Well here it goes, my first blog post with actual content. I decided since I’m just now starting this, I should do something that’s fresh in my mind, and actually it’s a 16 year old game that’s been consuming my thoughts lately. My friend Cohen and I have discussed video games quite a bit over the years, and one he frequently brought up was the Silent Hill series. He’s a huge fan and every time he brought it up I would get more interested, but I didn’t have a working platform to play it on. Eventually he suggested I visit his place and we could play through it together. And after finishing it, I have to say Silent Hill 2 is one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I have had to date.
It was astounding to me how well it holds up as a 16 year old game and also the story drew me in better than many modern titles have. Now I’m not the biggest horror game enthusiast, even though I have enjoyed a few over the years including Alien: Isolation and Outlast. The thing with me is, when I play a horror game I usually never feel like finishing it up. I’m usually not in the mood and don’t feel too much of a reason to keep going with it. The way SH2 shines in comparison to many games in it’s genre, is that it gives you just enough information to keep you wanting more. A common theme I notice in many modern titles is that they will leave you completely in the dark as far as the story line goes. I’ll use Outlast as an example; There is never anymore motivation in the game than, “I am a journalist, I need information on this asylum.” And maybe it’s just me, but this is no where near as compelling as our protagonist James Sunderland, who receives a letter from his dead wife Mary, telling him to visit her in Silent Hill. Now I get it, this doesn’t seem too compelling either, but think for a minute about the situation. James is sure his wife is dead and he misses her terribly, but all of a sudden a chance at seeing her once again is sprung upon him, which he never expected to happen. All these peculiar details form for an incredibly perplexing, yet captivating intro.
You’ll always feel like you want to know more before you put down the controller. Not only is the story vague and puzzling, but so is the environment and atmosphere.As soon leave the truck stop you start in, you will notice a dense fog surrounding you at all times.Fog was used to limit rendering distance, but was also the most atmospheric element of the game.
This is incredibly effective at hiding enemies and leaving the player on their toes because they don’t know what will emerge from out of view distance. Things seem odd and very off-putting, which is typical for horror games. All you have to do is throw some blood on the wall or make a door open on its own, right? Many games use this tactic and eventually it just becomes “same old, same old”, but what about something more subtle, like a running car in a supposedly abandoned town? This is much more powerful when creating an ominous atmosphere rather than taking generic, campy tropes enforced by just about every horror title from 2010 on. How about running through normal hallways and suddenly the next room’s walls are composed of writhing flesh and machinery? Or what about entering a door only to realize the room you entered is rotated sideways, and you’re standing on a wall? I’m used to getting goosebumps from jump scares and odd sounds, not changes in scenery. Another thing to note is the incredibly dark and brooding soundtrack. Music is always cued in at the perfect time to make you feel uneasy. Tell me this song
doesn’t make your skin crawl.
Undoubtedly the strongest point of Silent Hill 2 is the story, which trumps just about any game I’ve played in my 15 years of gaming. Everything is important in Silent Hill, and yet nothing is important at all. Every detail you notice while playing more than likely has a deeper meaning. Characters met throughout the story all symbolize James’ struggles with himself and his wife before her passing. Maria, who is presented as a woman who looks very similar to Mary, can’t help but hold our tragic hero’s attention throughout the game. She represents everything James loved about his wife, yet Maria dies repeatedly over the course of our quest, and always right in front of James. This is displayed so often that it almost seems the game wants to make you feel bad for Mary’s death since it always placed in your hands to protect her. But why would they do this? I’ll throw this obligatory spoiler alert in for a 16 year old game, so if you are interested in playing this game, please stop reading now. The twist given at the end of the game is that James killed his sickly Mary by suffocating her with a pillow. James needs to suffer for his sins, so he is given the misfortune of seeing an embodiment of his wife die endlessly, until he accepts his wrongdoing.
SH2 receives the most praise of any title in the series, and for good reason. It capitalizes on the environment created for the original Silent Hill and introduces an incredibly personal narrative, told through symbolism and psychological imagery. Everything about this game screams dark and depressing, but in such a beautifully crafted way. It all adds up, it all feels important by the time you finish the game. It’s very rare you come across a genuinely terrifying game with an incredible story, and I have not been able to find one as well done as this to date. If you have not played Silent Hill 2 yet, please do yourself a favor and experience one the greatest horror video games that has ever been created.