New Game +
There are movies that, as a child, I would watch countless times and never quite get tired of seeing. As an adult, I watch these movies again every now and then and wonder how, after all the hours spent viewing these movies I never actually caught on to what was happening. I was 9 when I first realized who exactly framed Roger Rabbit. Games are much the same way. You can play through them countless times and still find new reasons to play them again. Easter eggs, hidden items and most importantly, new experiences as well.
In my last New Game + article, I may have given the impression that I hate Resident Evil 4. While it was true I did hate it before, I acknowledged that I was being a little unfair to a game that I hadn’t completely played through. However I did complete it this time, as I had set out to do. While I’m not ready to call it my favourite, it’s not a game that I vehemently hate anymore. That’s what I got out of the experience.
So to preface, I don’t hate Silent Hill 2 – I’ve actually always loved it. The last time I played through it however was admittedly, a long time ago. My television still weighed about 80 pounds and sat at the foot of my bed. I proposed the idea of playing through Silent Hill 2 on the HD Collection with my boyfriend. He immediately turned me down. In his outright refusal to watch or even be in the same room with me while playing, I realized that despite all of my condemnation of co-op in modern horror games,I didn’t actually want to play it on my own. There had always been someone else in the room with me, breaking the immersion, but that safety net was always there.
That, and the realization that I was really quite the hypocrite, frightened me just a little. And while a part of me likes to be scared and was in need of a good terror, for whatever reason, I was a little reluctant to play through Silent Hill 2 alone. It was like the old house on the left at the end of the street. The one you knew was awesome because it was haunted, but no way were you going in there at night by yourself.
I fired it up on the PS3 a few nights ago and after a half-hour patch (that seemed more like an hour and a half…) I threw a couple cans of Diet Pepsi into the fridge and flicked off all the lights. I was ready to roll.
Got to the game select screen and chose Silent Hill 2 – the original voices, then the original start screen appeared. I made my selections and they were greeted with the original Silent Hill 2 confirmation sounds. It immediately put me on edge. The introduction started rolling, creepy music started playing and the lights went right back on again.
After a few minutes reacquainting myself with the tank-like controls, I was steering James down a long and winding path with uncomfortable noises coming from the trees. I remembered the first enemy that awaited me, but what I hadn’t counted on was the agonizing wait. That each plodding step James took, was a descent into my own personal madness.
Oh yes, this was going to be good.
One of the first things I felt after meeting Angela, the franchise’s most depressing secondary character and hearing Mary’s creepy garbled message through the broken radio (not really broken, is it now?!) was that the voice acting of Silent Hill 2 had not aged well.
I caught some flack last time for giving some flack to voice acting of Resident Evil 4, but I’m going to do it again. For a game that relies so heavily on story, dialogue that was so moving and powerful, I don’t remember it being so decidedly…dated. The characters’ inflections, cadence and overall speech just didn’t seem all there. It didn’t sound like these were real people having real conversations anymore. It’s not that Guy Cihi and company did a bad job, in some instances they did an amazing job – perhaps it was just the state of dialogue in video games at the time? Really not the game’s fault, but anyone who goes back and plays this game for the first time is going to notice this.
The new recordings are a wondrous solution to the the problem of dated dialogue. Mind you, I did wait until the second time around before I switched to the new voices. Nostalgia and all.
One of the next things I felt was a complete feeling of being lost. I knew I needed to get to the Apartments, but once there, then what? I didn’t remember – and with a low-powered weapon and no health, that left me a little uneasy. Not necessarily a bad thing however, as one of the finer aspects of old survival horror games (or older games of any genre for that matter) was that they didn’t hold your hand. I told myself no matter how frustrated I became with the game, that I wouldn’t look up an FAQ or a walkthrough. The true experience lay in getting flustered, yet triumphing over it. Seeing that the solution to the problem was at the end of a hallway full of nurses, that the key to the puzzle was right before my eyes, if I could only cover all of the holes.
I found myself muttering sarcastically because that was obvious on more than one occasion in regards to the puzzles in the game. In perfect survival horror fashion, they’re almost unnecessarily convoluted and extremely challenging. No hand-holding here.
While it’s been said countless times before, once more won’t hurt. Akira Yamaoka is a master of unsettling audio. When the intro to the game puts you on edge, you know you’re in for a wild ride. There were several areas in the HD Collection whose tracks would suddenly change, or be something different, something that they shouldn’t be. For instance, there was a room in the Apartments, just after you push the clock aside, where the audio changed to reflect an impending enemy attack. A glitch, but kind of serendipitous nonetheless. Despite the fact that I knew nothing dangerous was going to happen, I still felt uncomfortable from the sound of the music alone!
During my play session, one of my cats knocked something over behind me. The floor creaked and the house made other housey noises. Those things scared the hell out of me. And while the static camera angles and unsettling music did give me a good fright every once and again, and the game gave me an overall feeling of uncomfortable, the game itself did not give me the heart-attack I was expecting. Perhaps I was simply setting my expectations too high? To such a height that they were unrealistic for the game in question, but unrealistic to the point that no other game could possibly achieve them either? Maybe I needed to get a little bit more realistic with what I want to get out of the gaming experience? After all, Silent Hill 2 was still groundbreaking back when it was released, but a lot of games have come and gone since then. Silent Hill 2 has extremely powerful themes however and those shine through even after all of these years. I found myself almost in tears at the end of the game for a reason that before I thought was hokey and played up.
Will I play the game alone again? Absolutely. Will I keep the lights turned off?
One step at a time.