Horror comes in a variety of flavors and while Resident Evil ruled the game scene with its campy B-movie approach, there was always room for something more serious. That is where Silent Hill came along. Until the original Silent Hill, on the original Playstation, I had never been scared by a game before. Silent Hill rectified that through effective use of their unique sound and visual design paired with mature subject matter, generally not found in games. Needless to say, Silent Hill was a smash success for publisher Konami and the series continued in sequels on the Playstation 2.
Konami, seeing the success other games have had with HD re-releases, has brought fans of the series, and potential newcomers, Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 in one package called Silent Hill HD Collection. Notably missing from this HD collection is Silent Hill 4: The Room. While The Room was less well received by both critics and fans, its exclusion from this collection diminishes the value of the package somewhat. That said, there are plenty of other things that diminish this package, that the exclusion of a mediocre title is the least of its worries. Developed by Hijinx Studios in conjunction with Team Silent, the Silent Hill HD Collection is a mixed bag of excellence marred by technical flaws and poor design choices.
While many games do a great job of putting their best foot forward, hiding their inherent flaws until one is too invested in the goings on to turn back, this HD Collection slaps users in the face on the main menu screen. Actually that is being a bit harsh; it waits to slap users until after they choose whether they want to play Silent Hill 2 or Silent Hill 3. Accidentally choosing the wrong game will require players to exit the game fully and reboot from the dashboard as there is no menu option to return to the game’s root menu. Some might be willing to overlook this issue but when grouped with the rest of the game’s technical issues and wonky design decisions, the menu issue is just the first check mark on a shoddy production job.
My personal experience got even worse. Using a wired third party controller that I have used to play other games before and after playing the Silent Hill HD Collection, the game was near unplayable. Character movement was jerky and unresponsive in both Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3, to the point that I actually felt the collection was completely broken. On a whim, I decided to try a Dualshock 3 and magically a lot of the unresponsiveness disappeared, albeit not all. Characters still controlled somewhat wonky until I switched the in game control toggle from 3D to 2D, or standard tank controls.
While things became playable after the switch from 3D to 2D control, the games themselves suffer from incredible amounts of slowdown. The frame rate fluctuates constantly, often with no rhyme or reason to it. This slowdown creates atrocious drops in playability, especially if it happens during an action sequence. There is absolutely no excuse for these drops in performance.
There is also no excuse for how little improvement has been made to the visuals. This is supposed to be a high definition collection but the textures only look fractionally better than their last generation counterparts and much of the visuals in the two games look muddy. The muddy visuals could actually be overlooked, and might have been overlooked, if Hijinx had not upped the brightness level of the game. With the added light, the visuals, in some cases, actually look worse than when the games were originally released.
I do not want to sound completely negative after all Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 are two of the best horror games to come out and this HD Collection does pose the opportunity for players to experience them both, that is providing one can look past the bugs and outright poor design choices. Both games are fantastic in terms of writing, puzzles and scares. Silent Hill 2 in particular deals with some extremely mature subject matter that most games today would not even dream of touching.
Silent Hill 2 anchors itself on the theme of loss as protagonist James Sunderland sets about exploring the mysterious town in search of his dead wife. Instead of overloading the player with jump scares, cheap scare tactics and tons of enemies, Silent Hill 2 works a more psychological angle utilizing smartly designed levels and effective use of sound. Sure there are still enemies to defeat but figuring out the mysteries of the town and James relationship with his wife are the most interesting and terrifying aspects of the game.
Where Silent Hill 2 deals with loss, Silent Hill 3 deals with revelations. Heather, the protagonist of Silent Hill 3, is the adopted daughter of the original game’s hero, Harry Mason, and the game sets out to reveal the secrets behind the mysterious town. As a fan of the original game, Silent Hill 3 is a great piece of fan service that continues the fine tradition set forth by its predecessors. It may not be as deep in its messaging as Silent Hill 2 but it holds a unique charm. However, the appeal of the game may be less to people that have not played the original game, still it lays a smart, cohesive horror story out that few games have matched since.
Neither game would be nearly as effective as they are without the stellar sound design. Hijinx mostly gets this transfer correct. For whatever reason, new voice acting was recorded and it leaves a bit to be desired but nearly everything else is spot on, from the soundtrack to the ambient noises that accentuate the terrifying atmosphere. I say nearly everything else because gunshots in the games sound muffled and less crisp than I remember them being. That said, regardless of if my memory is correct or not, gunshots sound flat and lack power which is extremely noticeable compared to the rest of the sound design. Still the sound design in these two games is excellent and shines amongst everything else in the package.
HD Collections should be celebrations of classics, providing fans the experience they remember while presenting newcomers with the evidence to support the acclaim these games received. The Silent Hill HD Collection fails to do this and as such it fails to be something that can be recommended.
- Excellent sound design
- Fantastic writing
- Smart puzzles
- Genuine scares
- Subpar HD conversion
- Brighter environments accentuate muddy visuals
- Buggy and unresponsive controls
- Unwarranted slowdown causing performance issues
2 / 5
Note: This review was done using the Playstation 3 version of the game. It is also available on Xbox 360.