20 years later, ‘Silent Hill 2’ is still a disorienting masterpiece

Iam ashamed to confess that earlier than this week, I had by no means performed a Silent Hill recreation to completion. I’ve managed to evade Konami’s psychological horror sequence for many years, but it surely’s primarily as a result of one of the best of the bunch, Silent Hill 2, got here out earlier than I used to be 10 years outdated.

It was a blind spot that I’ve now corrected. One in every of my pals is a large Silent Hill fan, so that they invited me over to play by the sequence. They added context the place it was obligatory, however purposefully saved quiet loads of the time to permit me to make my very own selections and expertise the environment of those video games fully untainted.

It was an immeasurable act of kindness, and it’s protected to say that I get it now. I perceive why everyone seems to be so determined for a brand new recreation on this sequence as a result of even 20 years after its launch, I actually do really feel that Silent Hill 2 is a masterpiece. It’s untouchable in the way in which that it maintains its unnerving atmosphere.

I’ve by no means performed something prefer it, and by attempting to elucidate why, I need to spur a few of you to return and take a look at it, particularly for those who have been too younger to expertise it naturally, or for those who’re bored of the shock jock state of contemporary horror video games.

Silent Hill 2. Credit score: Konami

Plus, with rumours swirling that Silent Hill video games are coming again, it looks as if an excellent time to try to work out what made Silent Hill 2 so particular, and what builders ought to attempt to remember after they make a brand new one.

First off, we have to discuss concerning the recreation’s scare techniques. Silent Hill 2 isn’t low-cost. There are not any leap scares on this recreation, and it nonetheless manages to be terrifying. You arrive at this city and instantly grow to be acquainted with the looming fog. It’s a visible impact that makes it really feel like you have got cataracts. It tips your eyes into crossing and dropping focus till you don’t know the place you might be.

Buildings and property seem out of nowhere, and the sour-fleshed Mannequins are eerily static till you strategy them. Similar to Mary – the spouse of participant character James Sunderland and your motive for being on this hellscape – every thing is ready for you right here, moderately than attempting to hunt you out and scare you, and I feel that’s a part of why Silent Hill 2 is so efficient. It’s only a small city with believably empty buildings, however one thing is clearly fallacious and you may by no means fairly put your finger on it.

FREE HORROR Silent-Hill-2-Credit-Konami-1@2000x1270 20 years later, 'Silent Hill 2' is still a disorienting masterpiece
Silent Hill 2. Credit score: Konami

Any corpses that stay appear like the protagonist, and the true people you discover are all deeply troubled and discuss with a disjointed cadence. Maybe the scariest factor about the remainder of the forged is that as you encounter them, they don’t reassure any of your assumptions. They discuss to you dismissively about your personal perceptions and understanding of Silent Hill, which ramps up the concern and curiosity.

I discovered the way in which the sport transitioned from gameplay to cutscene to be actually disturbing too, because the pre-rendered filter descends onto the pixellated backdrop. Mid-conversation cuts work to disorient the participant, however not one of the scenes themselves are conventionally scary – most of them are simply quick conversations with bizarre entities on this tragic city. However they work so effectively, subverting typical narrative expectations of discovering somebody and studying extra about a spot or the story.

Often, you simply find yourself with extra questions which are by no means absolutely defined, a wonderful leaf taken from the David Lynch playbook of storytelling.

Once you finally make it inside, the sport will get playful with its stage design to create labyrinths of portals and holes. Bodily, lots of the environments and pathways you observe on this recreation don’t make sense, and this actually began to scare me once I realised I used to be not accountable for my journey and there was no manner I might flip again. Historic Societies turned prisons which turned labyrinths which led me to lakes. Even within the early flats, you leap between home windows and enter disorienting alternate worlds.

At one level, you stroll in on a disturbing scene of your generally sidekick Angela taking part in with a knife and taking a look at herself within the mirror, however what I discovered most horrifying about it was that it was only a random room in a largely vacant complicated. There was no signposting to inform me she could be there.

In some rooms, the music will grow to be frenetic and fierce for no motive, and also you’ll hear whispers and semi-random sounds, like a glass smashing or a child crying. These clips are left unexplained however they’re plausible inside the context of the sport’s inimitable environment. And that’s with out addressing Akira Yamaoka’s immaculate soundtrack, wherein silence, J-Rock and low-humming chillhop wage warfare in your psyche.

Silent Hill 2 could be nothing with out its fastened digital camera angle both, which may body necessary symbolism or on some events, obscure it with horrifying impact. It felt novel and cinematic to see rooms be introduced with intentionality by the builders, as an alternative of the participant’s personal controlling perspective.

The feel work on this recreation continues to be pretty to have a look at too, from the blood-stained pillowed partitions of an asylum cell to the vomit-inducing loss of life holes of the underground mausoleum. And the puzzles! By god, how rewarding. A few of them do function on journey recreation moon logic, however I’ve not been so thrilled to determine one thing out in a recreation in a very long time.

Each puzzle is persistently head-scratching. Even when a few of the options border on the absurd, I a lot choose that to the handholding of contemporary horror. What delighted me was that they typically had penalties hooked up that will make the atmosphere round you worse, so the onus is on you to resolve it and transfer on so you may escape the fog-thick terror of hanging round. Genius atmosphere-led recreation design!

There’s an odd sense of humour to the sport as effectively. I’ve at all times thought that psychological horror and the human expertise of it accommodates multitudes, and Silent Hill 2 positively tries to handle this by working the gamut of emotion. James’ environmental interactions may be humorous and sarcastic, and there’s that scene in an elevator the place you’re all of the sudden accosted by a radio host and a quiz. It’s so misplaced and freaky that you simply’ll battle for phrases, however at its core, it’s additionally only a very humorous and lightweight second in a recreation that’s so coated in darkness.

No spoilers for the story at massive after all, however the way in which that Silent Hill 2 reveals the aim of its creature designs and the trauma of its supporting forged is masterful. I might be having nightmares about fire-filled rooms and the presentation of its enemies, with their caged frames and insufferable animations. I might actually go on, however I feel sooner or later, it’s essential simply go and expertise this recreation for your self. I can guarantee you, it’s not one thing that you simply play as soon as and neglect about. Silent Hill 2 is much extra affecting and meaty than that. I’m nonetheless realising moments of foreshadowing days later, and I’m fairly certain I haven’t seen all of its secrets and techniques. This video from Super Eyepatch Wolf is a beautiful accoutrement for those who do end it.

The factor is, I’m undecided we might see a recreation like Silent Hill 2 ever once more given how certain its environment is to the expertise of the time. I simply don’t assume the extra vital fashionable viewers would settle for the logic of its puzzles or the clunkiness of its fight, though I’d like to see all of those hallmarks retained and expanded upon. It’s to not say we gained’t attain these heights ever once more, however I feel any builders seeking to make the subsequent Silent Hill must adapt this recreation’s rules and depart every thing else. With its sink fetuses and speaking baggage, P.T. is certainly the closest video games have come to replicating the environment, however the much less mentioned about that the higher…

Silent Hill 2 is a contained story, and a masterpiece that must be appreciated however not overly referenced. For the love of God, depart Pyramid Head alone, however modernise the psychological horror recreation design rules and we might be onto a winner.

Silent Hill 2 is historical, however most lately playable on 2012’s Silent Hill HD Collection, accessible for Xbox 360 (and Xbox backwards compatibility) and the PlayStation 3.

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