TR Member Perks!

The original Silent Hill is a dead canary. The coal mine it was sent down was the objective of its development team to create a survival horror game in the vein of Resident Evil, but with a more serious psychological story beat. It’s not that I think the original Silent Hill is bad or even that it fails in that objective. The cause of death for this canary would be Silent Hill 2. It stands so far above the original Silent Hill that the shadow it casts often leaves me looking less favorably upon its little brother.

Silent Hill 2 Screen 1

The original Silent Hill derails its psychological horror in favor of some more Lovecraftian stylings in its final few hours whereas Silent Hill 2 has a laser beam focus on the story it wants to tell throughout. Everything in Silent Hill 2 is deliberate and well thought out, and there is always something happening in the story beyond what is playing out directly in front of you. The improved power the PS2 brought to the table allowed the developers to paint a much clearer picture of Silent Hill without losing the gritty, disturbing nature of older, less photorealistic graphics. The first game’s trademark fog, a feature implemented to compensate for the technical limitations of the original PlayStation, is still present here. Not only does it serve the same technical function as the fog in the original Silent Hill, but it adds to the game’s intense atmosphere of dread and constant obfuscation of the reality of the events unfolding around you. The fog itself is even an improvement over the original. Silent Hill‘s fog is a big gray block and in Silent Hill 2 the fog morphs and forms tendrils.

Silent Hill Screen 2

I also think Silent Hill 2 is something of an anomaly. It’s one of maybe 2 or 3 games that I would consider to have a plot that is anywhere near on par with a good book or film. The game has some brilliant symbolic storytelling along with a disturbing overarching narrative that takes on some dark subject matter not often addressed in mainstream media, let alone video games. It tells a tale about suffering, loss, and possibly redemption depending on which of the game’s endings you get. The story is also open to a lot of speculation and interpretation, though, so what you get out of the story may be completely different from my own interpretation of the story, which I may go into more detail at a later date. 

Silent Hill 2 Screen 3

Silent Hill 2‘s sound design is masterful as well. Helmed by Akira Yamaoka, the soundtrack can be a cacophony of harsh noise to keep your nerves on edge or a touching piano melody to remind you why you’re here. Silence is also used to great effect. Sometimes the bleeding feedback of a harsh noise composition will be cut off as you enter a room, leaving you with only the sound of your footsteps and whatever lurks in that room.

One sour spot on the audio is the voice acting, which is absolutely terrible. Many people will defend the voice acting, but I just don’t see it. Some argue that the stilted awkward nature of the acting adds to the uncanny atmosphere the game is building but for me, it almost ruins some very key scenes. The scene where you last see Angela and the scene in the hotel room with Laura are possibly the two most important scenes in Silent Hill 2‘s story, but the delivery from those characters nearly ruins them for me. Most of the voice acting is bad but tolerable, but when it comes to scenes of intense emotion, it falls apart almost immediately. I’m not going to say it ruins the game, but it certainly doesn’t help.

Silent Hill 2 Screen 4

You may have noticed that I haven’t addressed the gameplay yet, which is unusual as I just sang the praises of God Hand for putting gameplay above all and that’s because Silent Hill 2‘s gameplay isn’t particularly notable, boring even. The gameplay mostly consists of running away from monsters and solving the usual obtuse puzzles, but for some reason I can’t picture Silent Hill 2 working as anything other than a game. The four different endings you can get all tie into the story well and seem to be viable endings, and are determined by some pretty specific actions in the story. Exploring the town fills you with dread and builds the atmosphere and tension in a way that I don’t think a film quite could. The story is also affected by what kind of a person you think James Sunderland is and how you play him.

Silent Hill 2 Screen 5

While Silent Hill 2 may not have the best gameplay or voice acting, it is one of the only video game stories I would put shoulder to shoulder with other great stories of different mediums. It stands head and shoulders above its predecessor and has since become a gaming classic. That’s why Silent Hill 2 is gaming’s best 2.0.

More About This Game

Reagan Cox

Staff Writer

Reagan Cox is a writer living in Kansas. If you can’t find him playing games or in the woods then he’s probably listening to records like the dirty hipster he is.

  • Agt_Pendergast

    I missed out on too many games 6th generation. I need to get on this one soon.

  • Reagan Cox

    They printed a bajillion copies with several different versions of it so you should be able to find it pretty cheap. A must have for sure

  • Agt_Pendergast

    Oh, I got a PS2 copy, I just need to clear some room in my backlog. It’s just so easy to stick with a comfortable, familiar game nowadays.

  • Reagan Cox

    I hear ya

  • hurin

    I really don’t get why Silent Hill 1-4 isn’t being ported to Unreal 4 and sold on PC. There is a flood of money from new Gamers, that Konami is not drinking from.

  • hurin

    I was able to play Silent Hill 2 and 4 because I owned an Xbox back then. I still don’t get why they never ported the 3 game. The first was a PS1 game, so that would have meant redoing all the artwork, but porting the 3 should have been a no brainer.

  • Reagan Cox

    I highly doubt that Konami would cough up the development budget to completely remake 4 games in a cutting edge engine. Even if they did I’m not sure I would want it. There is something about the graphics being old and ugly that just makes the game that much more unsettling and I think a shiny new coat of UE4 paint would ruin that

  • Reagan Cox

    Yeah that was always a strange move to me too. Should have ported 3 over and thrown in an extra chapter or something

  • RocKM001 .

    Meanwhile thanks for reminding me of my depression of the series…

    Because of just how the game’s just been “decent” (if your being nice) or “terrible” (if you want to be mean =P) after The Room.

    And reminding me how we could have had such a great thing w/ the Silent Hill HD collection if it wasn’t so terribly half arsed done.. A “collection” which basically only had 2 and 3 *and* completely varying degrees of inconsistencies and whatnot on the execution…

  • RocKM001 .

    Fairly sure the “remake” boat sank already anyway after the mess up of their first attempt to do it back on PS3 days w/ the Silent Hill HD collection..

  • Reagan Cox

    I had the HD collection pre-ordered. They delayed the release twice without telling anyone so I showed up at the store to pick up my copy only to have the clerk tell me that they didn’t have them and weren’t sure why. This happened TWICE. So I showed up the third time half expecting the same thing to happen again but nope I actually got the game! I went home and popped it in and it started out pretty promising. I liked the new voice acting and thought it was a good idea. Then I walked out of the bathroom at the beginning and realized the game ran at 15 FPS and there was no fog. I haven’t bought a Konami product since save for a used copy of MGS V.

  • just my opinion but SH2 is one of the best psychological/survival-horror games, maybe
    one of the best video games of all time. scared the hell out of me as a
    kid. anyone who hasn’t played it really should give it a shot

  • pouring one out for P.T. and Silent Hills… 🙁

  • Reagan Cox

    Couldn’t agree more

  • I played 1, 2, 3, and 4. I have to say that while I appreciate people’s love for Silent Hill 2, I thought that the story and gameplay in 3 was much more interesting.

    I’m so sad that they never really got their act together after Silent Hill 4. :<

  • I genuinely liked Silent Hill 3 and greatly prefer it over Silent Hill 2, personally. It also has a good bit of fun and comedy in it as optional elements. Like, one particular secret is the ability to transform the female main character into a Sailor Moon-esque magical girl and then destroy nightmarish enemies with heart-shaped eye beams. I am not joking.

  • Same thing happened to me with Lunar 2. “Is it in yet?” “Is it in yet?” “Is it in yet?” Except the only place we could pick it up was a mall an hour’s train ride away… my mom must have made half a dozen trips over a few months before the game was finally released.

  • As someone who’s played the first four games, I can comfortably say that you can breeze through most of them in like 8-12 hours each. It’s not a huge commitment unless you’re looking to explore every nook and cranny.

  • that’s interesting, for me the story in SH3 just felt like a kinda ho-hum continuation of the backstory elements from SH1 (not to say that it isn’t good or worth experiencing, maybe just because I didn’t play 3 until several years after I had played 2 and 2 really made an impression on me as a youngster). but I definitely agree the gameplay was more fun and finely-tuned

  • Zepherdog

    Tomm Hulett despises the games and their fans, but for some reason he keeps creeping in on all the sequels and adaptations (except PT, and we all know how that one ended).

  • Zepherdog

    What kind of horror are you into? Just being curious.

  • Reagan Cox

    I agree. I enjoyed 2 and 4’s story the most but I would concede that 3 probably has the best gameplay

  • Reagan Cox

    Yeah one of my friends actually finished his first playthrough in one sitting. It’s not a particularly long game