Silent Hill 2’s PS2 Rough Edges Are What Make It Special

After years of begging, Silent Hill fans are finally getting everything they’ve ever dreamed of… sort of.

Konami recently hosted a Silent Hill-themed livestream that showed the company is serious about reviving long-dormant IP. So serious? He’s currently working on a movie, three new games, and a massive remake. The last part of the list is the most intriguing as Konami delivers a beloved horror classic. silent hill 2 a completely modern update with the help of Bloober Team, the studio behind the medium.

With fans eager for any news over the years, I’d expect the announcement to be the biggest story of the year. Instead, he has been met with something of a mixed reaction. The remake in particular has generated some debate, with some fans just not sure that Bloober Team is the right studio for the job. However, that is not his fault. Redo silent hill 2 is something of an impossible task, because its messy PlayStation 2 DNA is exactly what makes the game so memorable.

jank from another world

silent hill 2 tells the story of James Sunderland, a man searching for answers after receiving a letter from his wife, which is strange since she died three years earlier. She summons him to the town of Silent Hill in rural Maine, where he is a little too cloudy for his comfort. James soon discovers that the city is overrun with monsters, including creepy nurses and the iconic Pyramid Head.

The narrative is unnerving enough on its own, especially thanks to the psychologically harrowing direction it takes in its final moments, but much of its horror comes from its atmosphere. To this day, there really isn’t a video game that feels as unsettling as silent hill 2 – and much of that can be attributed to the constraints of the times. Take its signature mist, for example. It is not a realistic white mist that casts a semi-transparent veil over the city. That nuance wasn’t entirely possible with the PS2, but it was to the game’s advantage.

The original silent hill 2The fog from is dark and thick, almost smoke-like in quality. Darkens everything in sight, casting a haze over objects even two feet away. That allows the game to deliver more surprising scares, as creatures that could normally be easily avoided suddenly appear out of nowhere. The mist itself feels like a monster in its own right – it will billow back when James approaches it like he’s running away. It’s not realistic, but that’s the appeal. The excessively thick fog gives the game a claustrophobic aura, as it always feels like it’s about to squeeze James and suffocate him.

The game’s mist is so central to its horror that any changes to it have generated controversy. When Konami gave the game an HD remaster in 2012, the fog was loosened in the process. The changes may be subtle to the casual player, but the result was that the world became more visible, making the effect more like a fog machine rising over the stage during a play. It seems silly to say it, but the fog will be a defining aspect of the upcoming remake, as a realistic approach could further reduce the mystique of the city.

Fog is the prime example of where PS2 restrictions create opportunities, but you can see it in other technical aspects as well. The enemies are especially creepy in the original. silent hill 2 thanks to the limited animation potential of the time. Enemies like nurses shake and shake unnaturally as they move, their heads turning as if attached by a well-oiled kneecap instead of a neck. When James kills one, he falls to the ground in an instant, as if a spirit that had reanimated them had suddenly flown in and left a shell of dead weight in his place. Nothing moves in a way that makes you feel like a human being. Anything you come up against feels like it’s been pulled from another dimension, making it hard to really predict movement patterns or behaviors.

good bad acting

Those sentiments translate into the game’s acting, which is perhaps its most compelling aspect. Let’s be clear up front: silent hill 2‘s acting is bad. James in particular is a cardboard box of a man. During the game’s most dramatic moment, he mutters emotionlessly on the power of a single AAA battery. Other performances are completely on the other side of the spectrum, with supporting characters like Eddie overreacting like they’re auditioning for a ’90s educational video about the importance of staying off drugs.

However, I don’t mean any of this in a negative way. In fact, the forced performances are a big part of what makes the game so unsettling, even if that wasn’t the creators’ intent at the time. Just like the movements of the enemies are weird enough to feel weird, the characters are far enough from real humans to be weird (the facial animations help in that regard, too). That scene I mentioned where James barely reacts to the most harrowing news of his life? It’s partly as awkward as it is because you expect him to have a loud, melodramatic breakdown. Instead, he speaks like a man under hypnosis, creating a genuinely disturbing disconnect between the horror of the revelation and his flat reaction.

Two characters chat behind bars in Silent Hill 2.

Many games are compared to the works of David Lynch for superficial reasons (“That’s so weird!”), but silent hill 2 it is one of the few games that really deserves that comparison. Lynch’s work tends to feel as surreal and otherworldly as it is in part due to his unique directing style, which intentionally extracts offbeat performances from highly capable actors. Mulholland Drive it’s as unnerving as it is because Naomi Watts’s Betty always sits just to the left of the human, but just to the right of the actor. It’s something that plays into Lynch’s general idea of ​​identity and characters struggling to find their own (see Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks: The Return).

Perhaps not surprisingly, this is a central theme in silent hill 2 also. From James confronting the monster that he really is, to the weird double dynamic between Maria and Mary, we never really know the real version of the characters in the game. Instead, we are presented with shattered fragments of themselves trapped in a large supernatural prison disguised as a rural town. The bizarre performances are an ever-present reminder not to take anything that unfolds in this world at face value.

Is that on purpose? Probably not. The HD remaster features re-recorded vocals that are noticeably more traditional. Troy Baker voices James, making him more emotional and angsty, a change that turns the game into a more direct melodrama. The poor acting in the original is more likely a byproduct of video game voice acting at a time when the industry wasn’t really interested in telling Hollywood-caliber stories. But the intent of the artists or the technology that drove the decisions is irrelevant; those choices can take on a life of their own and independently define the work.

That’s the story of silent hill 2, a brilliant PS2 game that creates terror out of clutter. Its rough edges are not bugs that can be smoothed out with a modern remake; they are an important part of your form.

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