Silent Hill 2 is the sequel to the classic PS1 survival horror game, Silent Hill, and was developed and published by Konami in 2001. And – like the first Silent Hill – it is considered to be one of the best video games of all time by those who’ve played it.
The game this time focuses on James Sunderland, a widower who journeys to the town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his deceased wife, Mary, informing him that she is waiting there for him. And, of course, when he arrives there is thick fog and strange noises in the distance, but he still goes in, looking for his dead wife. As you do…
You can choose a difficulty level for both the ‘action’ and the ‘riddles’ in Silent Hill 2, from the opening menu screen. I played the game on ‘normal’ settings for both, but in hard mode James can trip while running and monsters are almost (but not entirely) impossible to kill. Clues to puzzles are more obscure too, but then again: if you’re playing in hard mode chances are you’ve played through the game once, so already know what to do. That said: many of the puzzles have a random element to them. Passwords, for example, can change game by game, so you still need to pay attention and take notes as you play.
Silent Hill 2‘s visuals are stylistically de-saturated (meaning: colour-drained) and the game also features “analogue noise”, which makes the picture very grainy. On purpose. Which isn’t ideal for someone like me who is after great screenshots, but it does give the game a somewhat unique, gritty look. The fog and sound effects are also more advanced than those seen in the first game and – combined – they make Silent Hill 2 a pretty terrifying experience.
It of course doesn’t take long before you acquire a weapon (although it’s only a wooden stick), and the movement and combat in this sequel are pretty much identical to the first game, where you must aim first, before shooting or striking something. As you edge your way into the story the monsters you encounter are bizarre and scary and are often best run away from, if possible. Not only does it help save ammo for when you need it most, but the monsters often re-spawn, so you can’t really kill them all. And in true Silent Hill style the game becomes weirder and weirder the more you get into it.
Silent Hill 2 has a number of nice touches that enhance it over the first game, like: bloody footprints (after walking over a dead monster); excellent real-time shadows; James’s head looking downward if there’s an object nearby that he can pick up; the ability to do a quick ‘about-face’ turn (by pressing L1 and R1 simultaneously), and also the ability to block some enemy attacks.
On the downside: like in the first game, the dialogue in this is not particularly well-written, nor well-translated, and the voice acting is patchy at best. I guess that’s to be expected in a game of this type – or at least it was twenty years ago. Also: at certain points you can have a friendly character following you (you’re supposed to protect them), and when you go through a door they are already there in the room with you, and can even be stood on the opposite side of a room, or right next to you, and it’s very easy to scare yourself by their presence. During the hospital scenes, when you have Maria with you, I lost count of the number of times she made me jump by being in my face as I turned around… LOL. Honestly: Silent Hill 2 is scary enough without having ‘friendly’ characters spook you, but it does happen. Be prepared in this game to have the occasional minor heart attack due to your mind playing tricks on you!
The only thing I didn’t really like about Silent Hill 2 was the analogue noise. To me: it just makes the screenshots look bad. I did read that it can be turned off, but I couldn’t find out how to do that in the PS2 version. The game was also released for XBox and Microsoft Windows so maybe that feature is only available in those releases? I dunno. Aside from the visual noise and the occasional stunted dialogue I think Silent Hill 2 is pretty amazing. It’s one of the weirdest, scariest games I’ve ever played and is very imaginative, atmospheric and challenging. The killer nurses in the hospital are the stuff nightmares are made of…
An extended version of Silent Hill 2, called “The Director’s Cut“, contains an extra bonus scenario, called “Born from a Wish“, and other additions, and was published the same year, in 2001. That’s the version I’m showing here.
A HD remake of Silent Hill 2 was released for PS3 and XBox 360 in 2012 as part of the Silent Hill HD Remake Collection (although from what I read that is pretty much derided by those who’ve played it). Another, more modern remake of Silent Hill 2 was recently announced (on 19th October 2022) by Konami, and will be developed by Bloober Team and released for PS5 and Windows in the not-so-distant future. That’ll be one to keep an eye on.