Silent Hill 2
I have to be honest here and admit that I never played Silent Hill on the PSone. In fact I don't usually give the survival-horror genre a second look at all. However when Silent Hill 2 arrived at Deaf Gamers I was intrigued to see how it played. After quite a few scared stiff sessions on the sofa I have to admit that this is a damn fine game. Unlike the Resident Evil games where you are basically trawling through endless armies of monsters and the like, Silent Hill 2 has a dark and twisted but satisfyingly rich story line.
The game eerily begins in a public toilet with you staring into a mirror. You play as James Sunderland. Your wife died many years ago but recently you had a letter from her. The letter seems to indicate that you should meet your wife in Silent Hill. On leaving the toilets you head to your car, take the map, and then head down a path. Doesn't sound too bad does it, a little strange maybe but not too scary. However as soon as you start playing the game the tension hits you right away. Maybe it's the anticipation of what's to come or maybe it's the incessant rolling, thick, fog that cuts off all but the immediate space in front of you but whatever it is even at this point, the hairs on the back of your neck are already beginning to become active.
A little while down the path and you come across the graveyard. Now if you haven't played the game before then you'll be thinking that at this point, loads of monsters will emerge from the grave. Well you'd be wrong, Silent Hill 2 is far more subtle than that. All we see in the graveyard is a rather distressed, maybe slightly disturbed, woman. She tells us that she is looking for her mother (in a graveyard?) and informs us that something is wrong in Silent Hill and we ought not to go there.
On arriving in Silent Hill you notice stretches of blood on the road. Through the thick fog you can see what can only be described as a disjointed form who seems to be moving with a wounded limp. You follow but the creature has disappeared into the fog. Eventually you'll come to a path and at the end of it there is some sort of broken fence that boards up a tunnel. You climb through the broken fence and pick up something off the floor and a plank of wood. As you begin to turn away you notice something stand up and begin to move in an inhuman like fashion. Out of fear James whacks the creature with the plank. James then hurries out of the tunnel and heads back into the main town. As he leaves the tunnel he looks at the other object he picked up, it is a handheld radio.
As you get further into the game you'll meet strange characters. There's Eddie, a strange man who seems, but as it turns out isn't, oblivious to the evil surroundings, who you'll meet whilst he's throwing his guts up down one of the apartment toilets. There's also the little girl, Laura, who seems to want to hamper your quest of finding your wife. She seems to know something that you don't and any chance she gets of running away from you, she gladly takes. There is also Maria. She looks like your wife, a fact that you tell her and she makes it obvious that she hopes you'll transfer the affections you had for your wife onto her. Maria is rather obvious, if you know what I mean, but at least she seems frightened which is a sign that she is at least sane.
The game expertly uses your anticipation of horror as its key weapon. On strolling through the unlit buildings you'll notice the flashlight you are carrying occasional give a panicked wobble. The game also uses save points so your anxiety heightens when you can't seem to find one. On moving into an apartment, hospital, or any other building you have to find a map before you know exactly where you are going. We mentioned the radio earlier and this crackles when a monster is very close. Whilst this gives the deaf gamer a slight disadvantage, you should bear in mind the vibrating gamepad is shaking like hell and coupled with your own anxiety this compensates just fine for the lack of warning.
Silent Hill 2 comes with four difficulty settings (for the combat) and three riddle modes (puzzle solving). On the higher difficulty setting the creatures will need more damage to be finished off and your character will fall over out of fright. On the easier levels though combat can be all but avoided except for times when a showdown is a necessary part of the script.
Graphically speaking the game is quite pleasing. The cutscenes have been fantastically rendered and look great. The in game graphics have a slightly grainy appearance but fit in with the mood of the game perfectly. Out in the open your view is usually restricted by the thick rolling fog. Inside the buildings, the levels of terror soar as your flashlight exposes a minimal part of the immediate floor before you.
The game is fully subtitled and I am pleased to say fully enjoyable, that is enjoyable in a dark, chilling, sadistic way. If you remain on the main menu for a couple of minutes a cutscene will play but this is not subtitled, oddly enough. The only things I would say against the game is that the camera angles occasionally become a little awkward and the control system can be a bit fiddly (although the alternative 2D control method is much better). You have to go to the inventory screen to check on your health. This is no big problem but some kind of indicator on the main screen would have been better although I suppose it would have taken away from the great cinematic effect of the game.
Strangely enough this will appeal to fans of adventure games with its puzzles and ability to dodge the combat if so desired. The game also has multiple endings. These endings are dependent on your actions during the game. Looking at various items and the way you treat Maria seems to trigger various endings. Some of the alternate endings are only available after you've completed the game at least once. You will feel compelled to see all the different endings which is more than you can say for most games that have multiple endings.
Overall Game Rating: 9.1/10 Chilling, dark and somewhat twisted. Silent Hill 2 is without doubt the finest survival-horror genre game on the PS2 at the moment. I would say that it is the best adventure game on the PS2 also. Behind the terror lies a superb plot that will keep you coming back for more. Even when you've completed the game you'll still want to return to it to see the other endings.
Deaf Gamers comment: If you can stomach the sheer terror that this game gives you, you will enjoy this excellent gaming experience. Although not being able to hear the radio (that crackles when a monster is near) could be seen as a disadvantage, the game always encourages your imagination to anticipate the worst so you are always on your guard.