Silent Hill HD Collection Review
Game: Silent Hill HD Collection
Developer: Hijinx Studios
Available on: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
Allow me to start this review with a little confession. Until now, I’ve never properly played a Silent Hill game, the more I hear people talk about the series, the more I just want to get involved with it; a Japanese survival-horror franchise with surreal and psychosexual overtones, featuring a highly-regarded soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka? Count me in.
As someone who never owned a PlayStation 1 or 2 until about 3/4 years ago, finding an entry point to the series at this point is a little difficult. The original Silent Hill on the PlayStation has not aged well at all, both gameplay and graphics are incredibly dated, making it a difficult introduction to the series. Silent Hill 2 is widely considered as the best in the series, but it has also aged poorly.
All this is why I was particularly excited about Konami’s latest HD Collection; a one-two combo of both Silent Hill 2 & 3. Both games promise an improved 720p resolution, upgraded textures and all new voice recordings, while Silent Hill 2 comes with an option to revert to the original voiceovers. This is developer Hijinx Studios’ first attempt at a HD Collection, so lets see how it fares against the plethora of HD remakes already out there.
Presentation-wise, the collection is barebones. Upon starting up the game, you are greeted with a standard menu allowing selection of both games, plus the collection’s credits. It’s all very functional, but it would have been nice for there to have been a digital manual in there as well (like Konami’s brilliant Metal Gear Solid HD Collection).
When playing the games in this collection, the thing that is immediately noticeable is the constant battle between Silent Hill’s controls and camera. Both games in the collection offer two different methods of movement: The default “3D Mode” where player control is akin to the Resident Evil “Tank-style” type of control, and “2D Mode” where directional control is available. It’s great that both types of control are available, but unfortunately this choice if nullified by one of the worst cameras I’ve ever seen.
Unlike the early Resident Evil games where a static camera is always in use, Silent Hill employs more dynamic use of the camera as it pans and changes depending on the player’s location. The problem is that you can find yourself running along in one direction, then suddenly the camera changes and you’re left veering off into completely the other direction (normally the way you just came from, where the cycle then continues). Yes, I am aware this is what the original games were like; but surely this is something that could have been put right for this new collection?
In terms of narrative and sheer atmosphere, it’s easy to see why these games are so loved by fans, but unfortunately these last-generation titles are showing their age, with clunky combat mechanics and excruciatingly slow gameplay. Both games have their fair share of great puzzles, but there are some that seem to use early 90’s point-and-click adventure logic, causing much annoyance.
Other than my misgivings about the gameplay, there were still moments in both titles that genuinely disturbed me; and there are very few things that can do that, so the fact these decade-old games could make me feel so alone and helpless, is quite the achievement. This is survival horror at its best, and these titles are worth playing at least once, if only to see what the fuss is about.
In terms of audio/visual updates, things are a mixed bag. The 720p upscaling and redone textures are great, and look as good as you could possible imagine from a PlayStation 2 port, but there are quite a few caveats.
The PlayStation 3 version reviewed is incredibly glitchy and buggy, especially in terms of graphics (which Konami hope to rectify with a patch). I don’t know if these issues extend to the Xbox 360 version, but there are some down right horrendous drops in framerate for both titles; something which is pretty unforgivable considering that these are early PlayStation 2 games. If that wasn’t enough, there are frequent stutters in both gameplay and cutscenes. Silent Hill’s trademark fog effects look worse then they did previously, and fail to mask the edges of environments that shouldn’t normally be seen by the player.
A big irritation for me, and a barrier for my enjoyment of both games, is that even with the game’s brightness setting turned all the way up, as well as my TV brightness high up as well, some areas of the game are almost impossible to navigate, as everything is just too damn dark; even with the flashlight item. Hilariously, when trying to change the brightness for Silent Hill 3, I couldn’t, because the faint lines I had to use as guidelines were too dark.
Another tiny graphical grievance with these ports is when CGI sequences are used, which are untouched from their previous incarnations. These lo-res FMV sequences betray the crisp HD visuals of this remake, but are only a minor annoyance that may not have been resolved without somehow recreating these sequences from scratch.
The new voiceovers are not bad, certainly much better than the original voice track for Silent Hill 2 (Which is also available on this collection). While it was a good idea to give the option for the second game’s original voiceovers to keep the fans happy, if you are new to the series you really should stick with the new voices.
Akira Yamaoka’s acclaimed soundtrack still hold up incredibly well, but everything else to do with sound is as problematic as the graphics. As far as I can tell there is no option for 5.1 surround sound (I can’t speak for the Xbox 360 version), which a game like this is crying out for. In addition, the dialogue and sound effects are so badly synced, you could be mistaken for watching a badly dubbed Hong Kong action flick. One early sequence in Silent Hill 3 is absolutely ridiculous, as gunfire sound effects are heard at least a second after guns are fired. Sometimes longer.
For better or for worse, these two games play exactly how they did on the PlayStation 2. If you loved those games and want to experience them in all of their HD splendour, then this HD Collection may be for you. Those who are new to the world of Silent Hill may want to lower their expectations, or risk being disappointed by archaic gameplay mechanics and newbie-unfriendly game design.
A big question I have to raise is: Where are Silent Hills 1 & 4 in the collection? I can understand the lack of the first title, as it would have been a stretch to get the original game to look good, even with an upgraded resolution, but it’s not much of a Silent Hill HD Collection if only two of the five PlayStation 2 titles are here (the others are Silent Hill 4: The Room, Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the latter of which is a re-imagining of the original game, no less!).
VERDICT: If this collection wasn’t so bug-ridden and sloppily done,this could have been a passable first attempt at a HD remaster by Hijinx Studios; but in terms of presentation and technical proficiency, Silent Hill HD Collection pales in comparison to Bluepoint Games’ superior collections such as Konami’s own Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
Until these technical issues are resolved (again, I’m not sure if these issues effect the Xbox 360 version), whether you are a Silent Hill veteran or newbie, you are better off digging out the PlayStation 2 and trawling the internet for a copy of the original games. If Hijinx Studios can get their act together and fix this remaster’s many glaring issues, then you can add another 2 points to this score, until then, this is an utterly disappointing collection.