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11/09/2014

A Silent Hill 2 review saved for posterity

 (I did not write this, but it's since vanished from the internet.  Luckily I had a backup...)

Silent Hill 2
Computer Gaming World,  April, 2003  by Erik Wolpaw

The Silent Hill 2 box cover folds open to reveal small, dark screenshots amid enthusiastic quotes from reviews of the original PS2 version. Stuff magazine warns, “Don’t play this terrifying action game alone,” while Maxim calls it “hands-down the creepiest videogame ever.” It’s possible that America’s men’s lifestyle magazines somehow mistook confusion for terror, because Silent Hill 2 doesn’t make much sense even when judged against the already lax sense-making standards of the survival-horror genre. Which might be excusable if it was scary—which it isn’t—or if it featured decent combat—which it doesn’t.

As the game starts, you’ve received a letter from your dead wife asking you to meet her in a town called Silent Hill. The search for her unfolds with a sort of dream logic—the logic that leads people to believe you’d be interested in hearing their boring dreams. Every character you run across appears to have one foot in a plot from some other game. Most of the dialogue and character actions make no sense, especially considering that the streets of Silent Hill are filled with monsters on a killing rampage. People go from being sarcastic to fearful to your best pal to your worst enemy, all within the span of a sentence. Virtually every word from the characters’ mouths is as senseless as the puzzles. And it’s all accompanied by a hugely inappropriate light-jazz soundtrack. Silent Hill 2 may be the world’s first survival-Dada game.

Your main enemy is a beefy guy in a butcher’s smock wearing what looks like a rusty sink on his head. To be fair, Pyramid Head (as he’s called) is a weirdly creepy invention. Other than that, though, Silent Hill 2 is all hackneyed atmosphere and no payoff. The city is blanketed in thick fog (later replaced by thick inky blackness). For fog to inspire terror, however, it needs to obscure something terrifying. Instead, it merely obscures the places you need to go and the crazy objects you need to find to solve the harebrained puzzles, making the fog significantly more aggravating than scary.

The graphics engine is fully 3D, but the camera isn’t really under your control. This might have made sense if the camera had been used to generate sudden shocks, but there isn’t a single startling moment in the game. The camera’s tendency to face you so that you can’t see what’s in front of you seems to have been engineered for maximum annoyance. There’s a command that rotates the camera behind you, but it only works sporadically. These camera problems, combined with stiff, awkward controls and a lack of monster variety, make combat very unsatisfying.

With its lackadaisical pace, clumsy action sequences, and surreal atmosphere that’s more disjointed than disturbing, Silent Hill 2 is a nightmare, but only to play.

PUBLISHER: KONAMI

DEVELOPER: KONAMI

GENRE: SURVIVAL DADAISM

ESRB RATING: MATURE; BLOOD, GORE, VIOLENCE

PRICE: $39.99 REQUIREMENTS: PENTIUM III 700, 64MB RAM, 1.8GB HARD DRIVE SPACE RECOMMENDED REQUIREMENTS: PENTIUM III 1GHZ, 128MB RAM

MULTIPLAYER SUPPORT: NONE

Copyright © 2003 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Computer Gaming World.