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SummaryDefinitely not for everyone...
The GoodThe most striking thing about SH2 isn't its fast-paced action, it's riveting storyline, its use of the Xbox's graphical capabilities or even the gameplay itself. This game manages one thing that may be said about very few (if any) action-based horror game: the suspense.
While many such games promise suspense, terror and spine-tingling thrills, very few deliver. With the unique combination of seemingly arbitrary sound effects, subtle changes in scenery and the tell-tale overall darkness of the game, it certainly delivers some interesting surprises. There will be times when the player will take a bit of a scare, which is exactly what the game is supposed to do.
Working well on a system with good surround sound, you'll hear footsteps behind you, rustling in the bushes, rattling of pipes and a barrage of other auditory illusions and effects that will keep you turning around in your chair to make sure that there really isn't something sneaking up behind you.
The BadVisually, this game isn't much to look at. Some of the cinematics are well-rendered, but the overall appearance of the game is lukewarm if you're charitable. Yes, the town is cloaked in fog and yes, the interiors of the buildings are almost complete darkness if you don't have the flashlight turned on, but the visual obscurity almost leaps from ambiance to hinderance in one mighty bound.
Also, while using the 3D control mode, our hero is all but unmanageable. Combined with constant spinning of camera angles, the "up equals forward" process (which doesn't even work half the time) can be maddening. Fortunately, you can switch between 3D and 2D control modes (which will give you more of a Tomb Raider feel) at any point in the game.
The voice acting also lacks something to be desired. The actors were trying to lend some strength to situational dialog, but it was as though they recorded the lines without ever hearing each other and were given almost nothing contextually to navigate by. This left the dialog seeming almost alien to the scenes in which it occurred.
The puzzle solutions were also a little outlandish. The solutions appeared to have no relation to the puzzles themselves, and it seemed more work than fun to collect the answers. (I'm not sticking my hand in a festering toilet because something appears to be stuck there, nor am I sticking my arm blindly into holes in a wall if I'm walking around a town that's infested with things right out of a Clive Barker novel.)
The storyline is fragmented and uneven, and though I enjoy the idea of being able to explore freely, the play offers very little directional assistance as far as which direction you need to go. The gameplay boils down to checking the map for places you haven't been and going to those places in hopes of finding something useful.