You promised you’d go back there someday…but you never did
Over a decade ago, we were condemned to a foggy town that hid its darkest terrors from us in mist and poor lighting. Despite the crackling radios, bloody mannequins and piles upon piles of mysteriously deformed creatures, the mysteries the town hid simply begged to be uncovered, teasing ambiguity all the while. As a kid, my friends wondered why I went back to that town when the crime-filled haven of Liberty City offered more thrills and my parents would wonder why I’d sit upright at night, insomnia inbound guarding my bedroom from potential invaders. A certain series had embedded itself into the brains of many, spreading its psychologically shattering atmosphere, whilst adding enough intrigue for players to wish to return. Welcome back to Silent Hill. Population; Dwindling. The Silent Hill HD Collection returns us to two most prominent landmarks in one of survival horrors’ greatest hits by roping in two of its most vulnerable victims. Silent Hill 2 wraps and suffocates the mind and heart of James Sunderland, a man beckoned to the foggy town by a letter that has been written by his wife…who’s been dead for 3 years. The bizarre story leads to only more and more questions as you investigate the town and its inhabitants. Words cannot describe the oddities you will come across whilst plodding through the bizarre worlds the town creates. The foggy outset and disturbing design of the creatures that try and kill you shatter your nerves from the offset, and then the game takes advantage of that very weak point it has uncovered. Heavier and heavier topics start laying on top of each other with your only break in-between each being another confrontation with an unspeakable terror or silent rushed marathon through the unnerving ghost town. Silent Hill 3 is a much less mentally tormented title, with those darker themes tucked away to put in place an almost more slasher film affair. Rather than enter the town on a suicide mission to decipher the impossible, lead Heather is ensnared into a world quickly becoming an absolute living hell, soon uncovering she has more in common with what’s going on than she originally thought. It doesn’t quite relish the same narrative tones as Silent Hill 2 does, but balances those eerily quiet and ghostly areas with full frontal gory spectacles designed to break you down even further with its obscene imagery. An advanced graphical engine evolves the transformation of the town into its hellish ‘Otherworld’ state presenting a breathing, decaying, literally living hell. The terror felt through sound design is still present, with a more conventional rock soundtrack accompanying conflicts with the bizarre cast members and. It feels like a much more balls to the wall horror fest, but at the same time encompasses what makes the series so chilling to sit through, with even some of the most Hollywood cliché features being genuinely disturbing.
Astoundingly deep, genuinely frightening experiences
Of course, the absence of multiverse fright-fest Silent Hill 4:The Room is an odd one. It certainly wasn’t the brightest moment in Team Silent’s career, but it’s still a prominent title in the series’ mythos, even if some of the gambles it took to change up the formula didn’t quite hit the mark. The lack of the original Silent Hill however, can mar plot devices in Silent Hill 3 which may lead to a quick visit to the PSN Store to uncover the original. It certainly doesn’t destroy the game, but there are some rather prominent moments that are better if you have a greater knowledge of the original. Thankfully, the price tag still feels like a bargain with the very deep experiences to be had here. Considering you could wash approximately 90% of the town in pigeon entrails and still make it look better, sprucing up the town and its residence seemed somewhat futile. Character animations are a lot more fluid, but oddly enough, I actually preferred the originals grim graphics. As everything has been brightened up, both games lose a certain horrid ambience and. The iconic Pyramid Head shined like he’d been furiously raping cans of Mr Sheen. The brighter locales meant some of the atmosphere was lost on me in some cases, especially outside, and it was only when I drained the in-game brightness that I got the best of both worlds. Although the hell absorbed environments have been given a slight sprucing up, the unnerving soundtrack and shredding sound design remains, and it’s these titles that really gave Akira Yamaoka a chance to shine. The shrieks, the cries and groans are near indescribable, coming from every invisible area of the screen. Although Silent Hill has plenty of imagery that’ll scar your brain, you’ll always be forced to frantically scan the environment as your next potential killer lurks…somewhere. Backed up with a ominous soundtrack on both accounts, SH2’s soundtrack is possibly one of the most beautifully constructed pieces of work in gaming, merging perfectly with every cinematic and encompassing dread with every turn ever so subtly. There was one common pitfall both games bumbled into as well as countless other survival horrors at the time; Voice-overs. New cast members have been brought in to dub over the characters lines and….much like the original games, the results are mixed. Some cast members have certainly improved with characterisation, with 2’s Eddie now sounding like an appropriately unhinged madman and vomiting so well that he even made me want to puke. In other cases however, characters sometimes feel out of place with their performances, so much so that voices will even not sync correctly. It’s an absolute shame, as some of these performances really do excel over prior efforts, even rewriting past mistakes Should your nostalgia lobes backfire in horror at the new voice-overs, however, you can change back to the original voices in Silent Hill 2 thanks to a huge fuss made by fans, but you’re stuck with the fresher cast for for the slightly less loved 3. Considering you could wash approximately 90% of the town in pigeon entrails and still make it look better, sprucing up the town and its residence seemed somewhat futile. Character animations are a lot more fluid, but oddly enough, I actually preferred the originals grim graphics. As everything has been brightened up, both games lose a certain horrid ambience and in essence some of its horror. The iconic Pyramid Head shined like he’d been furiously raping cans of Mr Sheen, and it was only when I drained the in-game brightness that I got the best of both worlds (I’d recommend you do so too). As much as my love for these titles shines in the mist, there are certainly elements that have not aged well at all. Recent survival horror outings have constantly focused on fighting back, and game design has catered to that over the years. Silent Hill was always about putting unremarkable people in horribly dangerous scenarios, and combat was always meant to reflect their fragility. However, it’s a bloody strange mare to tame, and evolutions in other avenues of survival horror over the years certainly blemish this aspect. I can justify the occasionally dreary pace. I can justify the occasionally screwy writing. However, the combat has certainly never felt incredibly strong. Th
e camera constantly has to be realigned so you can aim melee strikes appropriately and battles can occasionally feel like bouts of luck with timed strikes not counting for anything at times. Survival horror as a whole has evolved so much in the past decade, but the atmospheric merits of the older Silent Hill games are still superb psychological horror titles that stand tall to the the likes of Penumbra and Amnesia. The Silent Hill HD Collection returns us to a time where horror wasn’t all about blasting off heads in a frenzy, but being forced to examine every inch of a world coated in mystery and rust, where you dread about what could be around every corner. Those die-hard fans who have just gritty yet wonderful memories of both games may be disappointed with the collections’ technical aspects. The town’s Febreezed visage and dumbed down grainy filter drain the elements of darkness, and the new voice-overs don’t quite hit all the right notes. These are the same games I fell head over heels for some years ago, I just preferred them when they greeted me with scruffy pyjamas and messy hair rather than coated in 5 layers of high definition make-up. It’s incredibly conflicting, as these are two absolutely fantastic games and I’m still happy to see them, but I’m not entirely sure they have been done justice by this HD port. As updates have been released to smooth out potential errors, hopefully this will be ongoing and pitch perfect soon. Nevertheless, if you’re only familiar with the western Silent Hill efforts and are looking for titles that will truly take you out of your comfort zone, envelop yourself in these games. They are astoundingly deep, genuinely frightening experiences that will unwillingly shake up your brain whilst dragging you into its world. You may regret it…but you’ll be thankful for the recommendation.
The Bad: …though the HD re-working does un-characteristically brighten things up in most places, Combat can be a real pain to get used to, Re-dubbed voice-overs are still hit and miss