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Silent Hill HD Collection Review

In my restless dreams I see that town...

2012-03-19
Little of what makes Silent Hill HD Collection excellent has anything to do with its enhancements. Slight improvements certainly help refresh Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 visually, and the new voice recordings sound far more human than the laughable original acting. Really, the best thing about this re-release is what hasn't changed.

Even after all this time, these frightening experiences exist in a place most modern horror games or Silent Hill sequels can't quite reach.


I don't know, but you should look in its guts for a key!



Time has, as it often does, eroded important parts of the original foundations. Unclear objectives and out-there puzzles frequently left me at a complete loss. I wandered through empty hallways holding items with no apparent purpose for a long time before falling back on decade-old guides.

This is the nature of returning to old design. Age can be ugly. Imprecise melee combat leads to more flight than fight, for better or worse. Unwieldy control schemes don't cooperate with the camera, whose cinematic presentation means to give you an interesting perspective of each room. This often limits your view, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the camera makes navigation, combat, and escape difficult. On the other, it's a classic scare tactic that has an incredible effect in tight, too-dark spaces. Hearing something you can't see may lead to mistakes born out of panic.

Jump-scares are completely manufactured by players. Atmosphere, aesthetic, and haunting themes dictate the real horror of Silent Hill, a series that wants you to whimper rather than scream. It's worth enduring minor inconveniences for the otherwise incredible whole.


Yeah, that's not the most ominous sentence ever written in blood. Nope.



Even safe areas haunted me. The Brookhaven hospital in Silent Hill 2 is a disgusting, dirty setting drenched in either dried blood or rust. Parts of Silent Hill 3's environments look alive, and it's some of the most unsettling imagery in the series. It's as if you can see their biology pulsating and swimming through walls. I had genuine, physical reactions to what I saw happening in these games to the point I stopped playing multiple times.

Silent Hill 2 is mentally draining, and I often felt sick playing it. This wasn't just because its setting was gross or the monsters were spooky, but because of the deep-cutting metaphors present in its thought-provoking story.

From the first moment, Silent Hill 2 establishes its narrative as relatable, so it's main character has goals we understand. He's looking for his wife in the small town of Silent Hill, which gives us direction. She's been dead for years, but her recent written letter says she's here, so we have cause. As James Sunderland pokes around, he stumbles on others looking for a missing presence of their own. They're subtle and scared people just like him. Sunderland encounters horrendous monsters in horrifying hallways, each of which stands as a powerful symbol for who James is as he spirals out of (and back into) control.

The only time tension and fear fade is when they're replaced by an overwhelming and uncomfortable sadness. Silent Hill 2's heavy themes get darker when sensitive subject matter like sexual abuse, suicide, and serial murder rears its head. Silent Hill is unpleasant and cerebral in all the right ways. Disgust has an eerie draw.



Few games, if any, have matched Silent Hill 2's achievements, and on its own it would be worth playing Silent Hill HD Collection. The addition of Silent Hill 3 is really just a bonus. It's not in the same league as its predecessor, but it's an interesting, involving experience unlike most.

Silent Hill 3 is a slower burn. For a good, long while, our heroine Heather's uncertain goals lead to aimless meandering through confusing corridors. It takes too long to tell the story it's trying to tell, and the puzzles are as obtuse and devoid of logic as Silent Hill gets. The weight of a narrative fueled by philosophy, religion, and raving-mad murderers eventually picks up. While it doesn't pack the same emotional gut-punch as Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3 still brings the evocative music, brooding atmosphere, shocking events, and memorable characters we used to expect from the franchise.

As psychological scary-things go, Silent Hill HD Collection is among the best. Returning fans will remember why these games lasted in their (presumably scarred) minds for 10 years, and new players can retroactively appreciate their importance. Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 are as affecting and brilliant as they ever were, and their accomplishments transcend old problems.

©2012-03-19, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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