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.
For the most part, the survival horror genre has faded since these games released. A few remain, like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the recent Silent Hill: Downpour, but the genre has since evolved toward a more action-based approach. Both of these titles are examples from when the survival horror genre was at its prime. They’re incredibly well-made games, crafted with a loving attention to detail and a fantastic sense of atmosphere. They easily stack up against some of the best horror games of this generation.
Famed series composer Akira Yamaoka has since left the series to work with Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) and Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami on Shadows of the Damned and the upcoming Lollipop Chainsaw, but his fantastic scores are still here. Silent Hill: Downpour and next week’s Book of Memories each have soundtracks scored by Dexter composer Daniel Licht. While Licht’s work is equally as amazing as Yamaoka’s, returning to a Silent Hill with Akira’s ambient, muted industrial tunes playing softly in the background just feels good.
The most disappointing thing about this bundle is it lacks any extras. There’s no artwork, music tracks, featurettes, or anything to cater to the fans that have stuck with the series for so long. It’s strange because this series is so iconic, its history rich with some of the most interesting characters in video games. There are years of content to mine from, so the fact that there’s nothing here outside of the option to watch the credits is more than a little disheartening.
If you’ve been patiently waiting for the ultimate version of Silent Hill 2 and/or 3, this is it. What it lacks in extras, it more than makes up for in some of the best visual upgrades I’ve seen in a re-release and some truly fantastic new voice work. Whether you’re a fan of the series or simply looking for an opportunity to get into Silent Hill, this is a collection you shouldn’t miss.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
Both games have aged nicely, but with the remastered visuals, everything looks better than ever. 3.6 Control
For better or worse, awful controls are a staple of the survival horror genre, and they really haven’t changed here. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Akira Yamaoka’s score and the option to hear the original or the new voice work are enough to make this worthwhile to any fan. 4.2 Play Value
There isn’t any extra content packed on the disc, but SH2 and its sequel will keep you busy for a while. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best