 2 can AND WILL do to you. In Konami's latest and scariest game, the company will do more than bring out your fears within you. Konami wants to rip them out, and let your mind enjoy the experience, only to be scared away yet come back craving more!
The town of Silent Hill, like the last game, is very eerie. If you've ever played the first game before, know that the second game has almost nothing to do with the prequel. In fact, these two games aren't even set in the same series of story line. Playing Silent Hill 2 is more like buying another yet another Final Fantasy game. The game's previous titles had nothing at all to do with the sequels, and vice versa. And the only resemblance from Silent Hill 2 that you can expect in the second is that it's set in the same town: That town dubbed Silent Hill.
It's been three years since James Sunderland's wife has died from a terrible disease. Three years is a long time. So why is it that three years later a letter is sent to James from his dead wife, Mary? Could it be that she's still alive? James planning to find out the meaning behind this letter from his lost wife travels into the town of Silent Hill once again to find their "special" spot, and to find his wife Mary. What James discovers though is more unnatural and disturbing than he'd ever imagine from the start. Set forth on a journey of mystery, intrigue, and deception, you'll play as James Sunderland, out to solve the mystery of a dark and brooding town where creatures lie in the mist, and the only result is death. Are you ready to fear...fear itself?
Each time the story moves along, you'll encounter a slew of movie scenes that show off the power of what the PlayStation 2 can really handle. These movies take place in both in-game graphics and FMV. Silent Hill 2's whacked out story drags the movies into the world of despair as well. The FMVs show off a great amount of detail and dark elegance to each of the characters, whether the movie is showing you a friend or foe of James's. It's not often that James will actually find a friend in the town dominated by a large scale of monsters, however. The voice acting is particularly a favorite of mine. James, for example, the voice of him is soft and sensitive towards the other people around him. Some other characters like Angela; a woman looking for her mother, and Laura; a little girl who seems to know more about James's past and future than he does, too have that great "video game" voice. Fans of gore, and screwy movies alike will fall deeply in awe with the sequel. If you have the nerve, and are be able to follow a sickly story, it'd be a shame NOT to buy this game!
As foggy as the last game was, Silent Hill 2 is still a place unbearable to walk through, as you'll progress past monsters that cannot be seen from the distance, but instead up close and gruesome. No, these disturbing images you're thinking about aren't a graphical glitch made on purpose. To scare the audience, an obscure setting is the essence of making the "dark" perfection reality. Through the town, whether you're inside or out, the balance between dark and light portrays its presence with eye candy galore. Yet, this stuff is scary enough to make your mind just jump out of the head and take a taxi down to Vegas. Around the town itself you'll find like any normal town cars lying along the edges of the roads. There are buildings such as a gas station, bowling alley, and even a hamburger joint. The only section of the town you won't find anywhere else is the blockades, and roads that look as if an atomic bomb were dropped on them from above. Running around the town can be a major puzzle in itself, as it does have a lot to explore, most of the town is cut off due to the fact that you need to go where the game is taking you. And, venturing into the games' certain areas is one of the main goals in the game. Many locales in Silent Hill 2 consist of a totally opposite area than what was found in the earlier game. You'll get to search through a dank apartment building, a not so friendly hospital...even the vastly challenging town itself. And through each of these places you'll pass, the detail that has been brought to life is beyond words. It's dark, it's unsettling, it's...it's...awesome!
Specific info on everything, from how the flashlight shines over a staircase, to how the background wall portrays the bigger image of shadows moving in form, to even the character models and environments themselves are eminent. Everything in the town, whether the object can move or not, plays in balance with James's movement. Say for example in the beginning of the game, James doesn't have the flashlight just yet. Reading a map in an unlit area weakens the result of deciphering the map at all. You'll need to actually move the character into a lit spot if you're to find out what's on that map! Since the town won't win any awards for its caring or sharing nature, the dark look is filled in so that everything you can think of that's bad that could ever possibly happen, does. Inside the buildings have unlit rooms, and you can literally only see as much as the flashlight from James's pocket can illuminate. Outside in the streets of Silent Hill, fog is present, and as any fog should do, will blind your vision. I should also note the use Konami has added of the swirling fog effect looks amazing. It's like everything in the game is alive...even though the irony of it all is that most of what moves is already dead.
Similar to the previous game, the new character James is controlled in a jerky fashion. For some reason, this use of control while all the popular in the horror genre, many gamers feel it's still not a good enough solution to what the control scheme really could (or should) be. Playing the game is like playing Resident Evil. You'll be able to move in any direction in a 3D manner. The only catch is that you've got to turn in the direction you want to move in, and then press forward to go. It could be that you're not a fan boy of controlling your character in the remote control process...so, Konami as smart as they are, thought ahead and added in the use of the analog stick for making James do what James has to do...run, walk, whatever. Still, the analog control felt very much like using the digital pad, and still doesn't add that "realism" to the game. Dynamic camera angles make the return leap as well, and add to the fright. Although you won't be able to see what's ahead of you in that pitch black hallway, a new usable (where available) trick option lets what James see help you to see as well. While pressing the look button, the camera angle can at times spin around in the opposite direction so that if you were staring at James's mug, you'll now be staring at the back of his head when the rotation is complete.
Another part in playing the game has to do with using the weapons. James will come across different tools with better or worse uses. The board with a nail in it is the first weapon found. The board, weak, is not as good as the shotgun (found later on). But, as the game carries on, you'll find that fighting enemies can get much tougher when they start forming in groups, as opposed to fighting a single enemy at a time. Where the shotgun is slow in shooting, it can also spread out its blast radius by taking down a number of enemies at once. The handgun can only pick at an enemy at a time, and isn't as powerful. Again, the weapons also range in how far they can move. The wooden stick with a nail can't hit as far as if you were swinging the metal pole. The pole can lunge out and beat the enemies from a better (and safer) reach. And in the game, you will need to determine how far you are from an enemy as in being able to see them. Sometimes a staff weapon can't reach an enemy, and sometimes you may not hit an enemy with the gun, because even though you can see them in the murky distance, the fog can still blind James.
Sound plays a big, and I mean HUGE part in immersing yourself into Silent Hill 2's world. How are you able to tell if a zombie is around the corner in the game Resident Evil? It's the zombie's moan, isn't it? Konami's hit series, on the other hand, uses a method that not only works great, but sometimes even better than listening and waiting for the monster. Like the first game, James has a radio that will emit a static noise whenever a monster is in range. The use of the radio is very helpful, as it will pick up distortion in a safe distance, giving your character enough time to prepare for battle. The game's sound works not only for the radio, but also for the "chill factor" as I like to call it. Imagine...you've just entered a poorly lit, rundown room. All is silent...and then suddenly, having James move across the carpet sets off music that heightens the moment, giving you a little shock, making you think something could just as well be around the corner. The music can run into other areas from being loud, the creepy quiet, to even a twisted pull. It's as if looking at a creature wasn't scary enough, that now listening to the disturbing noises a monster makes, compared to the chilling background noises is just as scary indeed. All of the other game's sounds are done just right. When James runs across a wooden platform, you'll hear wood...over pavement, you've got crunching...over ground, and you've got dirt, baby! What Silent Hill 2 isn't capable of is almost an uncertainty in its sound department.
In terms of how a creature is capable through look and sound in the game, I've got to say that the worst is brought out in the best of things. There are a number of beasts, monsters, creatures, and freaks...whatever you want to call them, they'll be there, and they'll scare the daylights out of you. One monster for instance looks as if it was packaged in shiny gift-wrap. The creature seems to have its arms restrained in a straightjacket manner. When you push James close enough, the monster spits out a large amount of poisonous vomit in your direction. Eck! Further along, the creature can even get down on the ground and scuttle on its stomach in an awkward movement around the location, screeching. If that doesn't give you the willies, how about a faceless nurse that gives off a high pitched scream as she lunges towards you with a weapon in hand? Creepy, huh? From each character's spine tingling growls, itchy movement, and blood curdling look, Konami has given the game's monstrosity a large placement on the scare meter.
A mainstream of puzzles will be one of the more ritual tasks when compared to fending off James from creature attacks. The puzzles found in Silent Hill 2 don't seem as hard as most other games. In the Resident Evil series, looking for objects, and backtracking to the original spot where the puzzle would take place seems difficult for some. The puzzles in this game, on the other hand, most of the time is done right form the spot you find them. That's not to say that the usual search for the key and get back to the locked door enigma isn't in there... Loads of the puzzles, though, have to do with memos you read in the game. Trying to figure out what a riddle means, what those numbers have to do with opening a door, and similar objectives will give your brain a workout. But, the puzzles aren't too hard that you'd have to ask around for how to solve them, as most of the twists can become almost second nature right away. From the last game, the map to explore the town is back and more intuitive than ever. Using the map will come in handy often, as the map not only shows you where each area is, where each door is located, but it also jots down which room each puzzle was in. Whenever James is able to open the door, the map will check off which ones you've opened already...whenever James can't open a door, the map will check off which ones you can't open yet, or at all. If that's not helpful enough for playing the game, then I don't know what is.
This is a game with putrid horror. Its features are limited. But, that isn't to say that not everyone can't miss out on the great single player experience that Silent Hill 2 is. One very new, and very good feature for Silent Hill fans is number 2's game difficulty option. After selecting a new game, you'll be prompted to not only set a puzzle difficulty, but also a battle difficulty as well. Choosing both will make things like certain puzzles harder or easier than what your brain can handle. Lowering the action difficulty will obviously make your opponents less of a threat, and technically, less in number. The various levels of difficulty in the game's action level measures from Beginner to its level of Hard. The puzzle levels you choose (Easy to Hard) have an impact on whether the game gives you clues to the riddles in the game or not. If you think you're ready for the competition, or would rather cruise through the game in a breeze, the option is always yours, and yours alone.