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Silent Hill HD Collection Review

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On 04/11/2012 at 03:00 PM by Julian Titus

Some parts of this game may be considered violent or cruel.

A great purchase for Silent Hill fans, despite some hiccups with the port. For horror fans that missed out on these the first time, this is a collection that needs to be experienced.

Considering the slow decline that the Silent Hill series has seen in recent years—including the new and disappointing Downpour—it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that Silent Hill was once the pinnacle of video game horror. For an entire generation of gamers, the franchise has been nothing more than a blip on the radar, but there was a time when a new Silent Hill was something to be anticipated. Now with the release of Silent Hill HD Collection, those gamers can finally see where all the praise came from, and give veterans a fresh look at the saga of James Sunderland and Heather Mason.

What is it?

In a nutshell, Silent Hill 2 and 3 in one HD package.

Released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001, Silent Hill 2 is considered by many to not only be the apex of the franchise, but one of the greatest horror games ever made. In a time where video games were still coming to grips with telling stories through voice acting and cutscenes, Silent Hill 2 told a tale of loss, guilt, and sexual repression. James Sunderland embarks on a misguided quest to find his dead wife in the titular town.A survival horror game in the truest sense of the word, Silent Hill 2 is a game about puzzle solving, exploration, and brutal combat against twisted creatures. Resource management is paramount, as the early Silent Hill games doled out the ammo and healing items sparingly.

Silent Hill 3 was released a couple years later, and though it was initially seen as a disappointment after the watershed Silent Hill 2, this game has gone on to be considered by many to be the last “true” game in the series. This is the story of Heather Mason, the adopted daughter of Harry Mason. Harry was the protagonist of the first game, and Heather’s descent into the madness of Silent Hill is a direct tie-in to that first story.

How is it?

Silent Hill 2 remains a fine example on how to properly execute a horror video game. The hero of the day here is pacing; Silent Hill 2 starts at a low simmer that reaches a boiling point of terror, and then eases up on the heat just long enough to lull the player into a false sense of security. The environments are dark and foreboding; the monsters twisted and grotesque. This is a game that gets its hooks into you and never quite lets up. Stifling in its depiction of horror, Silent Hill 2 is almost a masochistic experience. Everything about the game seems designed to make players turn it off out of fear, but there’s an indefinable quality to it that makes it impossible to turn away.

Of course, Silent Hill 2 is now 11 years old, and it can’t be denied that it was designed with different sensibilities when compared to games of today. You won’t find tutorials or see items of interest conveniently sparkling in the darkness. Silent Hill 2 is deliberately vague, and much of your success will hinge on paying close attention to the environments and knowing when to examine things closer. Puzzles can have solutions that don’t make sense at all, and eschew the normal logic associated with modern games. It’s a game open to interpretation, and most of the answers you would want are never explicitly laid out for you. These are not weaknesses of the game, but the antiquated design may be a turnoff for new players.

Silent Hill 3 is my personal favorite of the series, and that’s due in large part to the character of Heather. She’s a much more relatable character than most of those in the other Silent Hill games, and she comes across as a real person confronted with unreal circumstances. Silent Hill 3 has some unforgettable moments of horror that need to be experienced to truly appreciate. This game also sports my favorite Yamaoka soundtrack, with some nice vocal tracks adding some weight to important cutscenes. The graphics are an evolution over the previous game, even though it was only released two years after SH 2. Monster and character designs are much more detailed this time around, and even the human characters have an otherworldly and scary look to them.

Combat has never been the strong suit of the series, and this is where Silent Hill 3 falters. Enemies seem more prevalent this time around, even popping up in previously cleared areas. Battles with multiple monsters are commonplace, and at times the game can feel a bit action heavy. This is exacerbated by the fact that there are few cues that your attacks are connecting with their target. Feedback with the rumble in the controller is slight, and attacks don’t really change or halt the actions of your enemies. It makes for less satisfying combat than Silent Hill 2, which put a lot of weight behind each attack. I also noticed that the HD Collection framerate chugs when multiple enemies are on the screen. While it doesn’t cause me to die or even lose health it did detract from the combat during my review.

What’s new?

When releasing older games with an HD coat of paint, there’s only so much that can be done. Still, these two Silent Hill games look gorgeous in HD. Well, “gorgeous” is a relative term for a series known for dirty, rusty environments and enemies pulled from the nightmares of disturbed individuals.

The audio department—one of the most important aspects of the series—excels in some areas and falters in others for this HD reissue. There was much controversy when it was announced that both games would be getting new voiceovers. After a lot of petitions and talks, the go ahead was made to include the original voice cast for Silent Hill 2. Whether you feel that the original cast is perfect or would prefer the new cast (including Troy Baker of Catherine fame playing James), you aren’t stuck with your decision. Each time you start the game you can choose between the old and new voices, so new players can try out both to see what they like best, and veterans can give the new cast a try without having to start another. Silent Hill 3 loses the original voice cast, but I enjoyed the new voice actors just fine. I really wish that the original track was in there just for archival purposes, but the voice direction for both of the new voiceovers is very good.

While the new voice work is good and doesn’t harm the experience, when it comes to the sound effects things get a little dicey. Certain sounds seem out of place, with James Sunderland’s heavy breathing after running being the biggest offender. It doesn’t sound natural, and beyond that it’s also a much louder sound effect than most everything else in the game. Similarly, walking on certain surfaces in Silent Hill 3 results in the same kind of overly loud and unnatural sound effects. Some sounds seem out of sync in cutscenes, but only slightly. These are small annoyances, but in a series known for impeccable sound design, these annoyances add up.

At the end of the day, this is still a great collection of games. The HD treatment breathes new life into some classic horror titles, and anyone experiencing them for the first time is in for a treat. It’s a shame that the audio is off in places and the framerate doesn’t stay consistent at times, but these are normal side effects when porting older games to newer hardware formats. I would have liked to see some special features for both games, like the original trailers, perhaps some interviews, or music videos that were released in Japan years ago. It’s not a perfect package, but it’s one worth experiencing.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

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04/11/2012 at 03:27 PM

Sounds pretty interesting but I don't think I'll be getting it Jules. I'm more interested in the Metal Gear Solid HD collection. It wasn't until a couple days ago I finally realized it came out on 360 as well. Doh! I thought the MGS HD dealio was only PS3, boy was I surprised. You already know I haven't been having a good time with MGS Twin Snakes on GC, but the MGS HD Collection for 360 sounds pretty sweet, I don't think I could pass it up. I should probably pick it up for sure.

I've always had a weird, loose connection, and interest to Silent Hill 3 (but I haven't played it) and whichever of the other games let you explore Lakeside Amusement Park. Lakeside is rumored to be inspired by the real life historic Lakeside Amusement Park here in Denver Colorado. I'm from Colorado and Lakeside is my family's thing lol! I've been going there since I was kid and it's like sacred to us. When I see clips of people playing through Lakeside sections of SH3 it looks awfully familiar. It's not a carbon copy of the real Park, there's some cool stuff added, but it definitely looks inspired by it.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

04/11/2012 at 03:45 PM

You know if there were any issues with the 360 version? I know you didn't play it, but all the reviews I've seen were played on a PS3.  I'd be getting it for 360 if I did, and I'm interested in picking it up eventually.  Just wondered if you happened upon any additional information than I did in your travels and research.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

04/11/2012 at 04:23 PM

I looked things up, and it seemed like the PS3 had more "issues". But most of the things highlighted were things you'd only notice if you've played these games a ton, or had them pointed out to you. People always expect ports of older games to be perfect, but that's just not the case, what with older code having to be updated to new hardware, when they actually have the code to begin with.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

04/13/2012 at 11:06 AM

Well I'm sold.  Hopefully the 360 version doesn't go rare or something crazy like that.  I've been meaning to play these games for a while now.

Nick DiMola Director

04/13/2012 at 11:50 AM

I've tried countless times to get into the Silent Hill games and I just can't do it. I've played Origins (which was crap), 4 (which was even crappier), 1 (which was just vague), and 2... which I just can't connect with. I can appreciate the subtleties of the narrative and I think that subtext is extremely interesting, but the actual game part of it just isn't very good and that's been true of all of the games in the series I've played.

Controls are clunky, objectives and puzzles are obtuse, and quite frankly, I've never felt it to be scary. What I find most odd is that people continue to defend SH2 despite how dated it is by today's standards. Resident Evil doesn't seem to get a pass on this, and maybe that's because they've made strides with later games to improve them on a functional basis, but I find it odd that SH is exempt from this criticism.

That being said, I think this is a great review that properly highlights for fans what they can expect from the HD remakes. From your perspective Julian, do you think the games hold up fairly well, or is the driving force of your adoration more nostalgia?

Follow on question - do you think they'd be well-served to flat-out remake these games with more functional controls, new graphics, and better direction? I know I want them to because I really want play these games, but I just get hung up on the problems too quickly and abandon them after a few short hours.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

04/13/2012 at 12:30 PM

Did you try Shattered Memories on the Wii?  That did it for me honestly, I couldn't get into the older Silent Hill, or Resident Evil games, but after playing that, I really want to give SH a try.

Nick DiMola Director

04/13/2012 at 12:48 PM

That's been on my list of titles I'm interested in, but I haven't had a chance to as much as try it yet. I liked that they were removing combat from the game, so I'm still hopeful to play it some day. As for whether or not it'll transition me to fan status, I'm doubtful, but we'll see.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

04/13/2012 at 06:18 PM

I wasn't prepared for these games to affect me the way they did after all these years. I went in thinking "I've played these games. I remember them. They're old. No sweat." But when I got into them, they still got under my skin. Especially after the exceedingly boring Downpour, I wasn't expecting SH 2 to hit me in the same way as the first time. But I still dreaded walking down the street or exploring the apartment building. The game still weighed down on me with a suffocating level of dread.

Now, I always say that horror is extremely subjective, and from talking to you Nick I can safely say that our concept of horror are complete opposites. Silent Hill 1-3 still creep me the hell out, and there have been few games since to do that. Oddly, the games that have scared me the most since SH 3 haven't even been horror games. I think parts of Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain are terrifying. I also think BioShock was one of the secret best horror games this generation. Parts of Arkham Asylum were really scary for me. But the only actual horror games to creep me out recently have been Dead Space 2 and Corpse Party.

I think combat needs to be in horror games. It just needs to be better. I don't know if a total remake of SH 2 would hit the same notes as the original. It totally holds up to me, and I think a new player coming into it would still enjoy it. But I totally agree that the combat isn't great, and some of the puzzles are just right out.

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