Survival Horror

Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams

Some time ago, I had heard of a game called Silent Hill. The game had been receiving extravagant reviews and scores, and it was apparently a survival horror title, and --from what others said-- scary as hell. I never got the chance to play it at the time, and now given the outdated graphics of the PSX original, blocks and blurs pretending to be monsters didn't really pose as much interest as it would've before. Then, Silent Hill 2 was ported to Xbox with a new subtitle; Restless Dreams, including extras not found when it was first released on the PlayStation 2, and I immediately made it my first purchase of the series.

The story stars James Sunderland, whose life is shattered when his young wife Mary suffers a tragic death. Three years after Mary's death occurs, a mysterious letter arrives from "Mary". The address traced back to a small mountain town called Silent Hill, where James had already went through a terrifying experience (the original Silent Hill). It beckoned James to return to Silent Hill in search of the "Sanctuary of Memories". Where does Mary expect James to find her? With nothing to lead him, James embarks to unravel mystery, and locate his long lost wife, Mary.


Silent Hill 2 will scare the hell out of you, and survival horror fans are in for a big hit. Walking down hotel hallways has never been scarier, and adding insult to injury -literally- the controller will rumble accordingly when you take damage. It's spooky stuff. The creepy environments can be intense, and just when that monster breaks its way through that closet door, you'll quickly realize why this game was labeled as such a horrific experience. Walking through the lobby of a hotel you'll drive yourself nuts as you hear disturbing noises in the distance -and this is the norm in Silent Hill 2- which will often be followed up with heart attack-inducing scares as a monster busts into the scene.

There's nothing more satisfying than repaying the favor though, beating the monster senseless with your lucky wooden stick. Sick of taking a stab in the dark? Load a few shells into that manly shotgun and blow that monster through the window. Or maybe, just maybe, if the monster freaks you out enough, your chainsaw may turn into the weapon of choice in exacting revenge on the unholy bastard. Now if running back and forth searching for keys and clues isn't your cup of tea, Silent Hill, like most survival horrors, offers some fantastic puzzles to solve. There is even a difficulty level for the puzzles, ranging from mild to impossible. And remember, the harder the difficulty, the higher the prize. If you're wondering just what makes this port better than the original, aside from improved lighting, and better graphics, Restless Dreams adds a whole new scenario called -aptly titled- Restless Dreams. Now don't get the wrong idea, while the extras are certainly cool, I actually finished the new scenario in 12 minutes. Seriously.

Following the standard control that has become a common place in survival horror games, here is where Silent Hill 2 takes a hit. Rather than following other, more intuitive controls, like Metal Gear Solid for example, which flowed like the wind, Silent Hill 2's clumsy controls put together something you could liken to controlling a tank. Items have never been harder to examine or pick up. Enemies are generally quite stupid and shouldn't pose much threat, but thanks to SH2's control scheme, the enemies are actually given an advantage. If you have never played a game in this genre before, be prepared to fight the controller fairly often.

Recovering from the sloppy controls, the camera in Silent Hill 2 is excellent. While the camera system may carry a few drawbacks, it's nicely done, following the character nicely, and put to use in great dramatic effect. For example, the camera may be positioned in certain direction to show the character a weapon or item of importance. Unfortunately, sometimes the camera will backfire a bit, and keep you from seeing an enemy on the screen, leaving you in the dark for a free ass beating. Luckily, that occurs rarely.


What's a spooky game without creepy sound effects? Silent Hill delivers in this department, offering plenty of little subtleties that make a big difference. For example, while walking through a forest, you may hear footsteps off in the distance. Or when walking through town, you'll hear static from your radio (a staple of SH), and once, just once, you may hear Mary Sunderland's voice from the radio, and then you'll keep saying to yourself 'did I really hear that?' The sounds reflect actual horror movies, with dead bodies being tossed around in the wash that can be heard in the apartment complex. Groaning and moaning can be heard throughout the ventilation shafts. Matching the high quality sound effects, the dialogue in Silent Hill is thankfully superior to its' predecessor.


Graphics are the icing of this cake. This is the Xbox, yeah, they should be fairly good, but the stuff you find in this game is just sick, and that's a good thing. Lets face it; Who's scared of a blur of polygons? Well that's what I felt when playing the first Silent Hill. Then there came Silent Hill 2, holding it's own candle of light. Impressive character models add to the fear, with life-like facial animations. Remarkable lighting reflects a real horror hell, with oozing off of monsters reflecting the shining light. Though flashlights can only light up so much, hiding the demons that lurk beyond sight. And just when you think you've seen it all, the night gets darker and those strolls through the cemetery get even creepier.

Bottom Line:

If survival horror is your type of game, you're in luck. Excellent gameplay mixed with a little of this and little of that create one astonishing game. If you what a game that will scare you out of your mind, you've come to the right place. Just try sleeping with the light off.

-Sean O'Connor