To hell with special forces teams.
I have never been part of a super ninja death-squad. The government has never
trained me to be a one-man killing machine to fight evil. I have never joined
an elite squad of commandos on a daring island raid. I did once make the all-zombie
interstate archery team when I was in high school, but I suspect that any secret
agent out there could kick my ass.
why is it that whenever I pick up a new horror game, they want me to play as
some sort of supercop? When I play a horror game, I don't want to be a skilled
professional doing his (or her) duty. I want to be scared. I want to be terrified.
I want to have trouble sleeping at night.
So when Silent Hill came
out, I was genuinely excited to be a regular Tom, Dick or (in this case) Harry,
and the game was better for it. And I'm also pleased to give a big thumbs-up
to Silent Hill 2, a terrifying, chilling, disturbing, and in every sense
scary psychological horror game. It's a game that puts you in the shoes
of James, a regular guy who is about to be scared out of his wits in the beautiful
lakeside hell/resort of Silent Hill. Perfect.
James was never able to get over the death of his wife, Mary. Three years later,
he is still an emotional train wreck of a man when he receives a letter from
his dead wife, sent from Silent Hill. Ignoring the obvious impossibility of
the situation, James travels to the town in a desperate search for his dead
wife. He does not receive a warm welcome...
It is, however, a graphically beautiful welcome. Silent Hill 2 takes
place in a fully realized 3D world like its predecessor. But while the first
one pushed the limits of the PSOne, Silent Hill 2 puts the Playstation
2 through its paces and it's a marvel to watch. The characters look terrific
and the monsters are disgustingly freaky. The 3D town has every little detail,
down to the little bolts on the fire hydrants and the right names on all the
street signs. And as the town gets more and more twisted and you're running
down streets made of rusted fencing, leaping over yawning chasms and squeezing
in between blood-soaked walls, you'll really miss those street signs.
Fog and darkness are used to really heighten the suspense by not allowing
you to see those creepy horrors until you're right on top of them. The game
also uses a sort of grainy effect to give it a home video Blair Witch Project
feel, and it works great. But the real star of the show is the light. You heard
me, the light. The real-time lighting and the shadows that are cast by the multiple
light sources - including your flashlight - are simply astonishing. I know it
sounds boring, but you'll never really know what you were missing until you
see this game. Makes the dark oval that passes for Claire's shadow in Res
Evil: Code Veronica X look like a joke.
match the fantastic visuals is some terrific audio...at least if you turn off
that pesky radio so you can hear it better. Like the first game, you carry a
radio that blasts static when monsters get near. Not only does this spoil the
suspense and the surprise of the game, it's a really annoying noise. But fortunately,
you can turn it off, and once you do, you'll be impressed by every footfall
and every monster groan. The nerve-wracking music will stand your hair on end
as you become convinced there's a hideous beast around every corner. It's just
Still, Silent Hill 2 is not the perfect scare. The combat is still
a little sluggish, although it has been drastically improved over the first
Silent Hill. The programmer's insistence that you must walk up and kick
every downed monster to really kill it will get annoying. While good, the combat
just lacks the precise edge of Resident Evil.
Also, the puzzles can get a bit obtuse. For instance...
I wandered around for nearly an hour checking every door before I finally figured
out that I had to drop the 6-pack of juice down the garbage chute before I could
proceed. A bit stupid; plus, it's a waste of perfectly good juice.
***END SPOILER, YOU WIMP***
But Silent Hill 2 seems to understand this. For the easily frustrated,
or the extremely patient, you can set the puzzle difficulty level at the beginning
of the game, which is a very nice feature. And with five different endings,
you'll have plenty of time to try and recollect your wits for the next round.
Resident Evil might have more whiz-bang, hotshot, S.T.A.R.S. commando
action, but for sheer terrifyingness (scareification? horrorocity?), I'll take
Silent Hill 2 any day. Turn out the lights, turn off that damn radio and
you'll see what I mean. It eats into your brain (mmmmmm.....) and you won't
even notice how jittery you've become until the cat suddenly jumps into your
lap and you fling your controller at the ceiling. I think a second vacation
in the town of Silent Hill is just what the doctor ordered.