Review: Silent Hill HD Collection

Silent Hill has dominated the month of March. In what Konami calls the Month of Madness, the Silent Hill HD Collection is the 2nd Silent Hill release. With Downpour releasing just one week ago, fans can now jump back into the past and play two of the best games in the series: Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3. The Silent Hill HD Collection combines these two classics into one package with glorious HD visual improvements.

Both Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 are fantastic games on their own merit. They’re scary, emotional, beautiful, and thought-provoking experiences that sit along side the dictionary definition of Survival Horror. These two gems have been around for years and have now returned with texture enhancements, new voice overs, and achievement/trophy support on modern consoles.

Silent Hill 2 follows the story of James Sunderland—a widower who receives a letter from his late wife asking him to come to the town of Silent Hill. Prior to becoming terminally ill, James’ wife would visit the resort town to enjoy its surroundings. In her letter, Mary asks James to find her in their special place where they used to vacation together. James heads to the town and encounters a mind-bending adventure that can make any hardened individual cry their eyes out.

Silent Hill 2 isn’t just a must play horror game; it’s a must play game. It’s simply an astounding title that any self-respecting gamer shouldn’t miss. Within the HD Collection, Silent Hill 2 receives a bunch of improvements. Revamped textures clear up the town and all of its tiny details. We’re looking at a decade old game here, but to this fan, it still stands the test of time. Interiors get the best treatment here; environments remain bleak and dirty while looking a bit better due to the resolution enhancement. The grain filter is new and contains fogging effects on top of it when in outdoor environments. Silent Hill 2’s noise filter can be turned off but only after completing the game–which is odd and should remain the same between both titles. Regardless, seeing new and clear textures appear makes the game look great.

My only gripe—and it’s miniscule at best—are the sidewalk texture’s clean appearance. Yeah, that’s really all I had an issue with when it came to the game’s graphics. The streets appear a bit too clean because of the replaced texture. The game’s overall contrast is a bit lower as well. But it’s just a minor difference that I can notice right away because I have played the original quite a few times. The low contrast is also present in Silent Hill 3 to some extent but I can’t see this bothering any newcomers to the series because they wouldn’t notice the difference. Although, I expect some die hard fans will find it a bit unsettling, the difference is not much to write home about. It’s odd but not a travesty.

Silent Hill 2 also gets new voice acting along with its updated textures. For the most part, I think it’s good. I feel like it may be on the verge of over-acting due to all the sighs and breathy deliveries, but the performances are still welcome. The new vocals bring a nice opposing view to challenge fans’ perception of each character. They certainly give old fans something new to experience. Silent Hill 2 also contains an option to revert back to the original actors. This feature was publicly fought for a few months ago when Konami and the Silent Hill 2 cast had issues to resolve due to legal documentation, rights, and other confusing things. So, it’s good that we have an option even though the new voices do not detract from the experience at all.

Silent Hill 2 is a fantastic experience that is worth replaying on a PS2 or Xbox over and over again, but this remaster is a convenient improvement. With improved graphics and the ability to switch voice overs, this version is hard to deny. Being an achievement junkie myself, I enjoy revisiting the game’s extras just to show off what I’ve done.

Silent Hill 3 is a unique title as it is a direct sequel to the very first Silent Hill. Heather Mason, just an everyday teenage girl, finds herself being pursued by forces from her past. I won’t flat out reveal anything because I’m sure there are some intrigued people out there looking to pick this collection up, but be sure that Heather is somehow tied to Silent Hill. The game is filled with revelations, abstract visuals, and lots of spooky effects.

Heather Mason remains my favorite character in the series. Something about how she remains a fragile character while remaining brave kept her interesting throughout the story. Because she is the only female protagonist in the series, she has a lot of personality traits that separate her from the boys of Silent Hill. Prior to Murphy Pendleton she was the most vocal character in the series. She’s got moxy and that’s very welcome when traversing a nightmarish Otherworld.

Antagonist Claudia Wolf’s demented perception of religion and God makes her a fun character to despise. Supporting characters Douglas, Vincent, and Leonard also stand out—Vincent especially because his intentions are shrouded in mystery. Overall, Silent Hill 3 has a diverse cast with their own individual problems and quirks.

What separates Silent Hill 2 from Silent Hill 3 is the story and visuals. Silent Hill 3 is a bit more blunt with its story and leaves less to be questioned, but it’s still a striking game that provides a lot of insight into The Order and their beliefs. Both games tell a great story that are hard to rival even by today’s standards.

Silent Hill 3 in the HD Collection looks fantastic. There are a few effects missing from the original PS2 and PC version, such as: some colored fog and distortion effects, but just like Silent Hill 2’s contrast and street textures, it does not effect the game at all. I don’t see it being anything more than a nitpick that someone may have if they’ve played the original release numerous times and covet every single color percentage. But knowing of these details for so many years begs the questions: what’s so hard about emulating an effect and keeping it in the HD Collection? Were talking about coloring and post-effects. It seems like a questionable omittance on the part of the developers. It’s as if they took a lot of shortcuts and that’s depressing.

The lighting still remains for rooms and so do their primary color tones. As for the noise filter, I could hardly tell it existed. The game is incredibly clear and just slightly less so when the filter is on. I decided to turn it off so that I could have a better look at writing on documents and details in textures. The game uses a lot of visual stimuli to convey hidden emotions and plot themes. How they managed many of these effects on a PS2 still baffles me.

One thing that Silent Hill 3 does lack is the inclusion of the original voice overs. If you had followed the fan outcry drama about voice acting from a few months ago, you would know why the original voiceovers could not be included for Silent Hill 3. Guy Cihi, the original voice actor for James Sunderland, stated that Heather actress Heather Morris could not be found, therefore, she could not sign away her performance to be reused. Via Silent Hill’s Facebook page, Konami producer Tomm Hulett also regretfully stated that the option could not be done for “technical and logistical” reasons. It’s a shame really, it would have been a nice option.

While I do find the new voice acting to be good in both releases, Heather Morris’ portrayal of Heather is incredibly memorable despite its little quirks. This can be said with both games, but seeing as how the option is available in Silent Hill 2, I’m satisfied and not left feeling empty handed. Sure, the reasoning is out there for any fan to see, but it’s a bummer nonetheless.

There are some differences that long time fans will notice with the HD Collection. Silent Hill 3 has some minor word changes to the dialogue to sound helps it sound more natural. Trust me, it’s nothing major. For example: “despoiled” is now “unspoiled” in Claudia’s introduction dialogue. It makes sense to fix something like that. Although, I’m hearing reports that the Playstation 3 version has drastic vocal sync issues. It seems a patch is on the way to address that.

I didn’t see much of that while playing it on the Xbox 360, but toward the end of Silent Hill 3, there were noticeable mouth to voice mismatches. Whether this was how it was made or if it’s a sync glitch is unknown. Other audio “issues” I’ve noticed are how tracks play during cutscenes or in-game. I noticed that tracks in both Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 would end and simply restart. There was no soft lead in to the loop. It was a noticeable end and start. This occurs between looping tracks or two different tracks. Also, it seems that some scenes have different tracks altogether. Timing and volume, sure, but different tracks? I don’t see the sense in that.

Apparently, the same can be said for in-game sounds. Silent Hill 2’s radio static is completely different, the item pickup sound is played faster than before, and James’ breathing sounds robotic. Another audio problem, which can be found in both games, appears when saving a game–a noticeable audio glitch could be heard as soon as the menu comes up. It sounded like a speaker couldn’t handle the frequency of the audio. It frightened me because I was using expensive surround sound headphones and was afraid it was the result of damage. But it was certainly the game because it continued on my television speakers. None of these audio issues will really ruin the game, especially for newcomers, but it just seems so lazy not to catch them and fix them. Was it too much to ask for classic sounds to be exactly the same? Did no one catch how synthetic James’ breathing sounded? Why were some of the new 5.1 mixes done with electric instruments? I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard such poorly timed audio.

The more drastic of the issues in the HD Collection come from performance problems. Silent Hill 3 has a strange framerate problem near the latter part of the game. When close to the nurse monsters the game lags a bit. When near a group of two or three, the lag is noticeable and even distorts the game’s sound. I don’t see why such a bug exists but it would be appreciated if it was addressed and not left in. I believe it to be a case of affecting the Xbox overall because it also distorted a party chat I was in; Strange indeed. I also recall one or two areas being slow overall; there was a strange lag blur effect limited to the current room.

If you’re a Silent Hill fan, there is enough of an incentive to pick this collection up despite its technical shortcomings. These two fantastic games have been given impressive visual improvements that stand up to other, higher quality, HD Collections available. It’s clear a lot of work went into retouching the textures of both games despite not as much going into their sound. The added accessibility that comes with the Silent Hill HD Collection helps new, interested people jump into the series. Both games are faithfully remastered but have their issues. Finishing each game rewards players with a bunch of bonus tasks and creepy fun—especially getting all of the endings. This makes the longevity of each game at an impressive length.

One non-technical problem that I have with this collection is the lack of it feeling like a collection. Yes, Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 are great games, but where is Silent Hill 4? Surely Silent Hill 4 belongs in a collection. It’s a great game and would benefit from an HD treatment more so than Silent Hill 2 or Silent Hill 3. We’re also missing actual extras that I’ve been accustomed to when owning an HD Collection. This release was the perfect opportunity for fans to be given high resolution art, The Art of Silent Hill music videos, or even the European Making Of series.

I’m sure all of those things were considered, but the fact remains that they should have been included if this was going to be a legitimate collection. But those are just my gripes. I’m still extremely happy I have access to these two great games on my modern console. Let’s just hope Konami brings us a Volume II so we can have an actual collection on our hands. I’ll also offer up my shallow hope that these issues will be addressed with a patch on both platforms. It’s not like they’re game design issues, they’re the results of an unfinished game; something that Konami seems to be accustomed to lately. It makes me sad but I still have a Sexy Beam to acquire.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)


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