This Halloween Take a Trip to Silent Hill

By Andrew Agney

aagney@lc.edu

 

It is that time of the year again; the time where people dress up, watch scary movies and visit haunted attractions to give themselves that rush that only being scared can provide. There is another avenue for this sort of experience though, one that can tell fantastical and wild stories while also being interactive: video games.

Horror games can be very exhilarating as they can provide the same experience as a film, but with more fear factor to them as they are an interactive medium.  When the big monster comes out or horrible things start happening you cannot just cover your eyes or fast forward, you have to directly interact with the situation to get your character out alive, and whatever choices you make were your decisions that you have to live with. No game shows this better than Silent Hill 2.

The town of Silent Hill is stalked by grotesque creatures, but unlike most games, running, rather than combat, is often the best course of action.

Silent Hill 2 is a game for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC. It is about the protagonist, a man named James Sunderland, heading to the titular, seemingly-abandoned town of Silent Hill to find his wife Mary after he had received a letter asking him to meet her in their “special place.” The issue? Mary has been dead for three years. You then follow James as he goes to different locations of the town in search for his wife, each one having a special significance to them. He is not alone in the town however, as he meets other people, all at the town for their own reason. But the town of Silent Hill itself quickly becomes its own character as well, as through some unknown means various monsters, events and impossible locations from James’ psyché, representing his inner demons, come to life to torment him during his journey.

Protagonist James Sunderland checks himself out in a dirty mirror.

First thing players will notice about the game would be the awkward controls, awkward voice acting and the fog that surrounds the town, obscuring most of the player’s vision.

This may seem like poor game design, but these choices were deliberately made by the developers as a way to increase the horror. The awkward, stilted movement and combat is to make it harder to run away from the monsters and emphasizes how James is just a normal person with no combat training, so it is hard for him to battle the monsters and decentivizes combat from the player. The awkward voice acting on the part of all the characters but James helps sell the feeling that something is not right about the town and puts you in the shoes of the protagonist, trying to figure out what is going on. The intense fog around the town, while being a hardware limitation of the original game, now acts as a way to enhance the horror and mystery of the town as you walk down its empty streets, leaving the player unsure of what waits just beyond the fog.

The thick fog in Silent Hill 2 is both an atmosphere setting device and hardware imitation.

Another area the game excels in is the hidden karma system that determines which ending of the game you get. Anything from picking up specific items, to looking at certain scenery and even when or how often you choose to heal James when he becomes injured can help tip the karma scale one way or the other.

The game is not without flaws though. The same controls and visuals that helped the horror can be difficult to get into for a modern audience, there is a difficulty option for the puzzles, but if you cannot figure out how to solve a particular puzzle, you will be all on your own to look up a guide. Combat with guns can also be awkward as it is easy to down the monsters with a gun, but attempting to deliver the finishing blow can be difficult.

For new players who are not used to the survival horror genre, it can be difficult to figure out where you must go or what key you have to use on which door. You may also have to look up a guide for the requirements for each ending, as a few of them can be obtuse and hard to get in regular play.

That being said, Silent Hill 2 remains my personal favorite horror game. I love to come back and replay it every year; I think it’s the perfect game to play around Halloween time.

My final rating for this game is a 9 out of 10

 

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