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Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams (Windows)

71
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kadath Bird (706)
Written on  :  Oct 07, 2009
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars4.57 Stars

12 out of 13 people found this review helpful

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Summary

A psycho-sexual drama that is disturbing, scary, and beautiful at the same time.

The Good

"Silent Hill 2" is a rare game. While the entire series has plenty of spooks and disturbing psychological scares, nothing in the series can compare to this gem. Yet at the same time, this isn't just the greatest horror game, it is easily one of the greatest games ever made. A masterwork of fiction, terror, and gameplay. While the game may not have as many "jump out" moments as is typical of the genre, the game makes up by digging so deep under your skin it can feel your bone marrow. The fog in Silent Hill is thick, and monsters often resemble shapeless shadows in the fog, and just like in the first game the accursed radio that clues you into a baddies location adds a layer of suspense and fear. The panic that sets in allows for confusion, and the monsters will have an easy time sneaking up on you.

Not only that, the monsters designs are disturbing. What makes them so disturbing isn't how much blood they have splattered on them or how strange their shape is (Although that adds to it) but their movement and most all their meaning. Every twisted visage has a meaning to it. They are metaphors. Deep fears and sins manifested into flesh. One of the most common enemies, the Straight Jackets represent helplessness to help others, and at the same time, they represent people who lost their way in the town and never came out. Living up to their name, they appear to he constricted human beings, struggling to break free. The infamous nurses represent the way James, the main character, would harass the nurses in the hospital where his wife died. The even more infamous Pyramid Head, is more than just a butcher or a 'rapist' like most people think he is; he is a punisher, an executioner, and agent of justice. Nigh on each monster succeeds in being even more disturbing because of their sexual implications, combining the social taboos of things such as harassment, rape, objectification of men and women, with strange shapes, gore, and mutations only makes these baddies more disturbing. The most disturbing monster, in my opinion, is by far the "Doorman," a creature born from the mind of a young woman who was assaulted by her father, the shape of the creature looking much like a larger figure raping a smaller figure that is constantly struggling. Its disturbing, and sickening, but its what makes these monstrosities true monsters. The way they animate is brilliant, each monster animates differently, yet their motions are equally frightening and strange. The way the straight jackets struggle, the way the nurses twitch and crack their limbs, the way Pyramid Head drags his sword and spear, and even the way the few human characters animate are all perfect. The animation is incredible, some of the best ever seen in a horror game.

The story is, in my opinion, the greatest ever told in a video game. While it's not for someone who can't think outside the box, as like the monsters it relies on metaphors and intelligent thought, is an emotionally charged story of "The beast within," revenge, and ultimately, redemption. You play James Sunderland. 3 years ago, your young wife Mary died of a disease. Before her death, you promised to take her to your "special place," a hotel on an island in Silent Hill, where you spent your honeymoon together. You get a letter from her, saying she is waiting there. Despite the fact that you know ghosts can't write a letter, you go to Silent Hill, seeking her out. The mystery that unravels will not only shock you, but by the ending, it will even make you truly feel for the characters. This was the first game to ever make me cry. Despite some occasionally deadpan acting, everything falls into place emotionally, and it will tug every emotion from fear, to disgust, to sadness. Its a truly brilliant tale, and it blends with the games frightening images and sounds perfectly.

The atmosphere is so thick you can cut it with a knife. The sounds of the monsters are just as freaky as their looks, the infamous radio crackles will send shivers, the music is both beautiful yet eerie and creepy at the same time, the fog and layers of darkness add a shroud of mystery, and it all lends an atmosphere that will keep you on your toes and suck you in. This gives the game time to truly work with you, and make you remember the images you see and hear, as well as feed the story at a leisurely pace. Its hard to put the game down.

The puzzles are good, in many ways they feel like something from a point 'n' click adventure game (That's a good thing) and they are all thought out. In some ways, you could maybe call this a point 'n' click adventure game but with joystick or keyboard (Though a controller is preferred in a third person game like this) control of your character. This is once again, a good comparison.

The graphics have aged surprisingly well. Sure, they do not look like FarCry 2 or Resident Evil 5, hell, they obviously don't look as good as the most recent Silent Hill game, Homecoming; Although that game sucks, so who cares? Despite this, the game looked great when it was released, and it looks great now. I've already mentioned how good the animation is, but the effects are great as well, the lighting and shadows are still incredible (Much like Doom 3, but before it was released....) as is the lighting system in general. The character models still carry a detail, blood spurts and leaves a trail, the flesh on monsters has an eerie glisten, your light flares in the camera, and some of the more deranged environments still look freaky and organic, like a mixture of H.R. Geiger and David Lynch.

The Bad

There's not much negative to say, but since it wouldn't be a balanced review, here are a few negatives.

First off, the combat is relatively poor. Locking on is troublesome, and sometimes James swings or shoots even if you haven't pulled the trigger, and sometimes makes himself vulnerable. Oddly enough, there are a few ridiculously large weapons one can find easily, namely the chainsaw and Pyramid Heads sword (To be fair, Pyramid Heads sword is slightly 'hidden' but its still easy to find if you look around the right corner.) which makes combat way too easy and removes the feeling of being vulnerable, something that is important to Survival Horror.

Although most of the games multiple endings are satisfying, I will admit that there are a couple that do not add a truly satisfying resolution. I truly feel that there is only one true ending to the game, but its would be a spoiler to tell you what happens, and at the same time, its hard to tell you what threshold gets you the ending.

The voice acting, although at times decent, can be somewhat deadpan and bland, at one point, even corny.

The layout of some levels may also breed repetition, and some may not like some of the more obtuse puzzles, as they can lead to frustration.

The Bottom Line

Silent Hill 2 isn't a game for kids, or those with a closed mind. It deserves its M rating (Although why wasn't "Mature Sexual Themes" added in the content descriptor?!?!? I consider rape, harassment, and a monster that is basically a lump of flesh with female genitalia to be "Mature Sexual Themes.") and it knows how to deliver the scares and disturbing scenes and themes. If you like a good scare, and don't mind the games content, then you will find a true masterpiece. Silent Hill 2 can be summed up as "Disturbing," but at the same time it can also be called a "Drama," and what a good drama it is. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys their horror with a side order of intelligence and a heaping helping of story.