GAME NAME: Silent Hill HD Collection
DEVELOPER(S): Hijinx Studios
RELEASE DATE(S): 30 March 2012
Silent Hill 2 and 3 on one disc with updated audio and graphics sounds like a dream come true for many gamers. These are two of the best titles to ever creep out of Konami’s basement after all. What’s not to like with an HD conversion? Just about everything, it turns out.
By now most will at least be aware of the existence of the Silent Hill series, even if they have never played one. The Silent Hill HD Collection includes Silent Hill 2 and the Born From A Wish additional content that some re-releases of the game contained. SH 2 tells the story of James Sunderland who, after receiving a letter from his dead wife, journeys to Silent Hill. The Born From A Wish add-on lets players take control of Maria, the female lead of the full game, in a prologue of sorts. The also-included Silent Hill 3 revolves around Heather Mason, who was first seen as an infant at the end of the first Silent Hill title, some cultists and the usual cast of monsters and trips to the Otherworld.
Let’s get things straight. There is nothing wrong with the games themselves, they are just as haunting as they were when first released. Nothing has been changed, right down to the crappy combat, fixed controls, excellent puzzles and fantastic story. All that could possibly harm this title is cosmetic in nature and developers Hijinx have managed to screw up the upgrades on that score rather effectively.
For Silent Hill 2 players have the option of using the original voices or re-recorded audio. For the most part the re-recorded dialogue is noticeably better quality but during review we noted that, when James is out of breath, the newer audio made him sound like he was being choked to death. For some reason the choice between original and fresh audio is absent from Silent Hill 3, leaving us wondering what the hell the devs were thinking by including the option in one but not the other.
SH 2‘s ‘HD’ upgrade is anything but. There are sections of the game that have undergone upgrades but the overall look is inconsistent. Some character models, like James and Maria, look great compared to the original versions but other models are poorly defined. The same can be said of textures, which chop and change between looking sharp and fuzzy. The fog that blankets Silent Hill has also been reduced, removing some of the tension from the game since you can usually spot whatever is headed your way in advance.
By contrast Silent Hill 3‘s makeover is a much more competent affair. The devs had a more advanced engine to work with on this one, which might account for the improved textures across the board. The biggest problem with Silent Hill 3 is the frame rate, which drops when there is too much activity on-screen. This should be an anomaly for a title that installs to the PS3′s hard drive, especially since the Silent Hill HD Collection doesn’t offer graphics of a high enough quality to make the reasons for its frame issues obvious. The drop in frame rate also crops up in SH 2 to a lesser extent. There are instances during cutscenes in both titles where audio is out of sync with the onscreen action and while a patch has been released to address the frame rates in particular, it doesn’t seem to have made much difference.
What is sad about this HD remake, aside from the lack of HD in places, is that the original PS2 versions actually provide better experiences. Consistency across the visuals, even if they are less defined, and absolutely zero frame-rate issues characterised the PS2 releases. Along with, you know, all the scary gameplay, ambiguous endings and mind-twisting puzzles you could shake a severed limb at.
Any players who missed Silent Hill 2 or 3 the first time around would still do well to pick this one up. The issues can be grating but they don’t detract much from what are two of the creepiest titles you’ll ever play during daylight only. Long-time fans with fond memories of their time in Heather and James’ company may want to keep their memories fond and give this one a miss however.