In 2001 and 2003, Konami and Team Silent released survival horror games Silent Hill 2 & 3 for the PS2, both becoming instant classics. Now brought together for the first time in a high-definition edition by Konami and Hijinx Studios for the PS3 and Xbox 360, new and old players can experience horror gaming at its finest.
For those of you who don’t know, Silent Hill 2 tells the tale of James Sunderland, a man who arrives in the titular town after receiving a mysterious letter from his wife Mary, who has been dead for three years. Curious and frightened, he enters the fog-covered town in search of her. In Silent Hill 3, a sequel to the first game in the series, a young woman named Heather Mason is approached by Douglas, a private detective, in a mall. Fleeing from the stranger, the mall quickly warps into a twisted nightmarish version of itself, forcing Heather to fight her way out in order to find out the truth behind the strange events.
Both games are already established tour-de-forces in the survival horror genre, leaving their marks on the gaming community (and their psyches!) long ago. With the HD Collection, both titles are brought together in one neat little package, featuring upscaled graphics (though not true HD, they look pretty good), new textures and even new voice-overs for SH2 and 3.
In Silent Hill 2 & 3, players control James Sunderland and Heather Mason in their respective quests to get to the bottom of the horrors that haunt them. Both games feature your typical Silent Hill gameplay, with players navigating through the foggy town in a third-person view and occasionally entering areas full of bizarre, bloody scenery and disturbing monsters. Armed with a radio, a pocket flashlight, and a variety of melee weapons and firearms, the protagonists must solve a generous amount of puzzles and defeat a number of grotesque creatures that stalk them to proceed.
The gameplay mechanics in general are solid and tested by time, but compared to other games nowadays, they are pretty outdated. Character movement is tank-like and sluggish (a 2D method of control also exists for those who’d prefer an alternative manner of movement), and melee combat is stiff and repetitive, although much improved in SH3. Since James and Heather aren’t really fighting experts, it kind of makes sense that their attacks aren’t exactly the best. Combat as well as the puzzles shouldn’t be too difficult to newcomers to the series as well, as the difficulty for these two can be tweaked before starting the game. Menu and item usage is a bit a hassle as players have to repetitively navigate the inventory screen every time they want to heal, change weapons or select puzzle items for use. Remember, however, that all of these outdated mechanics are part of the games charm; they shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The collection, as nice as it seems, is unfortunately not devoid of flaws. Due to the process of upscaling and all the necessary work put into bringing the games to newer consoles, each title suffers from a couple of annoying problems that break the titles, and sadly, somewhat tarnish the good memories.
First off, by bringing the two titles up to the HD age and cleaning up the graphics, a slew of problems are evident with the game worlds. Especially noticeable in SH2, we can see things that were not meant to be seen in the original title. Due to the removal of the heavy fog effects, we can such things like the end of the game world, monsters that have been programmed to hide at the side of the game world and are flung at the player as they cross and more. It’s quite sad that there wasn’t any effort to correct this.
Various audio problems abound in the collection as well. There are serious voice syncing issues in the game, particularly during SH2′s campaign. Frequently occurring during the games cutscenes, James and other characters will speak, only to have their mouths run off like it was a bad dubbing job. Audio will also occasionally crackle and/or stop abruptly, leaving the game without any noise whatsoever. I frequently encountered this in SH3, especially during exploration of the hospital. In one occasion, after hearing my radio grow loud with static and managing to catch a glimmer of twisted nurses approaching me from the distance, the game went completely mute as I rushed to face the threat. Only after dispatching them did the sounds magically come back. It continued to happen to me throughout the duration of the game.
The game also suffers from terrible slowdown, bringing it to a snails crawl on various occasions, most often in cinematics and whenachievements/trophies where unlocked. It usually occurred to me in SH3, starting with the worm boss battle and then here and there in other cutscenes.
Finally, the game randomly locks or freezes. I had to manually restart my console twice playing SH3 because the game froze, causing me once to lose half an hour of progress because I didn’t save. Although I should have known better and saved, I didn’t think this type of problem would happen. Suit me for not saving often.
Silent Hill HD Collection had the potential to be great, containing two of the best entries in the series and some of the best games in the survival horror genre. But thanks to some bugs, including some game-breaking ones, Silent Hill HD Collection just falls shy of the mark. While I do recommend that everyone try out these horror game masterpieces, be wary that they come in this collection as remnants of their former selves.
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