In almost every video game survey I’ve seen, Silent Hill 2 has consistently won the #1 spot as the scariest game of all time. And this is for good reason. There has never, ever been a game like Silent Hill 2 before or since. If it was possible to have a perfect horror game, I would argue Silent Hill 2 would be it. Whenever anyone asks me what one of my all-time favorite games is, Silent Hill 2 is frequently mentioned. I love the game.
But before going on, I should make a note that this is a review of the PS2’s Silent Hill 2. Konami re-released Silent Hill 2 and 3 in a package and managed to screw it up. New voice acting that was inferior to the original. And the graphics, though better, made the game far worse… as they removed the fog that was so vital at establishing the atmosphere of the game. To Konami’s credit, they issued refunds to whoever wanted one. That’s how video game companies should be!
Since it is close to Halloween time, it makes sense to take a look back at one of the greatest horror games of all time.
The story was incredible. James Sunderland, the lead protagonist, received a letter from his dead wife saying she was waiting for him in Silent Hill at their “special place.”
So that’s the set up right there. Seems simple, right? It seems obvious that James would want to find out what was going on. So James enters into the town and finds things are very strange. Fog hangs in the air, obscuring dangers all around him. Weird flesh-like writhing monsters wander the streets, spitting black tar-like poison at him. So he runs, and finds messages that are flat-out terrifying.
The story unfolds like a mystery, mostly centered on James’ dead wife Mary. I cannot emphasize how awesomely the entire story unfolds. The game itself is a psychological study of James Sunderland. You see, James actually killed his wife. You learn this at the end of the game. The entire game is a manifestation of his sin and crime. The monsters, the places he goes, and the events he witnesses… all of them happened because he couldn’t deal with what he did to his own wife. Of course, the player doesn’t know that. The player gets to struggle along with James as he puts the pieces together in his search for his wife. There are different, satisfying, endings based on the player’s choices throughout the game.
James isn’t alone in Silent Hill. He meets several others along the way.
You meet Angela Orosco, who is searching for her mother, father, and brother. From the very beginning, you know something is seriously wrong with her. She displays major PTSD. Angela is a complex and tragic figure. You learn that abused by her father and brother. Her mother left her when she was young, leaving her defenseless against the onslaught. She ended up killing her abusers in self defense, and goes to Silent Hill to find her mother. She truly believes she deserved the abuse she got and should be punished for what she did. I mean, check out one of my all-time favorite quotes from the series! It came from her:
“No… don’t pity me. I’m not worth it… Or maybe… you think you can save me. Will you love me…? Take care of me…? Heal all my pain…? …That’s what I thought. James… give me back that knife.”
Then there’s Eddie Dombrowski. He’s psychotically cruel and disturbing. When you first meet him, he’s sitting on the floor and talking about how easy it was to kill a person. Just put a gun to their head and pow.. He’s also a tragic figure. He grew up overweight. People bullied him for it. You see, Eddie kept it all in until one day… he snapped. He shot a dog and watched it chew its own guts out before it died. He shot the owner in the leg. He also shot a football player who bullied him in the knee, destroying the guy’s future. After that, Eddie ran to Silent Hill and lost his mind, killing anyone who he thought was making fun of him. Eddie seemed aware of what the town was and why he was there. Check out his quote!
“Don’t get all holy on me, James. This town called you, too. You and me are the same. We’re not like other people. Don’t you know that?
And now we have Maria. Maria exists because James wants to see his wife again. She looks so sexual because James was sexually frustrated. Mary, his wife, was dying and James couldn’t have sex for years. Maria was everything that he wanted Mary to be. It’s also why Maria kept on dying in front of him. Maria is unbelievable. To be honest, I didn’t know what to make of her when I first played the game. Yes, she was hot as hell. But I didn’t lean until the end what she was. That’s when she turned into a demon and tried to kill James. But you know, I thought James deserved it. More tragically, there’s an ending you can get where you’ll “save” Maria, only to have her get sick the same way Mary does.
I have to show you the scene when James finds Maria in the jail cell. It sent chills down my spine the first time I saw it.
I could go on and on, talking about the plot, how the story unfolds, all the other NPCs that James meets (there are a couple more), the sublime soundtrack, the awesome level designs, the monsters throughout the game.. it goes on and on. There’s so much to praise about this game. Why is this game is so good? It’s all about the atmosphere. The game designers created this lingering dread that never goes away. Strangely, it is never fulfilled. The player never gets that “holy crap, look at that monster” moment. Sure, there are moments here and there that are scary. But never hits that crescendo, that peek where the pressure is released. The atmosphere never lets up. And that’s what is so frightening.
I would love to tell you to go and play this game immediately, but really.. it’s a pretty old game all things considered. It’s from early on in the PS2’s generation. So you know the control will be stiff. The game will be showing its age. If you feel that this won’t be a problem, then yes. Play this game. Run out and purchase it immediately. Get the one for the PS2 or the Xbox, not the re-release crap that came out a couple of years ago.
Sigh… I love this game.