Sunday, May 9, 2010

Game Review-Silent Hill 2

 Blogger's note: Minor Spoilers for Silent Hill 2.

Silent Hill 2 is going to be, without a doubt, one of the most difficult games for me to judge. The majority of critics, even the most cynical, love this game. This is the game which really started the Silent Hill series. This is the game which supposedly a team of psychiatrists made just to mess with your head. This is the game which is rarer than gold to find. This is supposed to be the scariest game ever.

For those that have no idea what I’m talking about, here is the plot. A man named James Sutherland receives a letter from his wife inviting him to a local tourist spot called Silent Hill. Only trouble is, his wife has been dead for three years. What follows is a mission to find her, in a town that’s quiet, empty, and covered in fog.

I’ll talk about the technical aspects first. While the controls in Silent Hill 2 are a huge improvement over Silent Hill 4, they still have problems. For example the movement controls are far too sensitive, and I spent the first twenty minutes training myself not to walk in circles. The game itself is rather short, and even on a normal difficulty level I was able to beat the game within ten hours and I had so much ammo and health left over that my character could have settled down in Silent Hll and opened up a local gun store and pharmacy.

Plus, a little singular direction would have been nice in the game. At the very start you have to go meet your wife in a park. Okay, simple enough. Except every conventional road has been closed off, so you have to find a corpse, get an apartment key, go to that apartment, solve a bunch of riddles, have a boss fight, unlock a door, go into another apartment building, fight some more baddies, and finally escape to find a road that leads to a park. And trust me, this doesn’t get any easier. Want to go to a hotel across the lake? Well, all you have to do is go bowling, spot a little girl, follow the little girl to the hospital, fight a whole bunch of times, lose the girl, go to a Mexican restaurant, find a key to a museum, go underneath the museum, discover a prison, fight a whole bunch more times, and finally leave the prison and find a boat. I realize that misdirection is a popular trend in gaming, but in Silent Hill 2, it gets borderline ridiculous. James might as well pull up a chair and wait until morning when the harbor actually bothers to open.

But is Silent Hill 2 scary? Well, what makes this series works so well is the idea of a town which starts off pretty normal and then goes completely crazy, or maybe it’s just the main character. Unfortunately, I think this idea is better explored in Silent Hill Shattered Memories, where the main character in that game actually meets average, normal people before everything goes completely bonkers. In Silent Hill 2, the town itself is completely deserted, and the few people that James runs into are pretty weird from the start and turn into generally unlikable characters. The only possible exception to this is Marie, James’s love interest. Unfortunately I would like her a little bit more if she didn’t have a habit of literally dying in almost every scene she’s in. 

I will admit this game does try and mess with your head, usually in subtle ways. During one part of the game, I was right before a main boss fight and it had been a while since I’ve saved. Not wanting to lose all my data, I turned around a corner and immediately found nine save icons on the wall, as though the game knew what I was thinking and mocking me for my pansyness. Another part I liked is when I followed a clue into a abandoned store, and there was nothing but a message on the wall saying that I was going to die.

But does this game actually scare me? In all honesty no, but for the life of me I can’t figure out if that is actually the fault of the game or my own. I certainly knew enough about the Silent Hill games to not really be surprised, and I wasn’t exactly playing in a suspenseful atmosphere, with the lights on and other people around. So is the game truly not scary, or am I just too desensitized by what I’m watching? Is this really a review of the game or myself?

Did I mention this game likes to mess with your head?

FINAL GRADE: 3 1/2 out of 5. I really believe that playing Silent Hill 2 can be a different experience for everyone, so this grade is only for its technical aspects. I for one don’t think it quite lived to the hype it was given.

I did like the ending involving the D.J dog, though....

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