Video Game Review: Landmark Pair Included in ‘Silent Hill HD Collection’

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CHICAGO – The trend of packaging already-available games in HD collections has finally reached the most terrifying location in the history of gaming — Silent Hill. Interestingly, Konami chose to just take the peaks of the franchise, the brilliant “Silent Hill 2” and “Silent Hill 3,” the two games that really made this mega-franchise what it is today. Sadly, we’ve reached a point with disappointments like “Silent Hill: Homecoming” and “Silent Hill: Downpour” in which younger players may not know what the big deal is with “Silent Hill.” Show them with the “Silent Hill HD Collection.” Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0

First, a little history. In the “boy, I feel old” file, you’ll find the fact that “Silent Hill 2” was released in September 2001 for the PlayStation 2, following the success of the 1999 original for the original PlayStation. Perhaps because that game is available on the PSN or that it would be more difficult to do an HD polish on it, it’s not included here, which I think is a mistake. It’s not as successful or influential a game as 2 or 3 but it could have easily been included merely for continuity and completion. One of the most notable things about “Silent Hill” was that it offered multiple endings depending on character action — a commonality in 2012 but not so much in 1999. It was just one of many influential elements of the early “Silent Hill” games.

Silent Hill HD Collection
Silent Hill HD Collection
Photo credit: Konami

“Silent Hill 2” landed in 2001 and “Silent Hill 3” came out less than two years later in early 2003. It was the only time that one game followed immediately on the plot and action of the previous games. Subsequent games have been more “set in the same universe” than direct sequels. And so it makes sense that these two would comprise the “HD Collection.” They are also still the most acclaimed titles in the series. (“Silent Hill 3” was the last game in the series to crest 80 on Metacritic.) And they have held up remarkably well. There’s a sense of atmosphere and dread here that has been missing from so many of the franchise’s imitators (and most of its subsequent entries). I love the simplicity of the design. It’s often a music cue (the scores have been beautifully rendered this time with new voice work as well), a sound, a glimpse of something. It’s the small things that are often scarier than the big ones.

Silent Hill HD Collection
Silent Hill HD Collection
Photo credit: Konami

With some of these HD releases, the draw actually is in how the game has been updated, changed, remastered, and enhanced. That’s not really the case here. As I took the long walk into town in “Silent Hill 2,” I was surprised at how much it felt like a memory more than a remake. Yes, the games have been tweaked but neither has been drastically altered. It could have been easy to over-do the graphics improvements in the world of “Silent Hill 2” but there’s something about the sometimes-unrefined look that works to the game’s advantage. Sure, the fog doesn’t look quite right but it looks like “Silent Hill.” It’s possible only people with a familiarity with the series will feel that way — newbies might think the fog just looks weird — but I appreciated the dedication to the original games. It’s just a polish, not a redesign.

To be fair, these games are much clunkier in control than I remembered. Response time, melee combat, just simple movement — it’s amazing to think how far gaming has come since their release. And I wonder if the limitation of the control schemes don’t add to the terror. “Silent Hill 2” is never a game where I felt much in control, kind of like an actual nightmare. While effects and gameplay has given us more control in more-recent “Hill” games, the scares haven’t quite been there. There’s something about the awkward camera angles, limited perspective (it’s hard to get used to moving in a direction you can’t even seen in a horror game again), and unrefined combat that makes “Silent Hill 2” and “Silent Hill 3” even scarier. As game developers have given us more control, they’ve consequently given us less fear.

“Silent Hill 2” is the better of the two games and just owning it for a current-gen console is reason enough to pick up the “Silent Hill HD Collection.” “Silent Hill 3” nearly matches it and the two combine for one hell of a horror experience. It has not only been unmatched in the return trips to “Silent Hill” since 2003 but arguably in all of horror gaming. These are must-own games and, personally, I fully embrace the “HD Collection” movement as a way not really to remaster modern classics but revisit them and introduce them to a new generation. Everyone who thinks about calling themselves a serious gamer simply must play “Silent Hill 2” and “Silent Hill 3.”

“Silent Hill HD Collection” was developed and released by Konami on March 20, 2012. It is rated M (Mature). The version reviewed was for the Xbox 360 but is also available on the PS3. content director Brian Tallerico

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