Silent Hill: HD Collection Xbox 360 Review
It wasn’t long ago that I reviewed Silent Hill: Downpour, a new game in Konami’s flagship horror franchise. Downpour wasn’t fantastic, but the game was going in the right direction and in turn was better than the other HD console game, Silent Hill: Homecoming. Fans of the series normally agree that the pinnacle was Silent Hill 2, with Silent Hill 3 also established to be a great game. What better way to celebrate the best of the franchise by allowing fans a chance to have them run smoother and better looking that before – giving newer gamers the opportunity to see what this survival horror fuss is about. Well, you would think that, but Konami handed off the development of this HD collection to Hijinx Studios, a team of people that either ran out of time or didn’t have any respect for the series. What the studio has created here is a mess of a port and an insult to these classic horror games.
First up in the bundle is Silent Hill 2. This tells the story of James Sunderland and his visit to Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his deceased wife, Mary. The ominous atmosphere and setting for this iteration was distressing, dealing with adult themes and monstrosities based around James’ disturbing past. Silent Hill 2 concludes a solid story with a revelation that often gets the game special mentions in topics about the best video game stories. It also spawned the fan favourite – which some might say has become the mascot of the series – Pyramid Head, a human based monster with a head covered in a pyramid shaped, metallic helmet and comes equipped with a huge rusty sword. Freaky.
A bugger then that the fan claimed best in the series is also the worst ported of the two games on this disc. This game is littered with glitches and problems that should have never been let out onto store shelves, which begs the question of how the hell does something that’s supposed to be an upgrade over the original turn out to be even worse? Well, making a game that has problems like audio that keeps cutting out, random one-second pauses while playing and horrendous one frame per second lag that kicks in when you unlock an achievement is how. The latter is only sorted out once the scene is over and the game loads the next part. In most cases, you’ll have to skip it because I am sure you don’t want to watch it in that state – simply dreadful for people who have never played these games before.
The game visually looks sharper due to the higher resolution, but one of the most distinctive features of Silent Hill 2, the fog, is weakened, leaving some nasty unwanted models and environments for all to see. The fog originally allowed the developers to create unfinished surroundings as gamers would never see that far into the distance. Removing the fog uncovers all these, leaving you with shocking texture work, incomplete models and even a shockingly visible “end of the world” in one part of the game where the ground just cuts off.
Silent Hill 3’s plot is that of Heather Mason, the daughter of the protagonist from the first game, as she finds out the truth about her birth and exactly what she means to the cult that is trying to capture her. The plot is more bizarre and farfetched than the personal story of James Sunderland, dealing with gory and outlandish imagery that might just creep under your skin when combined with the game’s eerie soundtrack. This game is a direct sequel to the original Silent Hill, as it follows on from the revealed plot of the first game.
Out of the two games in this collection, Silent Hill 3 comes out with fewer scars. Differences between the HD collection and the original is that the grain filter isn’t as strongly present on screen. Also, there are some missing shadow effects, removing some of the unnerving atmosphere and consequently making the game look too clean. Silent Hill 3 is a decent looking title even now. Sure, some of the textures are a bit bland up close, but the environment of the locations and the detail of the character models – something that stood out back when it released in 2003 – still hold up with their sharper look. Disappointingly, the same problem with achievement pop-ups happens here, again causing severe lag to rear its ugly head.
Both games received a new English dubbing soundtrack, but only Silent Hill 2 lets you play the original voices. There was a problem with licensing the voices for the third game and so they had to re-record the lines with a new cast. They aren’t all that bad in Silent Hill 3, but the problem lies that the news voices don’t fit with the lip-syncing, causing awful situations where characters are moving their mouths and nothing is coming out, or vice versa. An amusing detail to notice – and a perfect example of laziness – is that the subtitles remain the same, meaning that all the changes in spoken dialogue are clear as day when they don’t correlate with the subtitles created for the original release of Silent Hill 3.
Time hasn’t been so kind to the combat of both of these games. Feeling like old relics in an age where we have come to expect precise controls, they handle sluggishly and feature combat that’s extremely simple. However, the games never excelled at combat, as they were always about everything else but that. These two video games are still some of the best atmospheric horror examples the medium has had, so it pains me to speak so negatively about two games that I loved playing through. I would love to be able to recommend this HD collection to you (I really would), but when it’s so disgustingly ugly that it would simply be better to find a PlayStation 2 and copies of the games and play those, you know that something is wrong. Konami needs to re-evaluate its dedication to old classics because if someone looked after some of my oldies like Konami has let Hijinx Games, I’d punish them hard. Unless you want to experience a butchered version of Silent Hill 2 and a somewhat decent Silent Hill 3, don’t buy this collection.