A while back I wrote a brief news piece on the upcoming slew of Silent Hill games, and I made the mistake of disparaging the original voice acting of Silent Hill 2. There is, I discovered, a strong amount of support for the original voice cast. So much so that I began to receive the odd “you suck” email. I apparently brought shame to my ancestors with my callous disregard for the fine B movie-like acting.
But after playing the original Silent Hill 2 in Konami’s Silent Hill HD Collection, I can see my critics’ point.
HD re-releases are the new thing with publishers. They love ‘em, can’t get enough of ‘em. And why not? It gives the publishers a new game in the books that is already a proven winner, and it offers fans great games bundled together at a discounted price. There is very little downside to an HD Collection release, and Konami’s Silent Hill HD Collection is no exception.
Included in the Collection are 2003’s Silent Hill 3, and 2001’s Silent Hill 2, which includes the “Main Scenario: Letter From Silent Hill,” and the “Sub Scenario: Born From a Wish,” a side quest starring the character Maria, which was released as part of later special editions of the game.
It doesn’t offer as much content as Konami’s other recent HD Collection, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, and it isn’t a re-release of overlooked classics that nobody played but should like the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection, but the Silent Hill HD Collection offers two classics that have defined the survival horror genre and continue to earn a spot in the nostalgia drenched “best-of all time lists” of many. Neither is particularly long though–even with the additional sub plot in SH2–but with multiple endings in both games as well as a discounted price tag typical of HD Collections, there is more than enough bang for your buck here.
For those that haven’t played the games, or have forgotten then thanks to years of cranial deterioration, Silent Hill 2 features a bewildered protagonist named James Sunderland, who heads to the fog and smoke covered city of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his late wife. Instead of screaming and running for his life as any good horror fan knows he should, James pushes ever onward through the city, frequently crossing paths with Maria, a woman that resembles his deceased wife Mary. Then things get weird. Half naked nurses with no faces shimmy after you, pyramid-headed pro wrestlers shake a stick at you menacingly, and six endings await.
If you have seen the Silent Hill movie, a fair amount of the design for that film was taken from SH2, and with good reason. It painted a weird and creepy image, and created an intense and disturbing atmosphere. Death, suicide, and murder are common themes. This game is definitely not for kids and the plot remains among the apex of survival horror games, featuring some genuinely scary and disturbing moments.
But then there is the voice acting.
I actually like the old voice acting. I think it works well with the weird music and bizarre dialog. It fits. At the start of a new game you can choose the original dialog, or opt for a new recording with a different cast. I chose the original cast and thoroughly enjoyed myself. But it is still terrible.
The bizarre and stunted delivery and the dopey performances were not helped by dialog that no human being would ever utter. If you compare the casts, at first the difference isn’t that noticeable. But only at first. The original cast sounds as if they were all shot with tranquilizer guns immediately before reading their scripts. The new cast is much more natural, and delivers their lines with a great deal of professionalism. And it just feels wrong.
The game was not just scary, it was weird. Gloriously weird. From start to finish it was an odd game, and that worked for it. It helped make it memorable. If you have never played SH2 but plan to, then you may prefer the new voice cast. If you have played SH2 before, you may want to choose the original.
Although each of the Silent Hill games is technically a standalone experience, they are all loosely related, some more so than others. In Silent Hill 3, you play Heather, the adopted daughter of the protagonist from the first game. It is more of a sequel than most of the games in the series, but you don’t need to know the details of the original game in order to follow the plot. Even if you remember it well, the plot is a wee bit on the convoluted side anyway. Knowing the backstory really won’t help.
Heather heads to the worst town in the world in order to avenge her dad. This proves to be something of a mistake. In order to avoid becoming the baby-momma of a horrifying god, Heather makes her way to one of three endings. Unlike the previous game, Heather is not a fighter and will need to run often—with a few exceptions. In an early section of the game, I was terrorized by a demon-ish dog that kept trying to eat me as I ran for my life. That suddenly changed when I discovered a submachine gun.
Both games have seen a graphical upgrade, of course, but there will always be a limit to games that are remastered from older consoles. There is only so much you can do. This is especially evident in Silent Hill 2’s gameplay graphics.
Originally released in 2001, at the time the graphics for Silent Hill 2 were state of the art and bordered on incredible. Despite a 720p shine, the gameplay graphics really aren’t all that different. Characters are still blocky, animations are still stiff, and the environments are crisper, but still have a pixilated feel. It isn’t anything that will take away from the game, but it is something you will have to accept. They look better than before, but don’t still feel closer to
The cut scenes are a different story though.
It is hard to tell if they have been skillfully updated or replaced altogether, but in either case they look great—cutting edge at times.
Silent Hill 3’s gameplay graphics fare much better, and the majority of the game looks current gen. Maybe early current gen, but still current gen. The cut scenes haven’t been as thoroughly revamped as those in SH2, but they still look good as well.
Beyond that, the games are the same as ever. The controls are still awkward, which will probably force you to switch to the secondary control scheme, and the camera is just as dizzying and aggravating as you will have deliberately forgotten. Ah, memories.
It would have been nice to see a bit more content on the disc. Including the PSP title Silent Hill: Origins would have been a great move that would have bolstered two relatively short games, but c’est la vie. Silent Hill 2 and 3 are considered classics for a good reason, and seeing them return is a good thing.
The graphics in SH2 are still dated, but the cut scenes make up for it, while SH3 looks good throughout. If you are a fan of the survival horror genre and haven’t played one or both of these games, or if you are have played them and don’t mind splashing in the puddles of your past, you won’t go wrong with the Silent Hill HD Collection.
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Konami)