What’s next? HD collections are all the rage, and it is only time before we see every game from generations past re-imagined for today’s audience. That said, not all games will fare as well with today’s different breed of gamer; case in point, Silent Hill. One of the originators of the survival horror genre is still kicking, but most fans remember the original games fondly. Konami is giving players a chance to return to these fog-filled streets with an HD coat of paint, but do these classics stand the test of time?
First things first, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, the collection does not include the original Silent Hill, or the cult favorite The Room. While I understand the omission of the original game (at least on PS3, give gamers the code to download it) deciding to not include The Room is perplexing. Considered by some as a true highlight in the series, the decision not to include it is puzzling indeed. With that out of the way, though, let’s get to the games at hand.
Silent Hill 2 and 3 are still today considered some of the best survival-horror games ever created. The creepy atmosphere of SH2 and the twisted characters of SH3 still haunt some of my nightmares to this day. The games are twisted, no doubt, but they didn’t come without some flaws. The slow pacing of both games and lack of direction is something that wouldn’t be tolerated in this day and age, so the real question is, if you don’t have fond memories of these games, is this collection for you?
Well, there a few things to consider. When Konami ported these games over (Hijinx Studios are the developers behind it) they cleaned up the visuals, but not always for the better. Images that appeared in the original vaguely are now clear as a bell in HD glory. While it may not sound like a problem, some of the scares relied on this method. There are also instances that showcase the game’s inability to draw far distances because of the cleaner look. For example, the lake in SH2 appears to abruptly end because of the draw distance. It really showcases the shortcuts the devs used on the old hardware, but it sticks out like a sore thumb now.
The audio has also received a slight change. Much to fans’ dismay, the original voice work for both games has been re-recorded by an all-new cast. In some cases, it is much better, while in others it showcases some faults. Fans outcry did eventually get them to include the original voice track for SH2, but SH3 remains the entirely new cast. The problems arise when characters struggle to keep up with the lip-synching. There are also choice pieces of dialogue that are flat out wrong. This is more evident with the subtitles on. Still, the new voices are much stronger, in my opinion, delivering some well needed changes to the original cast.
As for the games themselves, things have changed. The slow, wandering pace of these games is likely to frustrate gamers accustomed to today’s handholding. These journeys were meant to force the player to investigate and discover, which to a lot of people nowadays, equates to wandering and boring. These games have little direction, and even the beginning segments of Silent Hill 3 still feel confusing and misdirected. With that said, if you are a fan, it is nice to have both of these games in one place with polished visuals and, in my opinion, more solid voice work.
Controls may also be a hurdle. The tank controls return, where pushing up always moves forward. Combined with dynamic camera angles, this becomes disorienting. There is an option to switch to “2D” controls where you always move where you point the analog stick. This feels much more natural, but the design still warrants playing the old way for maximum tension. Struggling with controls used to be part of the experience, kids. Respect your fancy new mechanics.
Visually, both games haven’t aged particularly well, but SH3 does fare much better than its counterpart. The fog effect from the second game almost feels ridiculous now, and as I mentioned earlier, some scenes that were designed to be scary miss the mark due to the brighter screens of today. SH2 also seems much darker than its original, perhaps to compensate for the brighter screens. Regardless, the games still deliver some truly twisted enemy designs, and the cut scenes still are impressive considering how old the games are.
Silent Hill HD Collection is a solid, if not acquired taste for gamers. Fans of current gaming may find the shortcomings too much to bear, while us older gamers will be happy to acclimate ourselves again knowing the payoff is worth it. SH2 remains a masterpiece and one of the defining moments of the genre. SH3 is not quite as impressive, but retains some of the downright creepiest encounters in a game, even to this day. Even without the inclusion of the original and The Room, this collection deserves to own a place in any self-proclaimed survival horror fan’s collection. You will still be hard-pressed to find anything as twisted as watching the infamous Pyramid Head scene unfold.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.