It takes a lot to screw up two of the most beloved games ever made.
My favorite trend of this generation is undoubtedly the rise of the HD Collection. Selling fantastic last-generation games at lower prices in a bundle is something I want to see more of, especially when I missed out on those games when they were first released. See, I’ve never played any of the Silent Hill games until recently, when I was assigned this review. I’ve been told about how they’re the best horror games of all time, and other such accolades, so I was pretty excited about having an excuse to take a look at this collection. But after playing quite a bit of each game, I’m beginning to think I should just hunt down the PS2 versions and play those. It’d be cheaper and probably not aggressively mediocre.
As we all know by now, the gameplay sucks. Both games come from the Resident Evil school of camera control, which means that the camera is usually at a fixed angle depending on where your character is. The combat is equally clunky, with no real indication of how much damage you’re doing or any targeting system to help you actually hit the freaks heading towards you in the hopes of devouring your organs. Using one button to attack, which would be easier, isn’t the norm here. First you have to go into a fighting stance, then you eyeball what the best distance would be, and finally you mash the attack button until whatever in front of you dies.
The people I’ve talked to about these games say that this lends to a feeling of oppression and horror, but for me, it just makes combat too cerebral. Instead of feeling panicked and worried about the combat, I’m thinking too much about what I need to do to get past these monsters. In a genre where immersion is crucial, making the ‘game’ part of the game much more prominent than necessary can easily take me out of the experience. The Silent Hill 2 port adds to this problem by toning down the fog effect, allowing the player to see textures and models the developers would rather you didn’t. A lack of fog also leads to a clearly defined line at the end of the horizon; now I can clearly see where the draw distance ends. It’s pretty ironic that a HD collection on a current-generation console makes people pine for games released on the PS2.
As for the individual games, Silent Hill 3 holds up better and is ultimately where you’ll be getting your money’s worth here. The voice acting is superior to both SH2′s original and new voices, and I found that the game spending time in the real world helped create a more prominent disconnect between the different worlds. I also like Heather as a protagonist a lot more than James since she acts like a human. But that only goes so far to help it escape from the disappointing gameplay and unfortunate lack of significant graphical upgrades.
For the record, I didn’t encounter any glitches during my time with the game. But I’ve heard a lot of complaints from other critics, and they’re serious. Sound glitches, framerate drops, and a problem in Silent Hill 2 where James glitches between walking and running would easily have been deal breakers…if I had encountered them. Konami is supposedly working on a patch, but releasing a game with this many issues is just unacceptable. [EDIT: I recently went back to the game to find the disastrous water/fog effects. What a terrible way to handle one of gaming's most iconic series.]
If the art director of the games you just re-released is shocked at the final product, you should take a serious look at what you’ve just put on shelves. On the PS2, both Silent Hill games stumble when it comes to gameplay but earn a pass for their atmosphere. When you take away the saving grace of a game, all that’s left is how much fun it is to play. And the Silent Hill games aren’t really fun to play at all. They’re okay. The Silent Hill HD Collection, in its current state, contains 2 mediocre games with severe glitches. And that’s just not something I can easily recommend.
(If you absolutely need to play these games in this form and you don’t feel like purchasing the PS2 originals,
go for the Xbox 360 version. SH:HD on the PS3 has more glitches, then I guess you’re out of luck. The PS3 release has been patched, although several issues still remain. The Xbox 360 version isn’t going to be patched, according to Konami.)
(Review copy for Xbox 360 provided by Konami, thanks from Velocity Gamer!)