GameSpite Quarterly 2, #26: Silent Hill 2

26. Silent Hill 2
Hey kids, do ya like that GameSpite Quarterly 2? You should, and articles like this are precisely why. I don’t even like survival horror, but it desperately makes me want to play Silent Hill 2. By a strange coincidence, we just covered a lot of the same territory this article discusses in a Silent Hill-oriented Retronauts segment recorded yesterday for next week’s show. Strange… or spooky?

10 thoughts on “GameSpite Quarterly 2, #26: Silent Hill 2

  1. I generally hate survival horror, and even I like Silent Hill 2. It’s one of the few games I could actually justify playing solely for the plot and atmosphere.

  2. What David said. I generally like Survival horror because of the plot and atmosphere (And I can look behind the kind of things that make traditional survival horror not fun because I liked PC graphic adventures first. When I saw the first Resident Evil, my firsy thought was “An adventure game where I can explore freely *and* kill things? Sold!)

    But even with the gripes of the genre, Silent Hill 2 stands out because it does things that only the video game medium can do. It’s so good, and this article was a great complement to the game as well.

  3. OK. I, in my total lack of authority, am putting my foot down on this. It’s just Horror. The Survival in Survival Horror suggests a game which can in some way be labelled a Survival game, a la that old weird Robinson Crusoe thing. So yeah, it’s a sensible thing to call (some) of the Resident Evil games, what with constantly having to tightly budget your ammo/healing items/inventory space and decide which monsters you can afford to kill and which you should just avoid. The horror half of the label covers the action/adventure game with a horror theme end of things just fine on its own. So, RE2? Sure, Survival Horror. Parasite Eve? Horror RPG. Siren? Stealth Horror. Silent Hill 2 though? That’s just plain Horror.

    Also, getting into the meat of the article itself here, I’m really going to have to disagree on the whole “evil evil town!” angle here. I mean, it’s a perfectly pleasant place to bum around if you don’t have any nasty psychic baggage (see: the happy couple’s first visit, and much more significantly Laura, the little kid for whom it’s made pretty darn clear by the end none of the monsters exist for at all), and even if you are dealing with enough issues to make it a nasty monster-filled oppressive nightmare, it seems to be doing it for your own good. I mean, that’s pretty much the whole subtext to the second-to-last boss fight. Pyramid Head there keeps following you around torturing you because on some level, it’s what you want. Then when you finally come to terms with your guilt in one way or another by the end, and no longer neat a weird looking recurring boss to mess with you, we have that nice little symmetric suicide. And hey, when you have the strength of character to deal, it all works out for the best in the end (well, not so much with the Maria ending). James resolves his issues one way or another, Eddie honestly isn’t particularly getting tortured in the first place since he’s a bit of a remorseless sociopath, and Angela is a good example of failing to cope. The town’s just trying to help out is the point.

    While I’m at it, there’s actually a fair deal of supporting evidence that SH2 is actually a PREQUEL to the original, with the general purgatory magic of the town eventually being harnessed by religious weirdos down the road. The only thing to suggest it takes place somewhere between 1 and 3 is if you want to make the case that the UFO endings are all canon. Which is actually a disturbingly good rationalization for how Silent Hill 4 doesn’t actually take place in Silent Hill.

  4. The town does bring people face to face with manifestations of their own issues, but that doesn’t mean it’s benevolent. Silent Hill is a place where guilty souls are drawn in order to suffer.

  5. The word is “unsettling”. There is not a single moment in SH2 when everything feels like it will be even just OK, let alone good. Even after four playthoughs, my heart still pounds as I try to open each door, only finding any small relief when the lock is jammed, knowing that whatever horror lies on the other side will remain unseen. Oh, yes. They are there. Don’t try to fool yourself. The places that you previously determined as “probably safe” get downgraded to “somewhat possibly safe” the second you leave them. Silent Hill is watching you, communicating when it chooses in messages written in blood, likely your own.

    As you play, you become invested in James in a personal way because your game experience is his journey, and the game parts (combat, inventory, etc.) eventually become irrelevant. When you reach the end, you are both more enlightened and more confused than when you started. The game didn’t leave any questions unanswered, but as you turn it over in your mind, you begin to create new ones. Did I kill my wife, or was it James? What did I do to suffer this torment? Silent Hill knows.

    The fact that the motivations and psychology of the characters is open to interpretation should secure a place on any “best of” list. Any opportuniy for deeper discussion beyond “Mario likes mushrooms = drugs” is hard to come by. The answers to what happened in Silent Hill will be as varied as the people answering, because the reality is difficult to wrap your mind around, assuming your answer isn’t “I just played a game”. Those people probably won’t be reading this.

  6. In general anyone who’s a fan of narrative in “video games” should play Silent Hill 2 to learn how it’s done. Probably its only rival in getting the “don’t show, don’t tell, play” category is Shadow of the Colossus.

  7. Silent Hill is most definitely not benevolent (OR evil). It just is. I would also argue it does not “draw guilty people to it.” The way I see it, Silent Hill is just a place that allows US (the players) to see personified the inner world that these characters experience every day. SH2 most definitely does not take place before SH1.

  8. There’s a lot to appreciate in Silent Hill 2, but I find the actual “game” part of it to be prohibitively clunky. It’s a chore to play, and I was only able to force myself through it because I was so curious about the story.

  9. I don’t think I could take Silent Hill 2. I’m sure it would creep me the fuck out, and I’d leave it unplayed.

  10. As Eddie says: “Don’t get all holy on me, James. This town called you, too. You and me are the same. We’re not like other people. Don’t you know that?!”

    Not that Eddie would necessarily be privy to how the town works, but that line certainly comes off like the writer trying to drop some information on the player.

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