Reviews: Silent Hill 2

ThEre WaS a HoLe HeRe

Yahtzee summed it up well when he said SH2 captures the dread of being alone. Silent Hill's gimmick, aside from cribbing from Jacob's Ladder, was urban decay. A drug den apartment complex is scarier than an empty forest, because abandoned homes reek of passing time. Of entropy. Of death. The Otherworld was more frightening in the previous game (and subsequent games), because it suggests that Hell is not another place, but lurking under the surface of everywhere we go. Here the Otherworld is almost a relief, because it's less scary than the loneliness of the Fog World. Maria and co. are there. There's a lot more monsters, etc. To this day, I still get nightmares of running around a daytime tangle of abandoned alleys.

Another reviewer summed up SH2 as pure evil, which is also on-target. This is not really a game, it's a social experiment. We're gonna throw you into an underground jail with no illumination besides your dinky pocket flashlight. We'll put you in whole levels of narrow corridors with a dodgy camera and acid-spitting enemies standing in the way. We'll make you reach in a toilet. We'll make you pointlessly fire bullets at Pyramid Head while dodging his buster sword and call it a "boss fight."

As far as other games go, I tend to like SH1 and SH4 the best. I can't say I enjoy playing Silent Hill 2. Too fucking scary.

One of the greatest games out there

The review title may be a little bit much, as this game isn't perfect, and I'll address its flaws first: as it seems is par for the course in the Silent Hill series, the controls, particularly for fighting, are a mess. They're not the worst I've ever utilized, but they are extremely awkward. However, this actually works to the game's advantage, as it causes the player to develop an unreasonable fear of the actually not incredibly threatening enemies. The other flaw is the voice acting of the cast, with an exception for the actress who plays Angela, who I thought played her part very well.

Now, where this game truly shines is in atmosphere and mood. The atmosphere in this game is truly amazing, and extremely engrossing, even to the point that after several playthroughs, the game remains scary, and the plot remains just as depressing.

Some of the horror also is there in the symbolism of the game, and there is a lot of it there. One of the most unsettling instances of symbolism is the infamous "descent" into the depths of the Silent Hill historical society, which simply should not work. I won't spoil the plot too much, but there are a lot of instances such as these that really reveal that James is not the most reliable source of information. There's also a quite disturbing little area where James walks through a graveyard in the bottom of a prison, only to find headstones with his, Angela's and Eddie's names on them. There are lots of little things like this, and they are all quite unsettling.

The game doesn't have as much of the abject horror of the third game, but where it really shines, as mentioned, is the atmosphere, especially in the hotel stage.

The plot itself is very well done, both James' story, as well as the stories of both Angela and Eddie, and each character will garner a different amount of player sympathy. Also, surprisingly for a game so well known for horror, the plot has some very depressing moments. Of particular note is Angela, whose story is one of the saddest in any video game.

Overall, a great, immersive, story that is just as likely to make you cry as it is to scream.