Silent Hill Horror Lives
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Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams is basically an improved Xbox version of SH2 for the Play Station 2. I did not have the opportunity to play the original Silent Hill game, but I am told by several of my colleagues that I missed out in a big way. From speaking to them, I don't know if either version of SH2 quite lives up to the original, but I did have an enjoyable time playing the game, especially about 11:00 at night with the lights all turned off. The Xbox version has an added sub plot that was not in SH2 for the play Station.
SH2 returns players to the supernatural town of Silent Hill. The story opens when the main character, James Sunderland, arrives in town. He is there because he received a letter from his wife asking to meet him at their special place in town. The rub is that his wife has been dead for three years, and James is not quite sure where their special place is, as the whole town was their special place.
Right from the start the game gets a little freaky. There is a lot of fog and it makes it very hard to see. Then when your walking though the woods to get into the town, oh did I mention the road into town is closed, there are bad things all about. You can hear them moving around. I kept looking back waiting for something to jump out and get me.
All this, plus the fact that you really have no idea what is going on makes for a really good opener to put you in the horror mood. The story held my attention right up to the end. However I must point out that some of the plot twists seemed to have been thrown in after the story was put together just to scare the player. The whole "Born from a Wish" scenario with Maria, which is the subplot added for the Xbox, is another example of a bad tacked on adventure.
Visually, SH2 is a stunning 3D environment, complete with the ability to control the camera angle. It appears to me that Konami has taken full advantage of the graphic capabilities of the Xbox to really create that spooky mood. They even lock the camera angle here and there, which can make things challenging. The audio tracks really add to the overall spooky effect. The lack of music, the good sound effects and the static from the monster detecting radio really bring it all together.
I found the controls for James and Maria to be really simple. They can walk, run, attack, use items and search objects. I started playing and had no trouble at all getting the hang of it. However, my girlfriend had a heck of a time picking them up. Gaming experience pays off once again.
If you're expecting a combat game, look somewhere else. SH2 is mainly a puzzle solving and item gathering adventure. The level of combat, as well as puzzle difficulty, can be managed from the options section. Not that monsters are a big deal ether way as you can pretty much out run anything in the game. But if you turn combat down to the lowest level, you could probably have a monster follow you through the whole adventure and never kill you. And "combat on full" only improves the situation to something along the lines of a normal game, perhaps a bit less.
Monster here add to the horror atmosphere. They are not supposed to kill you at every corner. At least in my opinion I don't think SH2 was developed to be that kind of game.
It does tend to be frustrating at times though. I remember getting very disgusted, when I could see a gun in a shopping cart, but I could not pick it up because I had yet to find the flashlight. The mapping system really helps out in the item hunt. The maps show you what doors can not be opened, where the puzzles are and if you have solved them. Also the map shows you where you have yet to go. In my opinion, the map was a great big help in the game. As an added bonus, James turns his head when he sees something in the room that he should check out. I nice little hint, if you're paying attention. Sadly, it took me a while to pick up on that.
Overall I liked Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams for the Xbox. I would have preferred a bit less item hunting and a bit more combat, but the monsters looked creepy and the whole town made me feel like I was walking around someplace really spooky. The story could have been better developed, but it is rare to find a sequel that lives up to the original.
The radio that played static whenever a monster was near by was a nice carry over from the original. The impression I get from talking to everyone is that if you have played SH2 on the PS2, don't bother with the Xbox version. If you're a fan of the original, you might be a bit disappointed with SH2, but it is worth renting it to see if it meets your expectations. For a newbie like me, I though it was an above average game that will actually scare you quite often, so it earns a 3.5 GiN Gem rating.
Chris Richards is a Gin Product Tester. He played his first game in 1985, Rogue, and it has been downhill ever since. Chris can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.