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May 27, 2012
Silent Hill HD Collection - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Now they're some bizarre enemies!
It took a while for the first high-definition collection to arrive on the PS3, but they’re coming thick and fast now. God of War, Jak and Daxter and Metal Gear Solid have all had a HD makeover, and the latest series to join that list is Silent Hill. Featuring Silent Hill 2: Inner Fears and Silent Hill 3, the Silent Hill HD Collection brings you two of the best games to bear the Silent Hill name. Released on the PS2 in 2001 and 2003 respectively the biggest question about this collection may be whether they have stood the test of time well enough to warrant a HD remake. For the answer to that and much more, read on…

In Silent Hill 2 your character, James Sunderland, has received a letter from his wife saying that she is waiting for him at ‘their special place’ in the town of Silent Hill. That wouldn’t be out of the ordinary except for the fact that James’ wife died three years ago. The letter is in her handwriting and signed in her name however, so James feels that he must investigate further. When James arrives in Silent Hill it is smothered in a thick fog, and despite a warning from a friendly stranger James bumps into that the town ‘just isn’t right’, he decides to soldier on regardless.

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Silent Hill titles are always bizarre!
In Silent Hill 3 you play as Heather, an ordinary girl who is about to have her world turned upside down and into the stuff of nightmares. Fittingly the game starts with a dream (or nightmare) sequence where Heather finds herself in a deranged amusement park. It doesn’t take long for Heather to wake up in the real world, but before she knows it the real world takes a turn for the dark and bizarre, with monsters, blood and eccentric characters becoming par for the course.

The gameplay of both titles is similar and involves your character walking around, dodging or shooting/bludgeoning monsters while looking for clues and items that will help you progress to the next area. Given survival is the name of the game the first thing you’re going to need is a weapon. Both games have a wide array of weapons, though you invariably start with something quite weak like a wooden plank or metal pipe. It won’t take long for your arsenal includes guns, but bullets are sparse (extremely so on harder settings), so you’ll often have to dodge enemies rather than kill them.

Health items are next on the agenda and you’ll find them littered around the place. Like bullets these items are quite rare and only the strongest (and therefore rarest) replenish much health at all. The environments you’ll be exploring are usually very dark so a flashlight is a must. You’ll find one early on in both games, and they’re great a great help in finding key items and clues.

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Action in the shopping centre in Silent Hill 3 HD.
As important as all of those items are there’s one that trumps them in usefulness and that’s your map. Many interior environments, like the mall in SH3 and the apartments in SH2 look samey throughout, meaning you’ll bust out the map often. You’ll come across an abundance of doors in your travels but the vast majority of them are locked, with no way to gain entry. In both games your character will make a note of the locked doors on your map, making it perfectly clear which doors lead to other areas and which are effectively dead ends.

Much of your progress through the games simply requires an item or a key, but at other times you’ll have to solve puzzles. Puzzle difficulty (and combat difficulty) is adjustable; when you start the game you can choose easy, normal or hard, and it truly makes a difference to the puzzles. On easy you might be told the answer to a puzzle directly, on normal you’ll have to do a bit of problem-solving, while on hard the puzzles become very difficult (and somewhat obtuse unfortunately). There are more puzzles in SH3 than SH2, and solving them will take a lot of time.

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Checking out the bucket for clues.
This collection suffers from a number of issues, some of which are brought about by age, others are introduced by the porting process. Combat definitely feels clunky and imprecise, and while this can be explained in part by the fact that neither lead character has combat training, the reality is it impacts negatively on the gameplay. The camera is another issue, and it needs to be jostled on a regular basis. The camera often faces your character rather than going behind them and allowing you a view of what’s coming up. In part this is done to increase the tension as you never know what’s around the next corner, but as with the clunky fighting, the outcome is a game that feels dated.

Key items and objects can be easy to miss, partly because they aren’t highlighted in any meaningful way, but also because you need to be precisely aligned in order to interact with objects. The result of this is that you’ll spend a lot of time backtracking and wandering aimlessly, often through little fault of your own. Puzzles, especially on the hard setting, can be bewildering and if you can complete them all without consulting a guide you’re a better puzzle-solver than I’ll ever be.

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Another screenshot from Silent Hill 3 on PS3.
Most of the issues introduced to the Collection rear their head in the graphics department. Much has been made of the reduced fog in Silent Hill 2’s outside sections which reveals unfinished areas previously hidden by the fog. It can be quite jarring, though it doesn’t affect the game too much on the whole. Other, more significant issues brought about by the port are brief pauses in the action and frequent slowdown during the busier sections of the game. Quite how this is possible in PS2 games running on a PS3, with a 4GB install no less is quite beyond me.

Other areas fare a little better – some of the interiors, particularly during Otherworld sequences where everything is covered in blood - look grisly and disturbing, which is just what you want in a survival horror game. Lighting is a highlight in both titles, particularly in sections where you’re relying on your flashlight to see. Shadows dance about as if they’re living things, and there’s always enough of it to leave you uncertain about what’s lurking just out of sight. Texturing is uneven, with some textures blurry and undefined, while others are crisp and clear.

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Silent Hill HD Collection is out now.
Survival horror games rely on music and sounds to build the necessary atmosphere and that is one area this collection fares well. Snarls, growls, screeching and scrapes are an ever-present part of your journey through Silent Hill. Your trusty radio will emit static when an enemy is nearby, but relying on that alone is small comfort in the heavily shadowed surrounds. The music also does a great job building the right atmosphere and while I can’t say I was genuinely scared at any point in either of the two games, they’re definitely creepy enough to keep you on your toes.

The voice acting is quite average by today’s standards. In Silent Hill 2 you have the option of listening to the original character voices or going with a new recording, but either way it’s not great. In both games lines are delivered at a plodding pace which had me wishing you could skip lines, but alas that can’t be done. Silent Hill 3 has a surprisingly corny script and delivery given the nature of the game. It doesn’t exactly hurt, but nor does it build upon the atmosphere the rest of the sound works to create.

The Silent Hill HD Collection delivers flawed versions of two much loved PS2 titles, both of which are showing significant signs of age. Anyone returning to the games will forgive the flaws because the core gameplay is largely intact (albeit with lots of slowdown). If you’re a newcomer to the series it’s harder to recommend this Collection however. Clunky combat, a camera that requires frequent wrestling and gameplay that leaves you wandering aimlessly all too often will likely present major concerns to the modern audience. These problems are nothing new to the survival horror genre though, so if you know what you’re getting into and are prepared to put up with it you may just find Silent Hill to your liking.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSThe games are a decade old and it definitely shows despite the supposed facelift. Great lighting and occasionally disturbing environments give it a pass mark though.
SOUNDThe music and effects do a fantastic job building atmosphere… that is hurt by hammy voice acting.
GAMEPLAYTo me it feels dated, with clunky combat, an annoying camera and too much aimless wandering. Others will call it classic and love every minute. To which group do you belong?
VALUETwo games, both of which heartily encourage multiple playthroughs via multiple endings. If you find the unlimited SMG you’ll probably enjoy the second playthough more than the first.
OVERALLThe Silent Hill HD Collection consists of two decade old games with new bugs courtesy of a suspect port. The games are not without their charm but the gameplay feels dated, so unless you’re a returning fan or survival horror nut I suggest you look elsewhere for your scares.

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