Silent Hill 2 Review – Best Coursework Ever?

Disclaimer: Dear AQA Examiners, this review is solely the original work of Sian Bradley (Student Number 180731).

Now, I’ll have to explain myself. I realise that this is the second review I’ve uploaded in one single day, however, I’ve created this review for my AS English Language coursework and figured that who better to help me improve than videogame fans themselves? Therefore, I’m asking for your comments and opinions (constructive critcism only please!) in order to help me improve. The images to the right show the layout of the text, which is in the style of the Official Playstation Magazine UK.
Please note that all opinions and thoughts are mine alone and do not reflect those of the good people of OPM in any way at all.
Thanks!

It was just three years ago that Harry Mason was on our screens, creeping through the dark streets of Silent Hill. Audiences were kept enthralled and terrified by the mix of psychological horror and sadistic monsters, all of which is carried over into Silent Hill 2. When you play the long-awaited sequel, you’ll be wetting yourself even faster. The horrifying survive-a-thon has more disconcerting enemies and fiendish puzzles that increase the difficulty of the prequel by a long shot.

The protagonist of the game, James Sunderland, visits Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his dead wife, claiming that she’s waiting for him. That’s creepy enough right? Let alone the fact that the town is mysteriously abandoned apart from a small handful of survivors that you meet, wandering around on their own personal pilgrimages which usually involves them trying to find out about their self-worth. This actually makes a lot more sense than trying to find what you can only imagine as an animated, rotting corpse.

For large parts of the game, you’re playing a long-winded escort mission with Maria, a lost sheep resembling your beloved wife that you must shepherd around. Despite the groans of fans around the world, the game pulls it off quite nicely, in that she knows to run away from the army of mutilated monsters trying to rip her vulnerable body apart. Although she doesn’t run very quickly, you’re far too busy solving puzzles and fetching nonsensical items to notice that she’s slightly lagging behind.

The majority of the game is spent on personal fetch-quests, the items of which making little to no sense until you stumble across the puzzle that requires you to stick a strand of hair down a drain to obtain a key. Seriously Konami? Quite a few of the puzzles will elicit that very same reaction of “What the hell?” and you’ll only really manage a few with trial and error strategies, but in the end, you get to move into the next area, with a  brand new puzzle of confusion.

The rest of the game focuses on the survival horror aspect of the series, requiring the player to either run away from the monsters or fearlessly face them in one-to-one combat. Normally, due to lack of medical supplies and ammo, the best option you could take is to run away and hope that they don’t follow you, however, in some cases, this is almost entirely impossible.

Silent Hill was once a popular vacation town, full of tourists travelling to gaze at the wonders and beauty it offers. Now, it only offers fleshy,  aceless enemies, created to inflict fear upon both the player and the characters. It certainly works as well; you’ll finish the game with tears streaming down your face, calling out for your mummy.

The most common of enemies are the Lying Figures and Mannequins, the first resembling humans in a straight-jacket made from what appears to be human flesh. Once they’re on the floor, they’ll squirm off, returning only to take a chunk out of your leg, making them near impossible to kill. The latter of the two look like two pairs of feminine legs attached at the pelvis. There’s nothing difficult about this enemy type, but if you’re far enough away from them, they’ll just lurk about, facing towards you and catching you unawares most of the time. Lovely.

When you are in the position in which you have to face them down in combat, you’re often expected to use your melee weapons, which, although simple to use, feel rushed and empty. In order to attack, you hold down the action button until they’re on the floor. You then tap that action button once more to stomp on them and finish them off. It doesn’t really take any skill and so, in this aspect, there’s no learning curve, which is quite a disappointment in what’s otherwise a very entertaining videogame.

Despite all of this, the combat really adds to the haunting experience. Because you’re often facing many enemies at once and they take a realistic amount of hits to collapse onto the floor, you’re frequently surrounded, meaning you have to reconsider your fight or flight response next time around. When you know that it’s better just to push past the crowds, the thought of being followed and chased really starts your heart racing, which is a difficult thing for the developers to produce, giving Silent Hill 2 a real advantage over many other horror games on the market.

A lot of thought has obviously been put into the lack of sound. No, I’m serious. Konami could have added background music or groans of the monsters, but they picked up on the fact that silence is much more terrifying than any other sound imaginable. It constantly puts you on edge, wondering if the next corner is safe, or full of death. Depending on where you’re walking, the ‘thud’s of James’ feet can embed themselves into your mind, sending you deeper and deeper into a crazed state in correlation to that of the protagonist.

The worst sound possible in-game though is the ‘scrape’ of Pyramid Head’s sword. He has the body of a man, wearing human flesh around his hips, bearing a large, metal pyramid over his head. Fitting name then. He’s the definition of power in the game, able to kill you with one swipe of his weapon and dominating every other enemy in the game. He’s definitely one to put on your ‘Don’t meet in a dark alleyway’ list.

The graphics aren’t dreadfully ugly, but they’re nothing to brag about either. Everything seems a bit blocky, although that’s to be expected due to the technological limit and amount of power that the Playstation 2 can provide. You’ll barely notice this though, as you become so immersed in the game that it all feels extremely realistic anyway. As with many games released this year, the draw-distance is something to hide away in a cupboard, much like your collection of action figures, yet the developers came up with a much more clever way of concealing this problem, with the use of fog, which also adds to the spooky atmosphere.

Despite the glitches and clunkiness you’ll stumble across, Silent Hill 2 is one of those games that you’ll be constantly pulling down from your shelf to play through one more time. You’ll definitely remember it for years to come. In a nutshell, it’s scarily good.

-Sian

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Sian Bradley

Sian is a co-founder of Cubed Gamers, having been around since 2011. When she isn’t helping to manage the site, she’s exploring every nook and cranny in games to create guides you didn’t know you needed.