Silent Hill HD Collection (Review) – A Return To Classic Horror
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 console.
Remember those scary, late nights in front of the television? Sitting in a pitch black living room, controller tightly gripped to your chest, heart pounding as though it will burst as fear grips you? Well now you can relive that feeling with the Silent Hill HD Collection! But does the high-definition remake of the classic survival-horror franchise do the original justice? Let’s find out!
The Silent Hill HD Collection contains the second and third games in the franchise, and if you’ve never experienced these two Silent Hill games, then you’re in for a treat. Silent Hill 2 introduces you to the protagonist, James Sunderland, who finds a note from his wife at the start of the game. The note tells him that she’s left for Silent Hill, and asks him to meet her in their special place. Not knowing of Silent Hill’s dark reputation, James takes off to find his lady in the sleepy town off of Toluca Lake. Once there, he finds all manners of unnatural horrors, including the vile antagonist, Pyramid Head, making his debut appearance to the series. In Silent Hill 3, the focus shifts to 17 years after the events of the first game where a young girl named Heather Mason, the adopted daughter of the original game’s protagonist, is drawn to Silent Hill where a cult wishes to use her to birth their god.
The Silent Hill HD Collection brings these two survival horror classics with updated graphics to play on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. Originally released on the PlayStation 2, they are considered to be the epitome in survival horror gaming as well as the source material for the Silent Hill movie and its upcoming sequel.
Both games have received a makeover in terms of graphics, though the new visuals aren’t quite at the super-stellar quality that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are capable of. However, they also don’t suffer from any of the usual issues associated with low-res games that are put on a high-res display, such as pixilation or granulation. Very much a “nothing new to see here, folks!” update, but the original games looked good as they are, so staying true to the original graphics in this case is a good thing.
For those not familiar with these games, what you’ll find are eerie environments that are shrouded in mists and darkness, keeping you from seeing that bogeyman reaching out to grab you from behind. Konami’s mastermind art director, Masahiro Ito, shows off his capabilities in taking a world of normal objects and adding a creep factor that most horror movies can’t seem to comprehend nor replicate. For example, in the opening of Silent Hill 3, Heather finds herself in an amusement park that looks as though it has been abandoned for years (cliché I know, just hang on a minute), and fills it with objects such as giant pink bunny mascots adorned with bloody clown faces that give them a wretched grin. But the environments only set up the mood, as it’s the inhabitants of these areas that will really scare the daylights out of you.
Masahiro Ito’s ability to make the grotesque come to life in disturbing ways made you dread the appearance of a monster in the world of Silent Hill. His twisted creations of unnaturally warped flesh, like the Mannequins and the Nurses which walked slowly and abnormally – but their gait didn’t deter them from chasing after you upon detection. And unlike other games of the genre, your weapons were usually limited to knives or planks of wood, not shotguns or heavy weapons. You experience a real sense of fear and dread for the character that you’re leading through this town, and have to wonder why they don’t just pack up and go home.
But you’ll find that these characters are simply made of sterner stuff than most people in the real world, each one being handed a simply unavoidable task. As the story unfolds in Silent Hill 2 and 3, the game becomes just as much about exploring the characters inner-self as it is about finding your way to the end game. Most of what unfolds before the character tells you a lot about their mindset, as most things in the game are manifestations from their own minds. These games are about conquering fears and facing your demons, and oh boy, are there some demons in this game. While Keiichiro Toyama did a wonderful job of conveying a rich story with a likeable character in the original Silent Hill game, it can be argued that Hiroyuki Owaku’s ability to bring the character’s psyche to life is what made 2 and 3 exceed the original and become regarded as the best games in the franchise.
Adding to the dark and dreadful ambience are the sounds of Silent Hill. Music is a rarity in the games; instead you hear the chatter of unnatural footsteps, squeaking wheels, and howls of unnatural creatures. In your moments of solace you’re greeted with a welcome silence telling you that you’re safe for the moment. Cutscenes intersperse with gameplay throughout the story, with voice acting on the par. You can select between the original voice acting, or a new cast performing the same lines in Silent Hill 2, however, this option strangely isn’t available in 3. In either case, neither voice track in the second installment is really spectacular, but you might want to stick to the original casting just for the pure nostalgia.
Silent Hill 2 and 3 are just as much about puzzles as they are survival. In order to progress through the game, various tasks need to be completed in order to continue along. Keys hidden in unreachable areas, or questions that must be answered correctly to obtain items (don’t get them wrong!), are just a couple of examples of the puzzles you’ll encounter in Silent Hill. While exploring, be sure to pay close attention to your character’s head movements, as they will be indicators of something that needs to be investigated. This is of the utmost importance, as items are sparse, and you’ll want to find as many clues, weapons, shells, and health kits as possible. Many of the objects that you find early in the game will be important later. Keep everything!
Unfortunately, the Silent Hill HD Collection is not entirely without its faults. Leaving a game for the most part untouched from its original state does have its pitfalls. When Silent Hill 2 and 3 were being developed, camera controls were a large issue that just about everyone struggled with in the third person perspective, and those problems have been ported over. Instead of using the right analog stick to operate the camera view freely, you’re stuck holding the left trigger down and have a limited range of motion in the camera. The 3D control is absolutely as frustrating as it was eleven years ago. The way the directional control is configured, forward is always forward, so when you compensate for the direction you’re moving in like we’ve all learned to in modern gaming, you’ll quickly find yourself walking in circles or all of a sudden walking backwards. It would have been nice if they had left the 2D control scheme as the default instead.
An important note: If you’re playing with a 5.1 headset on, you might want to turn off the surround as it tends to mess with your directional awareness. I found that with the 5.1 enabled, I had to swing my view back and forth like an echo locator to track down a bad guy because of the way that 5.1 cans tend to compensate for stereo sound. This isn’t a slight against the game, but anyone using these technologies will want a heads up.
The Silent Hill HD Collection brings two of the greatest games in survival horror back to the console with a coat of fresh, high-definition paint, but not much more than that. However, in the case of Silent Hill 2 and 3, leaving a game virtually untouched is probably the best thing that you can do for it. Playing the original simply scared the hell out of me, and I’m happy to say that more than ten years later, the second and third installments are aptly capable of doing the same thing. The Silent Hill HD Collection is most definitely for any fan of the survival horror franchise, especially if you’ve not experienced these titles before.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch the Muppet Show for a bit so I can get some sleep.
The Silent Hill HD Collection receives a 4.5 out of 5.0 sleepless nights.
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