After ten years, having played through it multiple times, it still pulls me in.
What's new this time around? As the words "HD Collection" imply, both Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 have received significant graphical facelifts. Neither game was really a visual slouch in the first place, but the upgraded resolution is definitely welcome. Lighting in particular has seen a tremendous bump, with flashlights radiating outward smoothly and naturally, as opposed to the blocky diffusion seen in the originals.
The other significant, somewhat contentious addition is that of new voice tracks for both games. Silent Hill 2 offers a choice between the original and new voice cast, while Silent Hill 3 is augmented solely with new talent. A lot of fuss has been made by Silent Hill 2 fans in particular, and I admit that I'm very happy the original voice track has been included. That said, based on a few comparisons I've made to the original cutscenes ... I think I actually prefer the new voices. The new tracks are produced with better audio quality and, frankly, the new performances really do add to an already stellar game. At least they do for the most part -- I'm still partial to the original version of "trick or treat" (don't click that if you haven't played Silent Hill 2 yet). There's also something to be said for the original voices, in that their quiet, strange quality actually gels quite nicely with the themes in each game.
One more new and likely unintentional addition: Slowdown. It seems to be confined to Silent Hill 3, which will occasionally wind down to a slow motion crawl -- odd given its mostly cramped environments. Just to be sure, I fired up the PlayStation 2 original and encountered no slowdown in the same section.
Beyond the graphical upgrades and new voices, there's nothing else new to speak of. The "collection" is a very barebones affair. The title screen allows you to play either game or watch the credit scrawl for the HD Collection, and that's it. There are no art galleries, no soundtracks, no videos, no behind-the-scenes Silent Hill history lessons. Whatever importance the series holds within the game industry, Konami expects you to know it going in.
How's it hold up? Despite its age, Silent Hill 2 is still absolutely terrifying. In fact, the dated visuals (enhanced though they may be) only serve to highlight a truth I hadn't completely recognized before: series' composer Akira Yamaoka's soundtrack is what brings everything together. The man knows how to cause anxiety, and that holds up just as well today as it did in 2001. Even the most insignificant encounters become heart-pounding affairs and will stick with you long after the television goes dim. That's a good thing, considering the combat itself is pretty clumsy (something that hasn't really changed all that much in survival horror over the years).
For those who've never played Silent Hill 2, the premise is simple. As James Sunderland, you receive a letter from your wife asking you to meet her in your "special place" in the resort town of Silent Hill. The catch: James' wife is dead. Naturally, he has to investigate, which draws him to Silent Hill where he encounters other lost souls, come to terms with his past and uncovers the truth. He also delves into the hellish Otherworld, a miserable dimension filled with monsters, rust, blood and pain (definitely not in the brochure).
Meanwhile, Silent Hill 3, tells the story of Heather, a teenaged girl with deep, forgotten ties to Silent Hill and its occult underbelly. I have to admit I've never actually finished Silent Hill 3, as it takes a bit longer to get going than 2, lacking a hook quite as dramatic as receiving a letter from a dead spouse. (For the record, our own Ludwig Kietzmann disagrees with me on this point.) Still, seeing everyday settings like shopping malls turned into a nightmarish abyss has its "charms."
Thanks largely to the excellent sound design, both games manage to induce real horror, even in a world that now includes the likes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. For newcomers who have yet to set foot in Silent Hill, the HD Collection is an absolute necessity, offering up a masterpiece in the horror genre and an extra sequel to boot. For honorary Silent Hill citizens looking to rekindle that old feeling, of dread commingling with fascination, these old jaunts still do the trick.
This Deja Review is based on review code of the PlayStation 3 version of Silent Hill HD Collection, provided by Konami.