July 30, 2012

Silent Hill 2 (Part 1)

On the general basis, I tend to enjoy horror movies. Even if the clichéd plot destroys any notion of good suspense, I have a special appreciation for horror movies. I pride myself for my questionable ability to subject myself to abject terror without flinching much more than a blink. But I’m not fooling anyone. I love horror movies because they scare me, and they are good at what they do. They wouldn’t be called horror if they didn’t make their audience sweat and gnaw their nails off when loud noises shatter the silent intensity. But horror movies are different from horror games. Watching people die and fight for their lives as the mutilated monstrosity crawls after them on television is different than being the person dying and fighting for life as the mutilated monstrosity shambles after you. I personally think that horror games, if done right of course, are more terrifying than horror movies.

And so we have Silent Hill 2, a third-person survival horror game developed and published by Konami. It’s the second installment in the growing Silent Hill franchise and is set about ten years after the events of the first game. I have never played any other Silent Hill games, but after playing a bit of it, it doesn’t seem like one of the games that needed any previous information to tell you what’s going on.

You play James Sunderland, a clerk who gets a mysterious letter from his wife telling him to meet her at their “special place” in the town Silent Hill. He’s a bit confused though because they had kind of grown apart ever since she died. Nevertheless, James goes to Silent Hill in search of his maybe dead wife. He meets a girl named Angela at the local graveyard who mentions that she was searching for people that she had not seen for a long time, hinting that they were dead too. She warns James that there’s something strange about the town and that it’s dangerous, as if the supernaturally thick fog, snarling guttural voices in the forest, and creepy footstep noises didn’t tip me off. Not to be perturbed, James wanders into town to find it quite empty. Before long, he comes across a massive smear of blood on the road, and catches sight of a figure in the mist hobbling away from him like a penguin with both of its legs broken. Immediately James runs off into the fog after the figure because common sense is overrated I guess. He finds a radio that somehow alerts him when nearby enemies are around and after a battle with a monster that only vaguely looked humanoid, continued on to what he believed to be his and Mary’s “special place”. Soon he wanders into an abandoned apartment and witnesses Pyramid Head in all of his glorious, terrifying wonder.

The problem with some horror games is that they don’t do their job very well. Some games, instead of scaring people, only startle them by putting monsters in breakable objects that pop out and jump on you. The thing is, startling someone is very different from scaring someone. A cat jumped on me while I was nodding off, and I was startled but that didn’t mean I was scared. Besides, if you were frightened by a jump-scare, the weight of heavy armaments would usually dismiss any remnants of fear left. Silent Hill 2 is the contrary however. I’ve played the game for a few hours, and there hasn’t been one jump-scare yet. But that doesn’t matter because the atmosphere in this game is so tense. This game’s ambience puts me on edge the whole time, and I’m always expecting something to jump out and murder me. It’s probably a good thing that there hasn’t been any jump-scares yet because I probably would have had a heart attack if it did. The monsters in the game don’t even give a sense of life and the game really gives you the feeling that you are completely and utterly alone as everything in the town tries to kill you and torture your soul.

The Silent Hill games were never known for their combat and controls, and Silent Hill 2 is no exception. The mere act of moving your character takes a little getting used to and it’s not made any easier with the ridiculous camera angles and flails. Combine that with monsters chasing after you to bite your face off, and you get a lot of walking into walls while blindly trying to bash the hideous horrors with a piece of wood. Many times I would find myself having a difficult time just trying to walk through an open door without slamming into the frame. Like the first Silent Hill game, you find a radio that emits static whenever a monster is near which made little sense to me but whatever. Combat is… well, there’s no point in sugar coating it. Combat sucks donkey butt. I know that the character you play is a clerk and not a hand-to-hand combat expert, but he still fights like his elbows and shoulders are dislocated. I didn’t play long enough to get to a “boss fight” because I had to shut the game off before I got too paranoid of the static my phone was emitting, but I worry about if the boss fights involve a lot of fighting since combat in the game makes me want to pull my teeth out. But like I said, Silent Hill 2 is not praised for its controls and combat. Silent Hill 2 is about the story.

Between the crappy controls and the amazingly terrifying story and atmosphere, Silent Hill 2 strikes a happy medium for me so far. I’m a bit wary at how boss fights will turn out with the clunky controls, but at this point I’m pretty satisfied with the game. I just hope I don’t have a seizure if the game decides to throw in a jump-scar.

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