|System: Xbox 360*, PS3|
|Release: March 20, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-720p||Blood and Gore, Violence|
by Adam Dodd
March truly is a month of madness, and it's partially because of the triple dose of Silent Hill we're getting. It started with Silent Hill: Downpour, continues with the HD Collection, and we'll get Book of Memories later this month. The HD Collection is one of the more exciting releases for fans of the series, because it brings together two of the best installments—Silent Hill 2 and its sequel—and packages them in an HD bundle. Both games have aged remarkably well, but with the crisper HD visuals, everything looks fantastic.
Let's start with Silent Hill 2. This isn't just widely considered to be the best game in the series; it's also considered to be one of the best video games of all time. Its blend of engaging storytelling, thoughtful character development, gorgeous visuals, and a deeply terrifying world made it an instant classic. Over a decade later, I can still say that this is one of the most disturbing and brilliantly made games I've ever had the fortune of playing.
For the unfamiliar, Silent Hill 2 follows James Sunderland, who's received a letter from his deceased wife asking him to meet her in the foggy town. If a hook like that doesn't immediately bring you in, I don't know what will. Overcome with guilt, James visits the town with the hope of seeing his wife again. Unfortunately for James, the town of Silent Hill likes to take your inner demons and populate the town with twisted mockeries of them.
Silent Hill 2 had some of the most disturbing enemies I've seen in a horror game. Because they're all borrowed from James's loose grip on sanity after his wife's untimely death, there's an underlying theme that, in a way, you've created the monstrosities that now hunt you.
The iconic foggy, deserted resort town looks better than ever, and that's primarily because the textures have been replaced with higher resolution ones. The lighting has also seen a significant bump in quality, so the flashlight you'll be relying on for a majority of the game looks and acts more realistically.
Silent Hill 2 was a visually stunning game when it first released back in 2001, and this is arguably the most extensive remastering of the recent group of games that have been re-released. Re-releasing games with updated visuals is an increasingly popular trend these days, with Resident Evil, God of War, Devil May Cry, Beyond Good & Evil, Shadow of the Colossus, and ICO all being remastered in the last handful of years. They're largely hit or miss, but it's obvious that quite a bit of time and effort was invested into making SH2 and 3 look and sound as great as possible.
Another of the major changes in the HD Collection is the option to choose between the original voice work that shipped with the game eleven years ago or the new voiceovers that were recorded exclusively for this collection. Silent Hill 3 doesn't give you the same option, so you're stuck with the new voices—though that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The new voiceovers were directed by series vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, a name and voice that many fans of the series will undoubtedly recognize. While I am a fan of the original voice work—it was fantastic for its time and has managed to age surprisingly well—the new voices are actually done incredibly well. It's a little strange hearing different voices for characters many of us have grown to love over the years, but the quality of the new voice work makes it worth checking out, even if you're a dedicated fan of the original.
Silent Hill 3 suffers from a few awkward moments, though—usually in areas where you're exploring confined corridors—where the game will stutter to a frustrating degree. These issues didn't exist in the original game, and they're especially annoying when you're already struggling to survive.
Silent Hill 3 follows Heather Mason, the daughter of the protagonist from the original game. It focuses on the demonic cult that's responsible for bringing the darkness of the Otherworld into the real world. Where Silent Hill 2 was about grief and remorse, its sequel is more about losing one's innocence.
Silent Hill 2 is the stronger of the two games, and not just because it immediately hooks you into its narrative. The pacing just works better, whereas SH3 can take a while to really heat up.