The opening scene takes place in front of a restroom mirror. The audience is greeted with a man starring back at himself questioning everything. As his hands run over his worried face it is evident that he knows nothing about the journey he is about to embark on. Yet something is driving him forward. As James exits the restroom a voice over begins. It is Mary, his late wife, who died three years prior to the start of the game. James stands in the parking lot and all other noise fades away. The voice of Mary is heard reading a letter James received from her recently, pleading for him to return to their "special place." And so begins the tale of Silent Hill.
During the course of the game James encounters several people, who happen to be insane. Eddie is the craziest of the lot , but it is never clear what brought him to Silent Hill. Laura is a brat. At eight years of age she feels that she knows what is best for James and it isn't Mary. Angela, a child trapped in the body of a young adult, fades in and out of reality during each encounter. Maria is a virtual replica of James' late wife, aside from a few wardrobe choices. However her disposition varies drastically from that of Mary. Often times she is very needy and demanding. It grows to be quiet a chore to tolerate Maria's rants but her role is essential in James' quest.
The game control varies slightly from that of the original. You can choose which control scheme you want to use. The standard controls from the original Silent Hill are the default but 2-D controls offer a more realistic control scheme. The biggest complaint about Silent Hill and the Resident Evil series is the awkward mechanics. When pulling back on the analog stick the character stumbles backwards instead of turning around as one would assume. In Silent Hill 2, this annoyance can be bypassed by choosing the 2-D control option.
The game play in Silent Hill 2 is identical to that of the first. Random weapons are accumulated to defend against and destroy the monsters that exist in the town. At the start of each new game the player determines the difficulty level. Difficulty settings for the AI and puzzles range from simplistic to impossible. I hate puzzles. I hate puzzles that make no sense. I hate puzzles that remove you so far from the games that all you can think about is how much you hate that stupid puzzle and you forget why you are playing the game in the first place. So I set the puzzle difficulty on the easiest level. As a result the game did not become tedious and annoying which allowed this gamer to become enraptured with the story that much more. Difficulty for the AI changes based on the settings you choose. The distance for the monsters to attack, the easier the setting and the closer to the monster you have to be all vary based on your choice.
The graphics are incredible. The designers went out of their way to add a special grain to the texturing of each scene. This enhances the feeling that you are taking part in a horror film. To achieve full scare potential, I suggest this game be played at night with the lights off and with surround sound, if possible. As you take James through the dirt path leading into Silent Hill various noises chase you along the path. They sound like they are coming from every direction. You are constantly on the edge of your seat waiting for whatever is following you to attack. It is this anticipation that drives the fear effect of the game. The soundtrack is amazing. The score is beautifully done and my only complaint is that certain themes could have been used a little more at key sequences in the game. It would have increased the emotion of the story just enough to make it that much more powerful. The game is dark, detailed, gory and stunning. The power of the PS2 is displayed beautifully by this game.
What I love most is that the game's writers give you just enough information to understand the game but leave enough out that the player needs to fill in the blanks themselves, allowing for creative flow of thought. Silent Hill 2 forces you to think over the choices you make and the experiences you have to piece together the motivation of everyone you encounter as well as James' drive and desires. The game does this wonderfully and as a result some people may not understand what is going on. For those who can grasp what has happened to James and the psychological terror he has undergone, it is a truly powerful story. This game belongs in the collection of anyone who enjoys a great scary movie.
Silent Hill 2 Review by Aaron