Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Silent Hill Unholy Night

Though the title suggests otherwise I have actually had a decent week, I've sold all my unwanted items on ebay, I'm done with college for Christmas and I now have enough time and freedom to do whatever I want.
Nothing fascinating has happened this last week but I did find a copy of Silent Hill 2 in a charity shop. Silent Hill 2 is a game I have had on my to do list for a long time, even though I can easily borrow games off people I only tend to play them when I buy them. The only positive I can take from buying a game I can get for free is the belief I will be more invested in it. I didn't feel inclined to play Banjo-Kazooie when I borrowed it but when I bought it myself I couldn't get enough of the game.

The “game” aspect of Silent Hill 2 is lacking, it uses the awkward “Resident Evil” control system where your character controls like a shopping trolley, the camera often pans in front of you so you cannot see what was ahead and the combat is very fiddly when fighting more than one enemy. The game provides a series of challenging riddles but many suffer from adventure game logic where you have mash unrelated items together to solve puzzles.

Lacking it may be but the gameplay in Silent Hill 2 won't distract a player from the overall experience. The plot focuses on protagonist James Sunderland who travels to Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his wife who he hasn't seen in 3 years on the account of her being dead. James soon arrives in Silent Hill with his welcoming party consisting of thick fog, hideous monsters and people who act in incredibly quirky and kooky ways.

The original Silent Hill is an example of a game being improved by limitations, when Silent Hill was in development for the PS1 fog was used to get around the poor draw distance provided by the limited hardware. The original Silent Hill games were very good at building atmosphere, not knowing what is ahead is an effective way to make the player hesitate. The hesitation comes from the fear of what may be ahead, the games horror element relies on the players imagination. The concept may sound odd on paper but horror fans are accustomed to jump scares to the point of being able to predict them, killing the effect. With slow building atmospheric horror it is hard to predict when something is going to happen, this leaves players constantly on edge, in such a state even the smallest thing can provoke a reaction. My experience was a lot like this, there would be times where I would stand in front of a door for a few minutes because I expected something big and scary on the other side, even when I found nothing I still had the same expectations. When playing Silent Hill 2 I often asked “Where are the monsters?”, I never have to ask this with other games because the monsters are everywhere, it is like they are fighting over screen time. The more you see of something the less scary it becomes, zombies are a perfect example of this rule, a lot of zombie horror is becoming less about surviving and more about killing zombies for fun.

Silent Hill 2 earns points for its horror, the game scared me. I'm something of a coward at heart, easily scared by games like Silent Hill 2 so I need a motivation to push on. Silent Hill makes good use of its story and narrative, the mystery surrounding the latter James received from his dead wife expands throughout the game and you begin to wonder if there is more to the story than James is letting on. A lot of the narrative is represented though the use of symbolism and metaphors, the monsters aren't so much the towns creation but the creations of the characters themselves, you could say each character is battling the skeletons in their closet in an attempt to put their own minds at ease.

Silent Hill 2 is a compelling experience with enough replay value to provide several plays, it is unlikely you will find everything on your first go. The gameplay design may be a little off but the graphical and sound design elevates the experience though the use of realistic lighting and sound effects. In terms of story and narrative you will be hard pressed to find something on the level of Silent Hill 2.

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