Review: Silent Hill 2 (Playstation 2)

In this review, we check out a Playstation 2 sequel called Silent Hill 2. We find out if this survival/horror sequel was better than the original or not.

This particular game was released in 2001 and was the sequel to the original Playstation game, Silent Hill which we already reviewed.

This time, you take control of a character name James. He is attempting to find his wife Mary. Along the way, he meets a small number of characters like Maria, Eddie, and Laura. While the characters may seem like a mix of weird/disturbed characters, by the time you complete he game, it becomes apparent that they all represents different elements of James’ psyche. Like the previous game, what you do in the game determines what kind of ending you get. In my case, we got the under water ending. After a little bit of research, it turns out that efforts to preserve the supply of health items, searching around for items, and basically looking everywhere for any clue to advance through the game were major contributing factors in getting this ending. Examining the knife would have added to the chances of getting this ending, but in the course of my play, it never occurred to me to examine the knife.

An enemy that was introduced in this game – and ultimately became a sort of mascot apparently – was pyramid head. Personally, I didn’t think the game needed any sort of mascot before I played this game. I thought the town itself was a sufficient enough mascot because, well, the game is named after this fictional location in the first place. Still, when I played through this game, I thought pyramid added a sort of dynamic to the game that made things more interesting – though gut-wrenching at times. I’m personally leaning towards saying this was a good decision, but only barely.

One thing to note is the fact that there are special editions of this game where you can take control of Maria. Apparently, this sort of mini-mission takes place before she meets James. I’m actually glad I didn’t play this sort of special edition because, judging by the YouTube videos, it would throw some of the writing in the rest of the game a little out of whack. This is because I think the writing of this game is much stronger if all of the characters were simply parts of James’ mind rather than giving a back story to one of them, making them actually a real person instead. Thankfully, I played the the plain vanilla version of this game, so the writing wasn’t weakened by this in my experience.

At the beginning, you can set not just the difficulty of the overall game, but also the riddle difficulty. Fortunately, I knew about the riddles from the first game, so I had an idea of what this was in reference to. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know how to gauge what setting would have been find for me, so I just left both the game and riddle difficulty at medium.

Like the original Silent Hill, the maps prove critical to navigation. Scribbled out lines can denote blocked paths. Straight lines can denote locked doors or gates. Arrows can denote open paths that you can freely cross over. Unlocking a door and passing through it will simply place an arrow over top of the line. This time saving element is a good strength of this game as the settings you are going through are quite complex at times.

One of the big criticisms I had for the original Silent Hill was the camera control. Last time, I said that cinematic style was used at the expense of playability. In this game, the camera work was improved somewhat, but still remains problematic. The biggest problem throughout the game is when the camera gets “stuck” in front of the character – a common thing to happen when navigating through the many hallways. It’s bad enough that you are limited to what you can see while walking/running, but even worse when you know there is a monster in front of you and you can’t see it because the camera is facing the wrong direction. Sometimes, you are able to “fix” the camera by finding a wider area and forcing the camera behind James, but you aren’t always given his opportunity. I think that this, while an improvement in this installment, remains to be a weakness for this game.

Another criticism I had of the previous game was clunky controls. you were required to use three buttons in the previous game just to attack. In this game, you needed 2 buttons. While an improvement, can be a real head-scratcher when you encounter your first enemy. You need to hold down one button to go into attack mode and press the action button to launch your attack. I found the learning curve annoying at the beginning, but once you figure this out, you were pretty much golden for the rest of the game as far as controls were concerned. Because of the improved camera work, controls had less of a clunky feel. Your movement was still dictated by which direction James is facing, but it was a little easier to control this time.

In spite of the improved controls and improved camera work, combat is still messy in this game. When you aim and fire a gun, it takes a moment for James to aim and fire. While the slight delay may be somewhat annoying, the delay for the small melee weapons was even worse. Often, when you aim and hit action, it takes so long to attack, the enemy manages to unleash an attack of their own, beating you to the (no pun intended) punch and hitting you first. This was noticeable when fighting many mid-game enemies like the nurses.

An improvement in this game was the alternate locations. In the previous Silent Hill, Harry frequently experiences visions that transported him to alternate horror-like settings dominated by rusty chain link fences and metal floors. This game improves on this in that it doesn’t rely on a single theme of textures. The alternate hotel, for instance, gets changed to a sort of dilapidated, rotted out soaked state which plays up the imagery in a better way. So, this element gets a thumbs up from me.

Making a return are the numerous puzzles found throughout the game. Depending on the settings you set at the beginning, you can be in for some real brain teasers. In some cases, I was able to solve them in a reasonable amount of time. Other times, I needed a slight nudge from a guide to help me along. In one instance, I needed a nudge to unlock the box in the hospital. The reason for that is that I found all the keys, but was missing one of the combinations. It turned out, I pressed the action button next to the type writer, but for whatever reason, the game forgot to activate the part that I receive one of the combinations on the carbon paper. As a result, I wandered the hospital for a while not finding the last thing that unlocked the box before I resorted to looking it up and finding out that it was indeed, found on the typewriter. Another instance that I needed the guide was the 6 hanging bodies puzzle – mainly because I didn’t quite piece together what I was looking for in the riddle on the wall. It’s not to say I couldn’t solve any of the puzzles, of course, because I did solve the coin puzzle on my own. So, on the medium setting, I just needed a gentle nudge in the right direction from time to time.

One surprise was the fact that the final boss wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Maybe I got lucky when I just pulled out the rifle at the very start and unloaded about a half a dozen shots before getting attacked by that swarm attack. Still, after evading those attacks, it didn’t take much to bring it down.

So, there was improved camera work, but that is still problematic in this game. The controls are less clunky, but still have a bit of a learning curve. Otherwise, this game makes numerous improvements all around. One final note is that I found that the writing on this game was rather strong in the vanilla Silent Hill 2. The alternate endings add an interesting dynamic to this game as well. I wasn’t exactly motivated to play through the whole game again just to try and get an alternate ending, but the first time around was a decent enough experience.

Graphically speaking, this game is an improvement over the chalkiness that I found in the original Playstation game. Since this is the first review of a game made specifically in 2001, I have to compare this to games made in previous years and games made since to gauge how good the graphics really are in-game. So, I will say that they are quite good all around. There are a lot of locations and atmospheres, but the overall fog and darkness nicely added to the atmosphere.

The sound effects were very well done. The voicework also added to the overall creepiness in this game. The music itself was great in that it added to the atmosphere more than it was just great music to listen to. There are exceptions like the music after James inserts the video tape into the VHS player. I’ve heard the theme to Laura floating around on YouTube and thought it was a great track, but I somehow managed to never hear this track while playing the actual game, so was disappointed by that. Still, I say the audio was quite good in this game.

Overall, this game has some weaknesses, but a lot more strengths. The atmosphere from the graphics and audio was well done. The writing was strong in the vanilla Silent Hill 2. The puzzles were interesting to try and solve (whether successful or not) and the alternate settings were an improvement from the previous game. The camera, while an improvement, was still a major weakness in this game and the combat system did leave a fair bit to be desired. There is a bit of clunkiness in the controls, but that is less noticeable with the improved camera system in this game. It’s great for the first run through, though I wasn’t exactly motivated to try and get another ending myself. Still, a positive gaming experience as far as I’m concerned.


Furthest point in game: Completed game and got the under water ending. Took just under 9 hours to complete, though this was spread over the period of a week.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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