by Nataniel Hohl
reviewed on X360
Coming full circle
Ever since its inaugural release in 1999, the Silent Hill series has been famous for its complex and chilling storylines, creepy nightmare-infested environments, and intentionally clunky combat. Lately however, the series has begun to lose its edge with fans as some of its newer entries, such as the recent Silent Hill: Homecoming and the even more recent Silent Hill: Downpour, have been met with a lukewarm reception and similar reviews.
Fans of the series’ older titles are in for a treat though as Konami is hoping to reignite their love for the franchise as well as bring in a new generation of Silent Hill fans with an HD remake of two of the most popular games: Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3. Featuring crisper visuals and new voice-overs for both game’s characters, this HD collection seems like just the thing to help bring all the frightening nostalgia back for long-time fans, but how does it hold up in the long run?
Old car, new parts
Konami is aiming to please both newer Silent Hill fans who want to experience the series’ roots as well as the old school crowd who’ve already played through either or both games multiple times back in the Playstation 2 era. Both games have been meticulously reconstructed on the current-gen consoles and feature the same characters, monsters, riddles, puzzles, and environments as they did back then.
Thanks to the HD touchups, the character models and atmospheric locals look clean and sharp and contrast nicely with the stylized cinematics peppered throughout each game’s story. Konami has even gone above and beyond by re-recording every line of dialogue in both games with brand new voice actors but have also opted to give players the option of using the new or old voices for those who actually prefer the campy originals. While the dialogue still tends to sound a bit stilted at times, I found myself connecting much more with the plight of the characters thanks to their new voices since this time around I could actually take most of them seriously.
One of the most jarring aspects of the HD remakes that I had to get accustomed to was the archaic controls. Having to hold down a certain button to run, using the same analog stick to move and turn, having to hold down another button to go into a “combat” stance, it actually reminded me a lot of the original Resident Evil games (though I doubt the controls are the only way the two series’ influenced each other).
Those who have played games with the infamous “tank” controls before probably won’t have to work too hard to reacquaint themselves but it might be a bit of a pain for others who are more used to modern setups. Luckily there are several different ways in which the controls can be modified in order to find a setup that suits your tastes but again it is nice to see Konami trying and succeeding to cater to a wide audience of players.
More modern gamers might also not like having to get used to how little hand-holding the games provide. In this day and age where most games have radars, breadcrumb trails, and other indicators leading us to our next objective or destination, Silent Hill’s preference for leaving it up to the player to figure out for themselves where to go could very easily be a turnoff. But again this is a matter of perspective as I’m sure some fans absolutely adore getting lost in a monster-filled town with nothing but their wits and their trusty map (once they find it) to guide them.
Setting the mood
Other faithful reproductions help conjure memories of the Silent Hill heydays as well. The music and sound effects will scare players far more than most of the creatures they fight, the tense feeling of wandering through the fog, hearing the slow rasp of breathing nearby is something I don’t think Resident Evil ever came close to mirroring. While most players probably won’t notice the subtle musical scores that accompany them as they wander through Silent Hill, the sudden shift in tone and volume when danger approaches will no-doubt unnerve them many times and some of the most chilling moments in both games are the segments where there is no music at all other than the chilling sound of silence.
Come and stay a while….
Even though they’re some of the earliest entries in the Silent Hill series, both games still manage to tell a tale that is equal parts horror, sadness, mystery, and danger. Whether you’re braving the town’s apartment buildings and hospitals in search of James Sunderland’s dead wife or trying to survive its amusement parks and subway stations as Heather Morris, both Silent Hill 2 and 3 are excellent examples of why the series is as popular as it is today and only by playing them can fans truly appreciate the franchise’s humble, terror-filled beginnings.
A nostalgic trip for Silent Hill fans back to some of the game’s strongest entries
Archaic controls and clunky combat might be turnoffs for more modern gamers