Dev: Team Silent and Hijinx Studios
Silent Hill HD Collection Reviewed
Keiji Inafune has his own thoughts on that, recently saying of the Japanese game industry that “we just stick to our memories and we re-release HD versions of games. That is the upper limit of what we are showing to our users today and that is not what our users want.” In witnessing this particular remake, it’s difficult to argue with that sentiment.
Comprised of only Silent Hill 2 and 3, this HD collection fails to serve either as a satisfactory entry point for new players, or a comprehensive package for fans of the series. The first game is conspicuous by its absence and, although obtainable through the PlayStation Network (as a separate purchase), it remains unavailable on the Xbox platform. Of the content actually presented here, there is little reason beyond curiosity to warrant the return trip.
This has always been a series that survived on the strength of its atmosphere rather than its mechanics of play. The passage of time has diminished that signature sense of oppression within the corridors and pathways of Silent Hill, leaving its flaws exposed in painful contrast to its contemporary peers.
The trademark fog that once shrouded its horrors no longer clings and lingers so thickly; figuratively, because the artistic rework done here amounts only to a rudimentary touch-up, with barren landscapes feeling empty rather than agoraphobic; literally, because that emptiness is sometimes openly displayed, the borders of the game world rendered visible due to an unintentionally improved draw distance.
Memorable vignettes (such as SH2’s Pyramid Head, or the fairground in SH3) still retain something of their original menace, but even they are overshadowed by dreadful and antiquated controls. A slow turning circle conspires with a stubborn camera to render navigation a permanently obtrusive annoyance. Combat is similarly unresponsive, posing a difficult choice between fight and flight within a system that facilitates neither one effectively.
Structural problems further undermine the experience, manifesting in the absurd number of doors that can never be opened (Silent Hill lacks a good locksmith, apparently). As a result, exploration often descends into a door-handle checklist, although this is thankfully managed by the useful map system.
Narrative signposting has its own inconsistencies; escorting a woman to a distant hotel, central to the plot, first requires a visit to a bowling alley without notice or reason. The expected frustrations with your companion inevitably arise, when she idly puts herself in harm’s way and sets you back to the last save point (assuming you remembered to visit one).
It’s too much to expect, of course, that these issues would be remedied in a HD re-release. Presumably, budgetary concerns and deference to the established fan-base meant that the game would always remain fundamentally unchanged, and the achievement list confirms the assumption that this package is targeted at those already acquainted with the series.
For those still unfamiliar with the alternate realities of Silent Hill, it’s worth remembering other murky locales that we’ve visited in the decade since. Most notably, Alan Wake’s town of Bright Falls exhibits superior depth and craft in every respect, with similar haunting motifs of loneliness and lost love. The controls work, too.
In a world where even Resident Evil has evolved, Silent Hill’s broken interface and anachronistic structure are difficult to forgive. Released alongside Silent Hill: Downpour (also reviewed here on BXB), this collection’s only apparent purpose is to contextualise the latest game in the series as something with a greater lineage than it perhaps deserves. However long those fog-soaked roads appear, we haven’t come far enough.