A new addition to the ever popular survival horror genre (for X-Box users, that is; it’s been around for a while on the PS2), Silent Hill 2 sticks faithfully to the tried and tested formula that keeps gore-hungry gamers coming back for more. The plot, as revealed through a series of excruciatingly tedious cut-scenes, involves our hero returning to the town of Silent Hill to find his wife who, despite having died three years earlier, has sent a letter asking him to meet her there.
Unsurprisingly we arrive in Silent Hill to discover that all is not well – the entire town is shrouded in dense fog, hordes of mutants are roaming the streets and somebody keeps playing REALLY scary music at us. Not good. The first ten or twenty minutes of the game are an irritating mish mash of cheesy dialogue and awkward camera angles. It takes a while for anything interesting to happen and the heavy fog effect makes exploring your location difficult because you can’t see a damn thing.
But patience is a virtue and after a while the first zombie shows up, you stave his head in with a big stick and the fun begins. Suitably armed with a length of stout wood sporting several rusty nails through the end, the action picks up and things get interesting very quickly.
The gameplay is standard fare: sneak around town solving puzzles, biffing monsters and occasionally making friends with helpful people. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in this, but the system works so why mess with it? There are individual difficulty settings for both combat and puzzle elements of the game, so you can set it up to offer the right kind of challenge for your particular abilities.
Silent Hill 2 has atmosphere by the bucket load – the top notch graphics and audio effects set the scene while the genuinely disturbing monsters really add an element of horror. In this respect, Silent Hill 2 picks up where horror movies left off.
Film makers have to work really hard to scare desensitized modern audiences and these days they usually fail. But because of the interactivity offered by games, players are more involved in the plot and hence it’s still possible to make them jump out of their skin once in a while – Silent Hill 2 does this brilliantly. The only thing that lets the game down is the badly scripted dialogue and since this only plays a small part in the overall experience, it’s not really a fatal flaw.