Gamestyle Archive intro: previews were a good way of raising awareness and showing PR reps that Gamestyle meant business. We’d preview games that interested us and what aspects we were looking forward to experiencing. Little did we know with this Silent Hill 2 preview how fantastic and deeply disturbing the game would actually be.
Format: Playstation 2
Published: February 2001
GENRE: Survival Horror
ACCESSORIES: Memory, Dual Shock
RELEASE: summer (Japan), Christmas (Europe) 2001
Anyone who played the original Silent Hill will recall it for a reason, whether it was the thick fog, disturbing characters or foreboding atmosphere, it certainly was memorable. It comes as no surprise that soon after the game was released in 1999 and its subsequent success; KCET started work on the sequel.
This isn’t a continuation of the previous story or a spin-off sequel. Silent Hill 2 continues the legend but with new characters, locations and features within a whole new adventure. This combined with the power of the PS2 allows KCET to play even more with our emotions using realistic fog, visuals, audio and scary predicaments – if you dare to play.
This time the central character is an author called James Sanderland who receives a letter from his wife asking him to meet her in Silent Hill. The twist is that unfortunately Mrs Sanderland has been dead for 3 years and the promise of a much-needed explanation is waiting. Several strange characters appear as the story unfolds from Maria who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mrs Sanderland (but is hiding something) while the young girl Laura, knows of the dangers that are to be found yet remains. It is not known if you have a happy reunion but based on previous experience this won’t be a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan affair.
The original concept was quite advanced for the PSone, which struggled to cope with the graphical demands placed upon it yet the game had the desired effect. This time a larger team (including the original members) intend to take full advantage of the new console. One area already evident and greatly improved from the various movies and screenshots we’ve seen, is the sense of realism. As mentioned earlier the fog will react just as it would in real life, swirling around, engulfing you and leaving a trail. The genetic monsters and characters you met in the previous story were unique and a welcome change from the usual Resident Evil creations which plague the genre. The monsters this time are still based on mutations yet they will retain human characteristics making them more disturbing. KCET expect that the life-like appearances, animation and extra touches such as skin textures and moisture will break new ground in the survival horror genre. With the current political climate (especially in America) we would expect Konami to be aiming for a 15 rating rather than the dreaded 18 – on what we have seen so far, changes may need to be made. We hope that this does not affect or limit the artistic license of the developer.
The FMV found in most releases unfortunately tends bring the game to a halt or affect the suspense that the story has built up, this was particularly true for most Survival Horror games. Silent Hill with its innovative use of the game engine and excellent FMV, succeeded in adding to the story and atmosphere – one the few games to achieve this. It was all the more remarkable when you realise that this was the work of one man, this time he has a team of three, so expectations are high. The footage released so far is very impressive and wide ranging from James rowing through the fog (complete with haunting music), wandering along the empty streets or coming across a horrific transformation under a bridge. We won’t mention those disgusting toilets that would look at home in Trainspotting or the mutations, which reside in such filth.
Not everything was good with Silent Hill, unfortunately there were some problems that we hope have been addressed. The game was slow paced and the inclusion of mutations ready to chase you across town became tedious in the extreme. Having to refer to the map and in general the menu system (very Resident Evil) was unfriendly and clumsy. This time we would hope that the scenery is more interactive and if you could use road signs, street names etc. to find your way around, this would add to the involvement. More buildings to explore while not central to the plot would again add to the concept that this was once a living town with real people. This would avoid the linear nature of the original and put more of an emphasis on exploration throughout Silent Hill. The final problem was with the Dual Shock controller as the analogue control was very frustrating to use; this again needs to be resolved. The game camera and character features such as out-stretching of arms when running into objects or being out of breath were excellent and hopefully we shall have more of the same.
It is hard to comment on Silent Hill 2 itself as no in game footage has been released; however unlike The Bouncer we do not have any worries over the quality of the title. The influences, which the team has taken their inspiration from, will provide an enjoyable and atmospheric experience. While the developers influences have been well publicised (Romero, Abe, Besson, Lynch, Jacobs Ladder) having played the game recently I would also mention that Hellraiser, Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the classic The Beyond have been an influence as well. The moving, oddly positioned camera was very reminiscent of the classic Evil Dead series and perhaps we can expect similar unorthodox angles and movement.
Silent Hill 2 is shaping up very nicely indeed, with more details to come as the summer Japanese release date approaches, it should wet our appetite for the English version pencilled in for Christmas 2001.