Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams

aka: Silent Hill 2: Director's Cut, Silent Hill 2: Inner Fears, Silent Hill 2: Saigo no Uta

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 81% (based on 39 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 127 ratings with 14 reviews)

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.

Windows · by Kaddy B. (777) · 2009

It's a rough but enjoyable return to Silent Hill

The Good
First of all I need to point out that, while I wasn't using any proper modifications for the game, I applied fixes to enable modern resolutions and some hardware improvements through my graphics card's panel. While these options aren't available directly in the menus they're all things that the engine can do natively. With these tweaks applied the game looks truly fantastic, especially considering that it came out in 2002. While the environmental lighting is rather flat and basic, the effects of the portable flashlight are also wonderful. The only problem with the game engine is that it's locked at 30 FPS.

Silent Hill 2 tells the story of James, who has received a letter from his dead wife. Despite the unlikely situation, he's decided to return to Silent Hill anyway and visit the resort where they had a holiday together. The game starts after he is forced to abandon his car and continue on foot, due to the road into town being blocked. The story revolves around James' obsession with his dead wife, Mary, and his confusion as he meets a woman named Maria who resembles her in an uncanny manner. I found Maria to be a rather well written and interesting character, while James felt very sloppy and his actions and reactions rarely made sense.

Both creature and level design are top notch: a complete new roster of incredibly creative monsters is introduced. All the locations are expansive and complex without being confusing or dispersive. There's a wide variety of places that James will explore in the search for Mary, ranging from the ever present hospital to a prison hidden beneath the bowels of the earth. Of course, most of these are reached by free roaming through the town, this time on the south side of the lake.

One of the biggest improvements that the development team brought over the first Silent Hill is that they've let the choice of control type to the player: people used to the “tank” system seen in the prequel or in the Resident Evil titles can continue using it, but also available is a much more comfortable and fluid-feeling directional control system. It's also interesting the double difficulty selection: players can choose settings for both the action and riddle elements. The first one will affect how many enemies show up, how hard they hit and how accurate they are, while the second will concern only the puzzles, with the higher settings making them more cryptic and hard to decode. As far as riddles and puzzles go, they're a bit hit and miss: most were fun to figure out, but occasionally they relied too much on a very particular interpretation of the hints received.

Besides the portable flashlight, other features from Silent Hill have come back. The most iconic is undoubtedly the crackling radio that emits static noise whenever there's an enemy nearby. My favourite, however, is the map system: the clean and easy to read maps that get updated automatically as you try to open doors have come back and are as good as ever. A fantastic feature that appears to me has gone often unnoticed and I've never seen in another game is that James will look at items that can be picked up: in the first Silent Hill there often was the risk of missing something because it was behind a corner, hidden in shadows or maybe just slightly off-screen. To solve this problem the developers, instead of having glowing items or some ugly floating marker highlighting the item, made it so James' head will nod towards the nearest item. This is incredibly subtle and non intrusive, yet extremely useful. While there are still save points scattered around, represented by red squares generally on a wall, the game implements also a free saving system that allows the players to record their game whenever they want. The presence of several different endings will help keeping the replayability high for people who enjoy them. The New Game + mode doesn't offer much besides a few special weapons, that are, however, fun to use.

Added as a bonus after the main game there's also a mini-campaign called Born From a Wish, which tells what happened to Maria until the point right before she met James. It's rather short and should only take about one hour, but it's a nice bonus. Unfortunately it is marred by a puzzle that could have been good had its interface been better: the player needs to arrange a few tablets in a specific manner and the only way to try the combinations is to go through the inventory each time. The short fade-out that happens every time one of the menus is opened, normally unnoticeable, becomes very tiresome when done several times in a row.

The Bad
Sadly not everything can be good. The game itself is very slow to start. Unlike the prequel which throws the player directly into the thick of things, in this one there's a long walking sequence on a path down the hill, that's supposed to set the mood. The problem is that like the rest of the game, the overall atmosphere is not as claustrophobic and smothering as the original title managed to do. The light and darkness mechanics have been almost dropped, because most monsters will still be able to see James even if his flashlight is turned off. The result is that there's very little reason to stay in the darkness and attempt to sneak around because the disadvantages of doing so far outweigh the benefits.

The voice acting and writing have actually improved significantly. They are still awkward and weird, but at least they're not just comically bad.

The worst aspect by far of Silent Hill 2, and what can ruin the experience completely, is the camera's behaviour and controls. Similarly to the previous instalment it has an annoying tendency to face the front of the protagonist. However, in this case, it's also very hard to manipulate it so that it's facing the correct direction and, when you've finally managed to orient it correctly, it will refuse to stay put and constantly try to get back in front. This irritating behaviour makes navigating narrow hallways and corridors a real pain. The second aspect that was made worse from the first game are the melee attacks: they've become sluggish and very hard to time correctly, making close combat not a fun choice.

It doesn't matter that much anyway, because just like its predecessor the game starts off pretending to be a survival horror, just to end up showering the player with ammunition. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and in particular with the terrible melee controls it means that the combat is overall bearable because there's no particular need to pay close attention to the bullet use. Healing items are abundant as well.

The boss fights were a huge let-down. Most of them were relegated to small arenas, way too cramped to have the proper mobility. Dodging the attacks resolves usually to just running along the perimeter of the room, trying to shoot whenever possible. Pyramid Head in particular, who appeared to me, before I played this game, like he was an important icon of the Silent Hill series, turned out to be pathetic and laughable.

I found that the hard difficulty wasn't well balanced: the common monsters were fun and challenging, but the bosses became just plain unfair. If you consider that they deal massive damage and their speed increases, and pair that with the fact that most of the arenas where they're encountered are small, you get to the conclusion that survival is more based on amount of healing items left in the inventory rather than actual skill. The easier difficulties are understandably unchallenging. Overall, normal felt like the perfectly balanced setting to me.

The Bottom Line
I may have sounded a bit harsh towards the game, but despite its flaws I still consider it a very solid title that deserves to be played and enjoyed thoroughly. It's possible to work around its shortcomings and get used to them: the good times far outweigh the frustration that's caused by the unresponsive camera and clunky fighting. The story and its developments are overall interesting, albeit confusing at times.

Windows · by BeamingLizard (15) · 2015

The greatest story ever told

The Good

James Sunderland watches his own face in the mirror of a filthy roadside bathroom at the observation deck overlooking Toluca Lake. He had to make a stop here when he found out Nathan Avenue, the only road leading to the resort community of Silent Hill, is blocked by some sort of construction work.
James sighs, then mumbles to himself: "Mary, could you really be in this town?"
He takes a map of the area out of his car and decides to enter the town on foot, making his way through the forest around the lake.

His reason to be here is the letter in his pocket, a letter he just received, in which his wife Mary wrote she's waiting for him at Silent Hill, in their "special place".

The thing is, Mary's been dead for three years.

In the polarized and belligerant gaming community, there's a long standing bloodfeud between the minions of two horror/survival titles: Silent Hill is the game (and subsequent series) with which Konami answered to what's considered THE classic of H/S: Capcom's Resident Evil. The main distinction between both is that, whereas RE consists mostly of class-B zombie-hunting journeys starring a bunch of iron-willed, gorgeous-looking heroes in tight, brightly-colored, sexy outfits that already made a career in the Army AND the Police before they hit their mid-20's fighting the evil "Umbrella Corporation", which is hellbent on perfecting the resurrecting of the dead for a purpose that probably beats even themselves, where they have monsters pouncing on you all of a sudden to give you the "boo!" type of scare; SH leans towards a more psychological kind of horror, putting rather everyday next-door type of characters to deal with supernatural situations that constantly tilt between the unveiling of a darker side of reality and allegories of the character's way of dealing with his own inner demons. While Konami also resorts to the "boo!" resource to make you jump off your seat, the true strong point of a SH game is its dark, gloomy, dreamlike atmosphere, where just about everything could happen. In Silent Hill, you drop into a hole and you appear at the reception office of a prison camp from the early 1800's.
That's how we do things here at the Hills, foreigner.

And yes, you just did figure out on which side of the this fanboi wars I stand, you smart thingie, you.

Anyway.
Silent Hill 2 is a rare beast even in its own series. The other SH's are connected plot-wise, all of them mostly centered in telling different bits of the story of a cult that preyed upon the children of the tourist resort of Silent Hill, pursuing the ultimate goal of resurrecting an ancient demon-god and turning the town in some hellish demon-infested no man's land; but SH2 puts that story on the background and focuses in the main's character personal quest, which ultimately turns in an interesting study of the way human beings deal with the feeling of guilt.

The story starts more or less as a typical horror story, with a clueless character lured and trapped in a ghost town of sorts infested by demonic creatures, by some obscure entity that promises closure to a particularly painful chapter of his life. As he makes his way through the nightmarish settings, determined to uncover the truth behind the ghostly letter that drove him to the town, he meets a few characters seemingly brought to the town in a similar fashion, each one of whom having received a call related to their own ghosts from the past, and thus involved in their own personal quests.
And this is where everything starts getting really odd.
Instead of teaming up against a mysterious threat, each character wants to keep going on their own. Each one of them seem to be hiding something. Every time James runs into one of them he learns a bit more about their secrets, but they seemed to have learned about James too, and as well as they unwillingly fill the main character in with details about themselves and their quests, they also uncover some rather obscure aspects of Jame's own story, ultimately teaching the player that there's a lot he needs to know yet, up until the point in which he ends up wondering whether Mary is even dead AT ALL.
Halfway into the game James meets the only character that will join him in the quest: the mysterious Maria, an impossible carbon-copy of his late wife, but whereas Mary was the low-profile, housewife kind of woman, Maria is a daring, sarcastic seductress, and she's probably the most puzzling of all the characters; at times it looks like her true identity is a mystery even to herself.

And then it starts getting even stranger, because there's the town too. Silent Hill is deserted, it seems to have been abandoned for a long time. Every exit of the town is blocked by either construction work or unexplainable chasms that engulfed the streets. Inside the buildings there are obvious evidences of either bloody struggles or paranoid inhabitants having vanished while trying to shut some unimaginable threat outside.
A thick mist covers the town, preventing from seeing anything far past a couple dozen feet and turning daytime into an eerie, claustrophobic, experience where death could be hiding right in front of you. And then it gets dark, and darker still, because Silent Hill shifts at night: the familiar locations change, become even more decaying, as if a hundred years took a toll on them overnight.
And the town has a backstory of its own. As we progress in the game we gather pieces of information about it, from the fragmented written testimonies of the people who succumbed to whatever it was that emptied the town, to newspaper pieces speaking about missing children, gruesome murders and religious cults trying to break the barrier of death, to historical documents that delve further back into the past, to the days of a plague, the victims of a shipwreck in Toluca Lake that were never found, the brutal, medieval-style crimes committed in a Prison Camp in the early 1800's, further back to the days where the town was built on the ground which settlers previously abandoned all of a sudden for unknown reasons, and even further back, to the days when early inhabitants called the land "The Place of the Silent Spirits".

There's something wrong with Silent Hill, something that looms over the town, entangled within the very mist that perpetually covers it, but has deep roots in the ground as well. The land is sick, and apparently it has always been.

Now, there's been a lot of criticism towards the rather bizarre storytelling, mainly to the way characters make so seemingly incoherent decisions that defy even the most generous laws of common sense; you need to look no further than some of the reviews in this very website. However, call me a fanboi, but I believe this bizarre storytelling is not incidental.
You see, if you come here expecting the Clive Barker type of horror story, where everything no matter how crazy ends up having a perfectly understandable, and, however supernaturally wacky, rather reasonable explanation, you sure have another thing coming. I, on the other hand, tend to compare this story to the likes of Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" or David Lynch's "Lost Highway"; the kind of story where the authors have no fear to drive over any storytelling conventions whenever the story demands it, for the sake of the dreamlike atmosphere. Not only I don't criticize that kind of thing, but I even applaud it. Normally, a horror story will start with a number of questions you will figure out piece by piece as you progress, until the final revelation strikes and you finally get it. My problem with this storytelling structure is that the final answer is never as fulfilling as the questions were enticing. There are a few honorable exceptions, sure, but most of the times I receive the typical Final Revelation of a given story with a "so this is what all that was about..." and either a shrug or a yawn. In fact, I rather be left with a lot of unanswered questions and a few hints to try and make any sense of it all by myself, than to have it all blown up by being told it was all the works of a paramilitary company with an obscenely stupid name.
SH2 starts with a rather conventional horror story, what with the ghost town and the monsters haunting the derelict apartments, but somehow seems to GROW as it progresses, and while at the end you ARE given a bunch of answers and a major revelation to complete the puzzle; the whole experience, the JOURNEY towards that end changed the way you look at it all. By the moment you reach the conclusive encounter you're no longer wondering what is the secret hiding behind the impossible letter, but rather whether any of what you just experienced was real or you were just doing a bizarre trip inside James' own subconscious, somehow influenced by this undeniably cursed town.

To top it all, you have the possibility to reach three different endings, depending on the way you played through the game, each one of which giving a whole different meaning to James' quest and his way to deal with the truth he ultimately uncovers. This not only enhances gameplay nicely, but actually manages to change the meaning of the entire story; a device that, storytelling-wise, is nothing short of impressive.
Furthermore, in a replay game you also have the chance to get A FOURTH ENDING, one more related to the town and its obscure damnation, which is a nice bonus.
And then you have two more endings, two sick, sick, sick Easter Eggs of joke endings that just have to be seen to be believed. Suffice to say, one of them follows the infamous SH tradition of the "UFO" endings, while the other one has a dog playing the puppetmaster of all the mystery.

Sure you can still bitch about a few particular weak sections of the story, or about how outrageously stupid the main character can come to be; but the storyline itself, and especially the way it's told, is great in its own oddball, niche style.

- OK, genius, so you defended the arbitrary and capricious storytelling against all those unforgiving badmouthers by basically saying that they don't get it, thus not-so-subtlely called some of our own fellow MG reviewers a pack of flaming morons. Sweet. Now were you planning on saying something about THE GAME, or is SH2 just some interactive book?

Fine.
The first thing that pounces upon you is how astounding the game looks. The whole "thick mist" thing is sure a convenient way to place the far clipping plane suspiciously close, but instead of leaning on this feature to justify their own laziness, the developers took some serious advantage of it, packing the characters and the general gameworld with the most amazingly high poly-count to ever grace a videogame. You might not see far past 20 feet away, but what you do see, looks jaw-droppingly beautiful. The character bodies alone are more detailed than even most games released today, some 4 years later.
The design of the monsters deserves a special note, there are only about 3 or 4 different classes, but they're more than enough, and they show a huge deal of imagination from the developers. And quite a twisted mind, too.
Among them, a special-special note must be done about "Pyramid Head", hands down the coolest and most disturbing villain to ever not do good things. Not to spoil too much what we're dealing with here, but in a few occasions you'll see him sexually abusing some of the other monsters, so you do the maths on how much of a villain he is.
Also, it's really interesting to read further about the ideas behind the creatures, since it turns out their appearance and the relationship between them is not casual, tying up to the main storyline with some classy symbolism.

To push the graphics bar even further up, the textures are drop dead gorgeous, the animation is so lifelike I don't think I've seen more believable characters until Half Life 2 came out, which enhances especially the dramatic scenes to heights you wouldn't believe, and the implementation of the lighting is a masterpiece in itself, especially if we think this is a DX-8 generation game, meaning no HDR lighting or any of those fancy F/X we have now.
Once you get a hold of the flashlight, it becomes not only your best pal in the game, but also one of the main atmosphere-building factors, with every single object in the scenery casting dynamic shadows. We all know how scary the shadow of, say, a chair can be when only lit by the dancing beam of a flashlight, and SH2 nailed the idea beautifully.

Next, we have the sound department, one of the main reasons why I re-wrote this review.
The thing is, the voices are fairly decent, the sound effects are very good with some truly memorable moments of sudden noises or unidentifiable whisperings that come to nicely fiddle with your nerves, but the last time I said something like "the music score is not ground breaking", for which I stand corrected and apologize. The first time I played the game, I didn't pay much attention to the music, other than recognizing how good a job it did to match every scene in which it was used, working as a very effective atmosphere-builder. Then I played the game a few more times, and the tunes started to stick in my head, and I found myself enjoying them more and more. Then, thanks to a fellow MG'er, I got to hear the full soundtrack album, and boy, did that thing hit me hard. Not only listening to the tracks takes me back to some of the most intense moments in the game, but they are all so beautiful on their own that I -not precisely much of a soundtrack kind of guy- bought the album and to the day it remains one of my top-3 favourite music albums of all times. Basically, we are talking about a mix between elaborated, oddball Angelo-Badalamenti-style experimental sounds with some fresh, radio-friendly, cutesy pop sounds; resulting in an unimaginably effective product, extremely likely to be enjoyable by anyone, be it a snotty, overly demanding musician looking for daring and innovative sounds or a lighthearted, casual, top-40 kind of listener.
On a side note, the albums for all the other SH games are also worth getting. Akira Yamaoka is undoubtedly one hell of a gifted musician.

Finally, the PC version of SH2 is the one sub-labeled "Restless Dreams" in the XBOX, which means we get to play a 30-minutes sub-game with Maria; getting a new and interesting perspective of a rather relevant part of the story.



The Bad

No good can come without drawbacks, and when it's THIS good, sadly it makes the flaws look worse.
In the first place, I was annoyed to see that as much care had been taken in every little detail in every aspect, while some things were just left aside. They are mostly little stupidities, but being so "small" makes them even more annoying, as one can presume they could've been taken rid of quite easily. First, the way James swaps weapons. There's no animation at all, the weapons just appear/disappear in his hands like magic. That's simply awful, considering the details at other levels (you can even see the movement of James' feet when he runs, Goddamnit!).
There are more of those, like the way the character turns around like if he was standing on a giant record player, without even moving a foot, or the HORRIBLE animation given to the roaches, not only the worst animation of the game, probably the worst animation EVER.

The AI does not exactly shine, and while that would be expected since we are fighting mostly zombies and their brains are probably rotten and all, then there comes Maria, who as I said joins James for a long part of the game... and what a BURDEN of a NPC she turns to be! I've never suffered a sidekick this idiotic in my entire videogaming life, not even the prisoners in the coin-op "Missing in Action" were this STUPID.
First, Maria won't defend herself at all. Oh OK, that's good, we can play the knight-in-shining-armour and protect the girl... but the girl not only doesn't fight back when attacked, she doesn't have any survival instinct at all! SHE WON'T EVEN RUN WHEN ATTACKED! SHE WILL JUST STAND THERE LETTING A GIVEN CREATURE JUST KILL HER WITH A BLANK EXPRESSION IN HER FACE! Even worse, in this kind of situation she will be most likely standing in your way, preventing you from killing the monster without hurting her. Because you can hurt her too. And you WILL, as the girl just seems to love to stand in the way of swinging melee weapons and flying bullets.

The action parts of the game can almost always be bypassed, and it is recommended to do so a couple of times, since there are way too many enemies around (especially on the streets), but one of the main reasons why you will rather do this is because how badly James sucks at using weapons -especially melee weapons. Hitting a creature with a wooden plank involves an animation that takes up to 2-3 seconds, that's not only annoying to withstand but more often than not gives the enemy enough time to attack before being hit.
Something similar happens in most of the boss fights. They go from stupidly easy to impossibly hard, passing through ridiculous situations like two guys standing face to face firing guns at each other without moving, for 30 seconds or so, until one dies. The "hard" difficulty mode just makes the enemies impossibly tough, resulting in the last boss battle taking no less than 40 minutes!! to beat.
Your worst enemy in this kind of situation -as in every H/S game- is the control interface. I know it has to suck because it comes from a console and all, but after the freedom of movement that games such as Oni gave me, getting stuck with this clumsy interface is VERY frustrating.

There's yet one more gameplay problem, and it's the camera: sometimes it will stand in front of James, preventing the player from seeing the enemies he's facing. You can switch it to James' back with a keystroke, but the animation is so painfully slow, that you can die twice before you even see what killed you.
And it will happen. A lot.
In this area, the first SH was WAY better.

In fact, while we are on the subject of comparing, I must say that while SH2 is in lots of ways superior to the first game, there are some things I really miss from the original, like the snow, the rain, and the effects of the original "Reversed Silent Hill", which looked MUCH more creepy than SH2's (with the streets becoming rusty grating over bottomless pits, and the monsters themselves getting "reversed"). I wonder why those kind of things were kept apart, it's a pity.
Also, the first game had A LOT of "little scary moments" that worked out GREATLY (remember the locker room in the school?), while SH2 barely has any.

Although I think the way the game decides which ending you are getting is brilliant, the problem is, there's no really a clear clue to what you should do in order to get each ending. If you don't have a walkthrough to guide you, it could turn pretty tricky to figure out, as none of the choices you make is any clear. Again, this was MUCH clearer in the first game.
For example, there's one ending in which James commits suicide (come on, you know this has to happen in at least one ending from the get-go). In order to get that ending to happen, the game will account whether or not you readed certain documents and examined a certain item. Now, it may be (and it was, actually) that I readed those documents just to find out what they were about. Not knowing what was written in there, I couldn't possibly figure that they would lead me to that ending.
Bluntly, the game decides that just for being curious about the contents of a piece of paper, I have suicidal tendencies.
Way to make a snap judgement.

Finally, there's a glitch that appears in every scene involving lip-synching that, however relatively small, IS noticeable. As I said, when a given scene looks this wonderful, a small persistent glitch looks much more annoying than ever.
It happens in the faces when the characters talk: "dots" and "lines" that flash every now and then around the lips in motion.

Ah, one last thing, dear console-to-PC porters: please be aware that there are PC monitors that can easily work at definitions well above 1024x768 and still have their refresh rate set at 75Hz and sometimes more, and DON'T CAP YOUR GODDAMNED GAMES AT A MAXIMUM OF 30 FRAMES PER SECOND!!! That's fine and maybe even necessary in a console because of the output of a normal TV, but you're killing the PC gamers forcing such a lame and nonsensical limitation. Some people have complained about arbitrary fraction-of-a-second stops during the game that are nothing else but the framerate suddenly dropping because of a given camerawork, and any drop below 30, however small and brief, means one thing: stuttering.
This is really annoying especially when you KNOW your hardware could very well run the game at 60 FPS or more, if they even gave it the chance.



The Bottom Line

One would think (although I know people that don't) that the most important part of a game is its gameplay. To quote OldManMurray's Erik, if you're looking for a story, go read a book, they have that field pretty much covered up. However, SH2 manages to effectively tell a story that I imagine wouldn't work out so well in any other media. This is one game in which the (many) gameplay issues (some of them inseparably related to the very genre the game belongs to) can be bypassed for a greater good.

I'm an unbearably snobbish bookworm. I'm even more unbearable with my picky choices of movies. I'm the kind of guy you don't want to be with when watching a popcorn flick or a comedy, unless you think you'd have enjoyed going to the movies with Ignatius Reilly. That said, I often dare to refer SH2 as the greatest story ever told.
It might (it does) have its share of flaws, and many of them manage to cripple the experience seriously (you can't possibly be immersed into the dire need to save a girl who doesn't even bother to look at the hellish abomination that's mercilessly beating her dead), but in the end, it remains a masterpiece in storytelling. It's simple but it's deep at the same time, it's clever, it's disturbing, it's emotional, and -above all- it doesn't crumble down in the end by resorting to adolescent class-B-movie type of explanations -a flaw so painfully common in videogame stories- but rather it treads a narrative path that even many big-time movies don't dare.

I recommend this game to anyone looking for gorgeous graphics, immersive horror atmosphere, and -very especially- a GREAT storytelling.

Windows · by Slug Camargo (583) · 2006

No, I don’t want to stick my hand in the toilet!

The Good
I’ve never really understood horror games or the horror genre in general. I always thought it was strange to willingly subject oneself to feelings of fear and stress. Yet for some reason I always end up playing games like Silent Hill 2 and Eternal Darkness. Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m a bit of a wuss. Years ago, the Resident Evil remake gave my teenaged self nightmares. I guess I find greater reward in a game that I have to force myself through. Enough self-reflecting though, because the latest game I forced myself through has been one of the best games I’ve ever surmounted.

Silent Hill 2’s premise starts simply enough, James Sunderland gets a letter from his wife, telling him to meet her in the town of Silent Hill. The kicker is, she’s been dead for three years, yet for some reason, James still decides to search for her. It doesn’t take long for things to get spooky. James finds Silent Hill to be buried in fog, and almost completely deserted, that is, except for numerous monsters that stalk the streets.

The storyline is easily Silent Hill 2’s greatest asset. It starts off mysteriously enough to get you hooked, and things just continue to get more and more intriguing as you continue. The story is told through sometimes awkward cut scenes, but also through imagery and documents you come across. What I find most fascinating is how the game leaves it to the players to draw their own conclusions. There are a lot of things in Silent Hill 2 that aren’t clearly defined. There are even a number of endings, none of them claiming to be the true ending. It’s really engaging, and it makes you think for yourself.

The story is really original and interesting. On the surface, Silent Hill 2 appears to be an almost cliché survival horror game, but as things drag on, you realize it’s anything but. Despite its horrific setting, the game’s story is completely centered on James. It’s an introversive character analysis that not only gives you a glimpse into James’ head, but also gets into your head as well. It’s a welcome change from the industry’s norm of two dimensional characters, which normally lack human flaws.

Another thing that Silent Hill 2 does exceedingly well is atmosphere. Your field of vision is always obscured by fog or darkness from which a monster could shamble out of at any moment. It’s all very oppressive and gives you the feeling of everything working against you. Silent Hill 2’s strange music just adds to it all, without becoming too intrusive. It always keeps you on your toes, even if you know you’re probably safe for the moment.

The game is almost artsy in its approach. But they manage to pull it off without all the pretentiousness that most artsy games seem to trip over. It seems fully aware that it’s just a game and never takes itself too seriously. It also avoids feeling too campy or silly. Its charm is almost intangible and difficult to explain.

The Bad
It amazes me that a game that is so intelligent in its presentation can screw up the gameplay so bad. It’s like the game was made by a group of the greatest storytellers and artists in the industry, but no one thought to hire a designer. It’s hard for me to think of a single thing I enjoyed about Silent Hill 2’s gameplay. Silent Hill 2’s biggest flaws are the twin demons of stubborn camera and clumsy combat. They work together, you see, to ruin your fun.

Whenever you walk into a new room, there’s a good chance that the camera will be pointed directly at you, while a monster sits slightly off screen. You can manually place the camera behind your back, sometimes, when the game is in a good mood, but there’s no guarantee that it will stay put. By the time you finish fiddling with the camera, a monster may have already bitten your face off. The camera also has an odd tendency to twist to strange angles in an almost sickening manner. It might be the developers attempt to make the game have a more picturesque look to it, but it just gets in the way.

Combat, on the other hand, is easily one of the least immersive systems I’ve seen in a game. They totally missed the feel of combat. It’s all really bland and unnatural. There’s no strategy to it either, you just flail at something until it falls to the ground, and then you stomp on it. Unless you use guns, but I never bothered with them, except on bosses. In fact, I used guns so rarely that I ended the game with enough leftover ammo to supply a small army. I had over 360 rounds of pistol ammo. The frigging Doom guy could only carry 200 pistol rounds without a backpack.

I can understand that some of these problems are likely added for effect. Knowing an enemy is just off screen is pretty unnerving, but I thought that was what the fog and darkness were for. I also realize that James is supposed to be an average everyday guy, but surely he’s not THIS incompetent. Now that I think of it, Silent Hill 2’s combat is completely unnecessary. Why didn’t they scrap the whole thing and just make you run to avoid combat? Maybe they could have allowed you to throw rocks at enemies so they’d stop chasing you. Now that would be scary.

Why is it that terrible voice acting and scripting seems to be a staple of survival horror genre? It’s a good thing that a lot of the story is told outside of these cutscenes, because they’re pretty awful. Everyone’s delivery is either flat or over the top. Everyone also pauses after every sentence or so and they all move slowly and awkwardly. Even the main character’s performance is terribly stiff and lifeless. It doesn’t prevent you from getting into his head and the cutscenes don’t ruin the overall plot, but my god, think of what the game would have been like if the cutscenes were up to par with the rest of the game.

Lastly, Silent Hill 2 is extremely rigid with how you play it. Basically, the only decision they leave to the player is whether or not you choose to explore. Let me give you an example: James walks up to this hole and tells me that he can’t see the bottom. The game then asks me if I want to jump down. No, Silent Hill 2, that sounds like a genuinely stupid idea. For all I know, there’s no bottom to it, or no way out once I get down there. Since there’s no other way to progress through the game, though, I’m kind of wondering why the fuck you asked?

The Bottom Line
I might as well note that I’m not an established fan of the Silent Hill series, and that this was the first one I played. Therefore, I don’t know how well it stacks up to the other Silent Hill titles. As it stands, though, I think Silent Hill 2 is a strange and wonderful game. It’s completely rotten at its core, but everything else about it is so charming and original. It’s almost like a delicious meal comprised mostly of sandpaper and shards of glass, you know something’s not right about it, but you can’t stop eating it. I’m sure Silent Hill 2 isn’t for everyone, but most people should at least try it. It’s different, and intelligent in everything except its core gameplay. Even despite all the negatives, I still think Silent Hill 2 is an OUTSTANDING game.

Windows · by Adzuken (836) · 2009

Awesome game

The Good
Try playing this game at night with all the lights out no friends or family members and surround sound should give you the feeling like you are in the game. It will have you running up to the bathroom every five seconds or have you sitting in bed with a shot-gun. Yeah you are probably thinking I am trying to scare you, but this is no joke. This is by far the scariest game on X-box. It gives you the feeling like one of the monsters is lurking up behind you. When I played this game for the first time I didn't think it was all that scary.Things started to get eerie at the first apartment. It was pitch black till I got my flashlight, but I kept playing. Then at the hospital I was screaming my head off at every little noise and shadow. When I found an unlocked door, I didn't want to open it. When I did go in rooms I paused the game to listen for my radio. Yeah it IS that scary. So when you want a scare inviter friends over. Turn out the lights, and prepare to scream. This game should NOT be played by little kids. They WILL have nightmares.I have to admit there is a few flaws, but still a "Hall of Fame" game

The Bad
I didn't like having to return to the same place to find things that you may have missed.

The Bottom Line
Perfect for parties or sleepovers. Scarier than any game or horror movie.

Xbox · by bob harrison (2) · 2004

Turn off the lights, plug in the stereo and get ready for some chill

The Good
SH2 has a great story. I've read a lot of reviews of ppl complaining about the confusing story with so many missing pieces of information. Guess most of this ppl where the kind of ppl who finish adventure games with the game guide or who just take the shortest route through the game. SH2 needs more than that...it deserves more time and if you are willing to spend more time you'll get the real deal. Try to discover the past of Silent Hill.....read everything you get and you won't have too many questions in the end. Besides that, discovering the story is the real (maybe the only) puzzle of the game.

Besides that, be sure to have the appropriate audio to let you frighten by the sound itself. SH2 has some of the best sound effects i ever encountered in a game and some really gave me a chill. Still remember the feeling when the elk ran litteraly through my living room while examining the prison court. Besides the sound, the melancholic music adds real athmosphere, especially once it gets to an end, you encounter the truth, the music really makes you feel sad.

What's left? The graphics. Well, the blur filter too annoyed a lot of ppl but after turning it off to see the crisp graphics i though that it looked better before :) The details are great.....the restroom at the start.......disgusting.....and it goes on and on. You'll see incredible detailed textures through the whole game to give all the locations their special touch.

Another thing I liked where the 5 different ending sequenzes. While there are several "bad" ones there's one which you really should care to see and at least it should increase replayability.

So what's on the neg. side

The Bad
Sold as action-adventure with better puzzles than the RE series it was still disappointing to see those baby puzzles. Especially with the possibility to play with diferent skills i really hoped for more but we have to face the truth.....adventures are dead and what's left are puzzles a 5 year old would solve if he really would try hard!

The voice acting is quite poor, they didn't really fit into the situations but living in the german speaking parts of europe where every film gets dubbed it's kinda common to have bad voice acting and so that doesn't hurt too much :)

The biggest disappointment IMO was the sucky controls.....shortly after the start i restarted the game with easy action skill because the controls where kinda slow...sometimes it took to long to hit and while in combat that could cause quite a lot of damage fastly. Besides that it was too easy to get stuck on corners, especially with enemies around. Well, at least the different skill levels should make it possible for everyone.

The Bottom Line
It's a great game. It's dark, it's scary and it's sad. If you want a action packed game and don't care for story or puzzle elements you shouldn't really go for it. Like i said before, you'll miss a lot of the story and will be left with an unsatisfying story at the end. If you like puzzles or at least aren't afraid to READ, then go for the game, it's deffinatly worth it :o)

PlayStation 2 · by Quapil (5533) · 2002

Real horror, great story, with many endings

The Good
Almost everything. Graphs are nice, specially on cutscenes (which are almost same as graphics in game).

Game`s plot is very good and there are many sad scenes which can even make you cry. It´s also very long, but it isn´t that it would be too hard, it just rocks. Monsters are very scary, they (still) looks like cool, specially bosses, like pyramid heads.

There are separate levels: action and riddle level, so if you like e.g get more challenge to shoot monsters, but don´t want to solve stupid puzzles so much, you can set action level to hard and riddle level to easy.

5 endings are really cool, my favorite is Rebirth. You can get that ending only on replay game. In PC version, Directors Cut, you have sixth ending, called UFO, it also rocks very much.<br><br>**The Bad**<br>Sometimes, you can get stuck pretty badly, but usually you can find answer with Google. Also, some graphs has problems, even if theyre cool, you can see some cracks on textures.

The Bottom Line
Horror game from top

Windows · by MDawson (6) · 2004

``this is how to make a survival horror game``

The Good
everything in this game was great :) when i first played it i was sitting in front of the tv waiting on the FMV sequence finishing at the begining where he was standing in the road side toilet cubicle. and i waited for about a minute thinking when is this going to give me control of the character cos i just saw him standing there so i tried to move him and he started to move and i thought to myself i`ve been standing here like a fool and i could have moved all along that was how god the FMV sequences were just like the graphics i couldn`t really tell the difference i had never seen anything like that before.

the story line is the best one in any game so far it touches your emotionaly at times or tries to while still keeping its horror feel to it which was really good i thought. atmosphere was and is second to none ill wait till res evil comes out on the cube to see if it can match SH2 for atmosphere .

great game far superior to the original in every way the start of the game was well done you started at least a couple of miles away from the town and had to run all the way there when you left the road side toilet and ran down the stairs into the forrest and down the path you heard a loud noise as if something was coming through the trees at you but nothing happened its things like that that i love about the game pure genius so it is they have to be to think of games like Silent Hill 2.

roll on Silent Hill 3 cant wait to see how #3 turns out.

The Bad
there is nothing to hate about this game if you like survival horror games<br><br>**The Bottom Line**<br>if you like survival horror games then you have to play this even if you did not like the original you will like this because it`s far far superior.

PlayStation 2 · by Iced Earth (9) · 2002

Pure horror. There is nothing quite like this (well perhaps SH3)

The Good
-The atmosphere is unbearably good. Never before have i been so frightened in a videogame. The ridiculously thick fog in Silent Hill makes everything so scary.

-The sound is amazing. The sound effects of the monsters are so scary. This game also uses background noises for the monsters. For instance; you are walking through a forest, you hear your own footsteps but you also hear footsteps that are not synchronous to yours which means that someone could be behind you. You turn around to find out there is nothing there. This happens in a lot of places in Silent Hill 2. The music is also great. In many places throughout the game you will hear mucho scary ambient music & sound effects that also add up to the atmosphere of this game. The idea of a broken radio used as a monster detector is also cleverly thought of.

  • The graphics are simply amazing. No pre-drawn environments like in the Resident Evil games, but rendered three dimensional backgrounds. The grain effect is probably the best thought of feature of this game. The grain effect really comes to life when you are in the apartment building. The shades of dark colors are also nicely done.

  • The monsters are probably even better. I've never seen such craftsmanship when it comes to enemie's. Not your standard "Thriller video clip" type zombies, but four legged what-ever-you'd-like-to-call-it enemies. A survival horror game is even scarier when you expect and find the unexpected. I also loved the sound effects from these monsters. The monsters are also pretty smart. They'll back each other up in combat, they respond to footsteps and your flashlight, and some of them even use other forms of attacking (the sprayers can/will lay themselves down on the ground and start crawling around at immense speeds and they can collide with you to cause extra damage).

-Some of the scripted events are also nicely done. Distant screams, monsters that avoid being detected by your radio by staying still etc.

-The idea that you received a letter from your deceased spouse alone is scarier than the entire Resident Evil series.

The Bad
-Well, some of the puzzles are to straightforward and perhaps a little too easy. -Oh, and another thing. Don't play this game on your own at night before you go to bed. Believe me. It was pretty hard for me to sleep that night (i've even had a nightmare about this game :-).

The Bottom Line
Resident Evil, move over! This game is TRUE horror. Never before has a game been released with so much suspense and horror. This game is not gory, but it will frighten your pants off.

Windows · by Goteki45 (323) · 2003

One of the scariest games I've ever seen.

The Good
As a huge fan of horror games it's pretty safe to say that I was really looking forward to this one. Silent Hill 2 at first glance seems a lot like a revamped version of the first game and in many ways it is. The graphics have been obviously updated with the fog that surrounds the town all day being the first noticeable change. It swirls, changes direction and is completely volumetric. Lighting seems fairly standard until you get inside one of the dark buildings. Suddenly huge shadows are cast all over the walls by the light of your flashlight making for some of the creepiest visuals ever seen in a game. Seeing the shuffling shadow of a mutant nurse coming ever closer really gets your heart going. The monsters are some of the strangest and most bizzare creatures ever concocted. They have form but a form that doesn't quite make visual sense. Truely the stuff of nightmares. Sound is nigh on perfect with strange musical accompaniments that send shivers up the spine as well as some of the creepiest sound effects ever to grace my speakers. Definately one to turn way, way up. For example: At one point I could hear something very faint and it wasn't until I paid closer attention that I noticed that it was some kind of ghostly whispering. Little touches like that really add to the procceedings and often have something to do with the story. Yes the vague, thought provoking story telling has returned but this time it's been much better written. There is a depth to the story that the first one never had and it's in this story that I feel SH2 truly excels. Easily this is the best story in any horror game to date and with multiple endings to find that are determined in an ingenious manner as you play, there's a lot to keep you interested. There are 3 immediately available endings plus a special forth one that you can get the second time through an an additional hilarious 'joke' ending that you really must see to believe. The puzzles in this game are really good and the difficulty of both the fighting and the puzzles can be scaled according to your own personal liking.

The Bad
SH2 may be great but it's not free of problems. The voice acting is for the most part pretty poor and really can be quite off putting with a game of this calibre. The lighting routine while it looks amazing, also uses vertex based lighting and so the light zig zags unrealistically across straight walls at times. James is also quite slugglish to control, particularly in combat. It can be infuriating when you are killed by a monster because James got stuck on something or was too busy standing in the one spot for 5 seconds after you tried to hit whatever evil creature was after your blood. The game itself is also pretty short despite the 5 endings. I got through the whole thing in 7 hours my first time through which is a little less sizable than an adventure should be.

The Bottom Line
It has its faults but it's still one of the best horror adventures ever made and a vast improvement over the original.

PlayStation 2 · by Sycada (177) · 2002

Clive Barker meets Rod Serling meets a guy with a pyramid for a head

The Good
For those of you that have been living in a submarine for the past years you should know that the Silent Hill series are the "serious" survival horror games, the ones big, brainy fellas like to point at as being the finest games around horror-wise. Hype notwithstanding, the original game had a lot going for it, and it's sequel is even more impressive.

First of all the production values for the game are on a league of it's own. The graphics are incredibly detailed, sporting some of the most impressive texture work around. Seriously, things are just downright gorgeous with clean, smooth models and stellar dynamic lighting to increase the quality. Yes, the fog and general darkness are still there and help "cheat" things quite a bit, but there's no denying it's an amazing game to watch nonetheless. The PC version allows you to increase the resolution to stratospheric levels and I believe the textures have also had some worked on them to increase the detail, so that's more glitz for you. Of course, that's only considering the in-game graphics, the cutscenes are simply incredible and belong at the top of the line in terms of quality, though the discerning eye might notice some problems specially in the character animation (check out how "Robo-Mary" moves in her cutscene as she looks through the window!! You go girl!!). Thankfully for us, the port to CDs hasn't suffered from the video degradation in the same way as other PS2 DVD games and you can see them in all their original glory, showcasing some of the best CGI animation for a videogame ever.

The sound department is open to debate, considering the voice acting seems to have been recorded with the same shitty "5 words at a time" concept as in the original which still results in fragmented dialogue that's about as artificial as a soy hamburger, but the audio quality of the game is undeniable. Owners of a surround-sound setup are in for a threat, as the game supports every positional audio possibility out there, from a pro-logic -like setup to EAX, 6.1 EX Dolby digital and even more. Really, playing Silent Hill 2 with no lights and a fully cranked 5.1 system is one of the most intense experiences you can have, with each one of it's incredibly moody sfx and the kickass Ringu-like soundtrack giving your nerves the ride of their lives.

But aside from technical achievements, from a design and storyline point of view, the game also made steady improvements and takes on a much more mature note than the original. The narrative is much tighter thanks to the loss of needless sideplots and while the resulting game ends up being much shorter than the original it's also much more interesting and focused. The story is completely independent from the original game. Sure, James looks exactly as Harry with different clothes, and he's also a grieving widower, but instead of going for a vacation to Clive Barker's-Ville with his daughter he receives a letter that tells him to go to Silent Hill for a visit. Thing is the letter is from his deceased wife Mary....yikes... Right from the start the premise gets the game going in the right tracks, as it's much more powerful and driving as an emotional goal for our character than the original's "being stranded on freak-town and losing daughter"-premise. Also on a more subtle note, the game takes the emphasis away from the "Escape from the haunted town" vibe the original had and turns towards a more Twilight Zone-esque "Tales from Silent Hill" one where the game dedicates itself to telling you James story, with Silent Hill being merely the backdrop. This approach might sound disappointing to some, but the cocktail works perfectly, as James provides the human touch with his traumas, secrets and his quest, but Silent Hill doesn't mess him up with overcomplicated plots about demon summoning, medical corruption and assorted crap, and simply works as a supernatural means of bringing James itty, bitty skeletons out of the closet and assaulting him with psycho trips to the Hospital from Hell(tm) and the usual "disturbed version of an everyday location" that the original SH was famous for and which takes you to Cliver Barker-esque versions of several locations in the town as you search for your beloved Mary and avoid the many gore-friendly monsters that seem to have replaced the town's population.

Speaking about monsters, the developers got the message from the original and removed it's collection of Resident Evil rejects, giant moths and generic zombie dogs, and instead replaced them with much more disturbing, abstract creatures that seem part-human, part-uh... freaky things. After all, what else would you call a mannequin-like creature whose body ends at the torso and then continues into another pair of legs as if mirrored?? Or how about a menacing butcher with a crimson pyramid for a head that stalks you around like the "Nemesis" from Resident Evil? The creatures in Silent Hill 2 are both disturbing and appealing in their weirdness, with some standouts like the final boss that seems ripped straight from Clive Barker's "Tortured Souls" action-figure collection and which make each encounter with them much more tense than in the original not to mention interesting also in a way, as you struggle to comprehend how a thing with no arms or mouth can hurt you until it ...aARRRGHH!!!

Sure, as in the original James can fight back, but also as in the original fights are better left for another day as James fights as fiercely as a snail and it doesn't take many hits for his day to be over. A clever touch taken from the original that enhances the level of desperation inherent to the desperate fights you take part in. Thankfully, those of us with reflex-problems can now switch between camera-relative and character-relative controls that finally allow you to handle your character in a more natural way when placed under the game's kickass but often awkward camera positions. You can also individually tone down the combat difficulty making the baddies less numerous and easier to beat, and also giving James more health and decreasing the chance of him tripping over as he runs for his life. Isn't that a cool detail? That James... Falling on his ass as Pyramid-Head looms over him... what a doofus!!

The Bad
Unfortunately not everything is rosy with SH2, as some of the problems of the original can't help but creep their way back in due to the strange narrative fetishes of our beloved Konami folks. What I'm talking about here is the assortment of bogus twists and turns the story takes just because the designers felt that common sense is an alien trait to the characters in the game.

Just as before, the game seems to take place in a seemingly "trance"-like reality where people just don't question what they do or what the hell goes on around them. I mean, either James is a real badass mutha that's seen and done everything out there or he reads too many Clive Barker novels, as his reaction to the monstruous horrors of Silent Hill is about as sedated as it can be without drugs involved. Once again, this is not a singular "choice" or some clever mature thing Konami pulled off from his sleeve, it's just plain shitty storytelling, if we see this in a movie we scream foul at the sight of plot-holes, inconsistencies and lousy scripting, but since it's on a Silent Hill... Ahhh!! It must be art or something then....

Shit, I really don't know wether the game isn't actually worse than the original here, since they removed the mostly retarded moments (like the charming "cop-giving-a-perfect-stranger-her-gun-and-leaving" moment in the original) and they drastically cut down on the stupid tendency for the characters to meet, chat a bit and then disappear for a while (guess they never heard of that "safety in numbers" concept) to the point where a character actually hangs around with you for several parts of the game! Unfortunately, everything that was corrected was replaced by even more bogus character interaction that will leave even the most ardent Silent Hill fan scratching his/her head. Case in point: (this is just frigging incredible) midway through the game you follow a charming lil' character to a room, only to discover that she locks the door behind you and leaves you to die at the hands of two freakish monsters as she laughs and goes away. What does your character do later when he meets her again in a cottage by the lake?? Slap her around and break her legs? Shout at her? At least cock his gun and prepare himself for another surprise? Noooo, that would make too much sense, and since the story needs to go in another direction let's just settle with James going "Hey gorgeous! How you doing? Better be careful with those things out there!" nudge ...geez... I'm not trying to spoil things for you but Konami must think we are all retarded if they expect us to accept how they just force James to do what he does in the "good" ending with this character as a perfectly rational reaction. then again, what's another plot-hole gonna do to this game, uh?

As for the gameplay, while the game leaves most of the stupid puzzling around from the original, there are still places were the game weakens and slips in on of those lovely "collect the 45 coins of the moon, sun, stars, and whatever" puzzles in a place where it makes absolutely no sense. Or takes you for a walk as you check every room in the hotel/hospital or whatever looking for the golden key to the exit, Yay!!

Moving on, while extras are always welcome additions, I have to express my utter disappointment with the "Born from a wish" bonus scenario, which billed itself as the "inside story" of sorts for the game as it allowed you to play with Maria prior to James's arrival to Silent Hill. First of all, I believe we start off on the wrong foot with the premise and choice of character. Maria is one of the supernatural (or not?HmmMMMM???) characters that came to life in SH and is the one most closely related to Mary's mistery as it becomes obvious once you meet her and realise they both look exactly the same and have pretty much the same name (that's Konami's kind of subtlety for ya in case you were wondering). Thing is, outside of that Maria is a pretty boring character all around, with all the interest that surrounds her being simply because of our lack of knowledge of the character's past, and because she acts like a completely stoned babe at a frat-party while in the midst of a veritable nightmare. Angela would have been a much better choice for a "bonus scenario" extra, as she's the only other character outside of James that has also come to Silent Hill drawn by a supernatural event that relates to her past, a much more traumatizing and sadder event whose resurrection has unfortunately taken it's toll on poor Angela's mind (hey, we can't all be stone-cold macho men like James). All through the game she appears in hauntingly disturbing cutscenes that due to their more linearly scripted nature often become clearer and make more sense than the main game's plot! It's no wonder after all that she became one of the poster moments for the game (the one where she lies on the floor clutching a knife) and I would have preferred to crawl into Angela's little disturbed head much more than Maria's. Then again Maria IS the skanky stripper in the game with a glassy, stoned gaze and perpetual smirk that just scream "fan service" as the Japanese say, and regardless of how "serious" Silent Hill considers itself to be, it's always gonna go with the skanky stripper... Gameplay-wise, the extra scenario adds practically nothing, just two new weapons (a meat cleaver and a revolver) and the whole thing revolves around a shitty ghost-story that Maria has to solve by doing the good 'ol "check-every-room-for-the-key-and-solve-the-completely-ridiculous-puzzles-in-the-way" routine. Well, at least it comes for free.

I also should mention that there's a nasty lip-synch bug that pops up on every game-engine cutscene ported straight from the X-Box release and the fact that you really need some badass polygon-pushing card in your system to get Silent Hill to run without problems, as the textures alone are enough to slow most systems down to a crawl.

Oh, and I'm still waiting for Pinhead's cameo.

The Bottom Line
While still suffering from bogus storytelling and uneven gameplay fit for plenty of bitching, Silent Hill 2 tighttens the package by removing much of the slack from the original game, placing the focus on a more personal story, loosing the needless subplots and assorted elements stolen from the RE games, and dealing with much more unique and human elements that make the horror moments in the game even more impressive and haunting. The result is a game that towers over it's predecessor and rises as one of the best survival/horror titles around.

Aside from that this is THE game to show off your gaming rig, showcasing some of the most impressive graphical and aureal work in a videogame. A definitive must for anyone that enjoys quality mature gaming.

Windows · by Zovni (10504) · 2004

Definitely not for everyone...

The Good
The 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 Bad
Visually, 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.

The Bottom Line
All in all, this is one of those games that you simply must have a taste for already. Chances are good that this game won't attract you to this genre, but if you're already interested, it will keep you busy for a while.

Xbox · by Joe Galindo (3) · 2003

When playing this game, have an extra pair of underwear handy.

The Good
it freaked me out. I thought it was scary. Not in the way so much as something jumping out and going "Boo!" kind of scary but just the overall atmosphere of the game I found especially creepy. I don't scare easy, I found movies like The Exorcist hilarious but this game was scary.

I also thought the graphics were pretty good. The fog gets irritating but I thought the shadows cast by the flashlight were very realistic, reminded me of the quality of shadows on Doom 3.

Sound = excellent. Attributes to probably 70% of SH2's creepiness.

The Bad
Will the Silent Hill series ever understand that the movement and camera angles are completely inadequate?? There is nothing more frustrating than walking in to a room, hearing a monster in there but the camera is facing your characters face and you can't move the camera around to see whats in the room. Unfortunately, this happens almost every time you walk in a small room (i.e. especially the beginning apartments you explore).

I wouldn't say it's enough to ruin the whole game but it's definitely annoying. The fighting is pretty bad too. The response time is unrealistic. The guy, for some reason, has a hard time using a wooden plank as a weapon. Just swing it for gods sake. Nope. He has to stop ALL movement, then get in to a swinging position and then it takes about two seconds for the signal to go from his brain to his arms to make him swing. It's just very bad programming in my opinion and lazy quality control guys down at Konami who don't want to go back in and make it more enjoyable for us.

The Bottom Line
Lets face it, even if you're a dedicated fan of the SH series, you can't deny the camera angles, movement and fighting controls just plain suck. But I still don't think it was enough to ruin the game. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes these style of games. It's definitely better than Silent Hill 1.

Windows · by OlSkool_Gamer (88) · 2005

A terribly done adventure game

The Good
May be it is a great adventure. May be it is scary. May be it has atmosphere. May be it has a good story. I don't know about that, because I was too frustrated with the game to notice all this.

The Bad
Controls are terrible. I don't care that it was ported from game consoles. In 2002 developers no longer have an excuse not to make decent controls for the game. You press the attack key, but nothing happens because the game didn't finish the character animation yet. The fighting system in general is crap. Every 5-20 seconds game pauses for a fraction of a second without apparent reason (no disk activity, no transition to another scene and my 3D hardware is more than adequate). The sounds are supposed to be scary, but they are annoying an low quality. The graphics look pathetic. The noise feature is probably intended to make the image similar to the crappy picture that console users had on TV and it succeeds briliantly. It does look crappy. And you are not going to see farther than 5 meters from your nose. Yeah, it's a fog, I know, but it doesn't make the game look better.

The story might be great, but things like broken lip sync for cut scenes spoil it. Having to spend some considerable time in the beginning in the fog fighting some generic annoying zombies (same model, 30 identical copies running around) doesn't improve the first impression.

The Bottom Line
If you like adventures and are not afraid of disappointment, you might give it a try. Who knows, may be you will like this game better than I did.

Windows · by Paranoid Opressor (181) · 2003

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Melody Watts, Scaryfun, nyccrg, CalaisianMindthief, Wizo, Jeanne, Zerobrain, Patrick Bregger, Jacob Gens, Giu's Brain, vedder, Alsy, Xoleras, piltdown_man, Cantillon, Parf, Spindash, Big John WV, Alaedrain.