It seems HD remakes are all the rage at the moment. Graphically enhanced versions of the Metal Gear Solid and Tomb Raider franchises amongst others are already available, and it’s inevitable that many more will begin to appear out of the woodwork. At times it’s hard to decipher whether this is a simple cash cow, getting gamers to buy games they more than likely already own for the simple visual increase, or whether this is a genuine call to gamers to relive re-envisioned versions of games they loved and took pleasure in completing in the past. So far so good though; critics have praised many of these packages, and the fair prices on most of these bundles are a big incentive. Still, it’s always risky treading on pre-loved territory, and the Silent Hill franchise is no exception. Earlier titles in the series, including Silent Hill 2 which makes an appearance this time around, are cited as game changers in the survival horror genre, so reinventing such a highly praised title is a bold move indeed.
Silent Hill 2 is one of the darkest and saddest games in the survival genre history, and whilst Silent Hill 3 has its merits, it’s nothing compared to the second outing in the series. A story of death and loss hangs over the dark and lonely streets of Silent Hill, with main character James Sunderland hunting for his presumed dead wife in a place that invokes both dread and sadness for both the in-game character and the player themselves. As the story progresses it’s hard to not get dragged into both the emotions that James and others wandering Silent Hill are going through as they look for the lost, and also the incredibly dense and overwhelmingly uncomfortable atmosphere of many of the abandoned buildings that litter Silent Hill, which set the mood for one of survival horror’s greatest outings.
If you’re new to the series, much of your time in Silent Hill is spent exploring the history of the town, solving puzzles and dealing with the locals. Both games are heavy on both combat and puzzle solving, and there’s a heavy mix of both to keep things fresh. Much of Silent Hill 2 is shrouded in fog, and with exploration being such a big part of both games, it can be a bit much early on and getting lost is a high possibility. As you progress, the environments expand and open up to much different locations, including the incredibly intimidating Brookhaven Hospital and exploration takes a turn from the confusing to the downright scary.
Dealing with enemies is less of a problem in 2 than it is in its sequel, and whilst the monsters that walk the town are both evil, intimidating and for the most part frightening in both games, it’s often much easier just to walk past a majority of the bad guys in the first half of this duo. This isn’t helped by a clunky combat system, which in turn is part of a bigger issue involving bringing older games to the modern era – the controls are far from what you’ll be used to. Older players will get their heads around it all much faster, being used to the tank controls of older titles, but new players may find the manual turning and uncooperative camera primitive compared to the modern day conditions they’re used to. Combat is slow and inaccurate, but for the most part forgivable. It’s still an undeniably horrifying moment when you first face Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2; the invincible monstrosity that made Silent Hill as iconic as it is today.
Replaying or indeed playing for the first time both titles will take players through claustrophobic, unsettling and grotesque environments that stay with the player long after it’s over. You’ll forget familiar jumps that made your first visits to Silent Hill so frightening, and even the ones you remember wont fail to give you goose bumps. This is on one hand thanks to the new visuals brought on via the HD improvements, with both character models and environments looking tons better than before. Details that were easy to miss before are now highly noticeable, and overall the game looks fresh and new, something you can’t get from playing the original on a full HD TV.
Overall, audio is average, despite the soundtrack still being incredibly unnerving. The voice acting has been recreated for both titles, and the option to use old or new voices is available for 2, but you’re stuck with the new voice cast in Silent Hill 3 regardless of your feelings on altering such important details. There are some synching issues, and along with audio cutting out now and again, minor niggles can take away from the usually gripping atmosphere created in the rest of Silent Hill.
Overall, both titles are as deeply unsettling and uncomfortable to play today as they were when they first arrived. At times you may find them dated, but they’re both beautifully brought forward to the modern era, and the games themselves have mostly stood the test of time. If you can live with the controls and audio issues, this is a chance to play through two of the scariest and most intense games in the survival horror genre.
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