Thursday, July 14, 2011

THEPLAYGAMER3: SILENT HILL 2










Silent Hill 2 is a survival horror video game published by Konami for the PlayStation 2 and developed by Team Silent, a production group within Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo. The second installment in the Silent Hill series, it was released in late September 2001 in North America and Japan, and in late November 2001 in Europe. It was also ported to the Xbox and PC. It has been re-released multiple times, including under the Greatest Hits label and as part of The Silent Hill Collection, while a remastered high-definition version of it is due for release for the PlayStation 3.

While it is set in the series' namesake town, Silent Hill 2 is not a direct sequel to the events and characters of the first Silent Hill game. Instead, it centers on James Sunderland, who enters the town after receiving a letter written by his deceased wife, saying she is waiting for him in their "special place" in Silent Hill. Joined by Maria who resembles her except for a more provocative outfit and personality, he searches for her and discovers the truth about her death. Additional material in re-releases and ports included Born from a Wish, a sub-scenario which focuses on Maria before she and James meet.

Silent Hill 2 uses a third-person perspective and gameplay places a greater emphasis on finding items and solving riddles than combat, similar to the first Silent Hill. Psychological aspects such as the gradual disappearance of Mary's letter were added to the game. More humanoid than their counterparts in the preceding game, some of the monsters were designed as a reflection of James' subconscious. Real-life references to history, films and literary works can also be found in the game.

Silent Hill 2 was positively received by the audience and critics. Within the month of its release in North America, Japan and Europe, over one million copies were sold, with the greatest sales in North America. English-language critics praised the atmosphere, graphics, story and monster designs of Silent Hill 2, but criticized the controls as difficult to use. Silent Hill 2 appeared on several critics' top lists for its story and use of metaphors, psychological horror and taboo topics.

Gameplay

The objective of Silent Hill 2 is to guide the player character, James Sunderland, through the monster-filled town of Silent Hill as he searches for his deceased wife. The game features a third-person perspective, with various camera angles for different areas of the map in contrast to simply always having the player view the game from behind the back of James. There is no heads-up display; to check their health, location, and items, the player must enter the pause-game menu to review their status. Maps are collected throughout the game, and can only be read if there is sufficient light or when James' flashlight is on. James will update relevant maps to reflect locked doors, clues and obstructions. James will also write down the content of all documents for future reference.

Much of the gameplay consists of navigating the town and finding keys or other items to bypass doors or other obstructions, with less focus on killing enemies. Occasionally puzzles will be presented, often with riddles left for the player to interpret. The difficulty levels of the enemies and the puzzles are determined independently by the player before starting the game. James keeps a radio with him which alerts him to the presence of creatures by emitting static, allowing him to detect them even through the thick fog. He will also tilt his head in the direction of a nearby item or monster. The default control for Silent Hill 2 has James moving in the direction that he is facing when the player tilts the analog stick upwards. Additionally, there are a total of six weapons available: three melee weapons and three firearms, with another two melee weapons (a chainsaw and hyper sprays) unlocked during replays. Throughout the game, James can find health restoratives such as first-aid kits, health drinks and ammunition.

Plot

While not a direct sequel to the events and characters of the first Silent Hill game, Silent Hill 2 takes place in the series' foggy namesake town which is located in the northeastern United States. More than a physical location, the town of Silent Hill draws upon the psyche of its visitors and ultimately forms alternative versions of the town, which differ depending on the character. James Sunderland is the protagonist and primary player character of Silent Hill 2, who comes to the town after receiving a letter from his deceased wife Mary. While exploring the town, he encounters Maria, who strongly resembles Mary except for a more provocative personality and clothing; Angela Orosco, a gloomy and cynical 19-year-old who ran away to Silent Hill so she could search for her mother; Eddie Dombrowski, who harbors a darker side to his easy-going personality; and Laura, an eight-year-old who befriended Mary during her stay at the same hospital.

After arriving in Silent Hill, James decides to search Rosewater Park, where he meets Maria, who claims that she has never met or seen Mary and, as she is scared, he allows her to follow him. While looking for Laura inside a hospital, James and Maria are ambushed by the monster Pyramid Head, and Maria is killed by him just as James escapes; He nonetheless resumes his task of finding Mary, and chooses to search the old Lakeview Hotel, where he and Mary spent their vacation. While en route, James inexplicably finds Maria alive, unharmed and locked in a prison cell. She greets him with a lascivious pose, claims ignorance to their previous encounter, and discusses elements of James and Mary's past that only Mary would know. James then sets off to find a way to release Maria from the cell, and returns only to find her dead once more.

Traveling deeper into the underground catacomb, James saves Angela from a monster whom she calls "daddy"; she confesses that her father used to sexually abuse her, while a newspaper article that James finds implies that Angela killed her father. Further on, James confronts a gun-wielding and violent Eddie, who admits to maiming a bully and killing his dog before fleeing to Silent Hill; James kills him in self-defense when he attacks. Mary's letter reverts to a blank piece of paper, calling into question whether or not James actually received it, or if the letter was all in his mind.

At the Lakeview Hotel, James locates an old home-made videotape, which depicts him smothering his dying wife with a pillow, much to the horror of Laura, who was friends with Mary in her time at the hospital. At this point in the game, the letter from Mary vanishes entirely from the envelope. In another room, a final meeting with Angela sees her giving up on life and unable to cope with her guilt any longer. She walks into the flames of a burning staircase and is not seen again. James later encounters two Pyramid Heads, along with Maria, who has been resurrected once more; as she is killed again, James realizes that Pyramid Head was created because he needed someone to punish him. The envelope from Mary finally disappears and both Pyramid Heads impale themselves with their own spears. James makes his way to the rooftop, finally reaching what seems to be Mary. Depending on the choices made by the player throughout the game, this may be either Mary or Maria disguised as her.

Silent Hill 2 features six possible endings, and official statements from Konami have kept their canonicity ambiguous. In "Leave", James has one last meeting with Mary, reads her full letter and leaves the town with Laura, while "In Water" sees James commit suicide by driving his car into the lake; in "Rebirth", James plans to revive Mary using occult objects collected throughout the game. In contrast, the "Maria" ending sees Mary as the woman on the rooftop, who has not forgiven James for killing her. After her defeat, James dismisses her as a hallucination and then leaves the town with the inexplicably resurrected Maria, who starts coughing.

The other two are "joke" endings available on replay games: in the first, called "Dog", James discovers that, beyond a normally locked door, a Shiba Inu has apparently been controlling all the events of the game from a vision mixer, and the second is a continuation of the UFO ending of the first game, in which James is abducted by aliens with the help of the first game's protagonist, Harry Mason.

Born from a Wish

Born from a Wish is a side-story scenario in the special editions and re-releases of the game in which the player takes control of Maria shortly before she and James meet at Toluca Lake. After waking up in the Heaven's Night club with a gun and contemplating suicide, she resolves to go out and find someone. Her wandering eventually brings her to the seemingly deserted Baldwin mansion, where she hears the voice of its owner, Ernest Baldwin. At first Maria is relieved to have found another living human, but Ernest refuses to let Maria into the room where he is and will only talk to her through the closed door. After Maria completes a few tasks for him, including passing him a birthday card from his daughter Amy, Ernest warns her about James, whom he describes as a "bad man". Maria open the door to Ernest's room, and finds it empty. Leaving, she again contemplates suicide. After pointing the gun at her head, she abruptly tosses it over a nearby wall, and after whispering James' name, walks into the fog to await his arrival.

Influences and design

Silent Hill 2 was developed by Team Silent, a production group within Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo. The story was conceived by CGI director Takayoshi Sato who based it on the novel Crime and Punishment, with individual members of the team collaborating on the actual scenario. The main writing was done by Hiroyuki Owaku and Sato, the latter of which provided the dialog for the female characters. The atmosphere of the game is for the most part similar to the first game, including the abandoned and/or decomposing look of the town and the persistent fog obscuring the streets, but it has been given a more psychological twist. One example of this is James' letter from Mary, which progressively disappears during the game, hinting, as Konami later confirmed, that the letter was merely another part of James' hallucinations. The hotel also transforms from being just as it was three years ago, to its true form of a mostly burned-out structure. Throughout the game, James jumps down holes, symbolically descending into his mind, and can unlock a door on the floor, suggesting that he is not experiencing reality. Other acknowledged attempts to induce a psychological influence on the game include placing Mary's dress on a mannequin in the room where James discovers the flashlight and modeling at least one dead body in the town after James.

The monsters in the game, as well as being more humanoid in design than their counterparts in the preceding game, are acknowledged to have been, for the most part, designed as a reflection of James' subconscious. At least two creatures, the "Mannequin" and "Bubble Head Nurse" are acknowledged to have been created with sexual suggestion in mind, a reflection of James' desires and likely sexual deprivation during Mary's illness. Pyramid Head is acknowledged to have been based on the executioners of the town's fictional history and is intended to be a punisher for James. Two exceptions to this theme are the "Abstract Daddy", a reflection of the subconscious and memories of Angela, and the "Creepers", which are also seen in the first game.

Silent Hill 2 also incorporates some references to real-life events. In the original scenario, the developers designed Maria and James with double personalities: Maria's other personality was "Mary", a reference to Mary Jane Kelly, Jack the Ripper's last victim, while James's was "Joseph", a reference to one of the Jack the Ripper suspects. Other observers have claimed that Maria's outfit was copied from Christina Aguilera's appearance at the 1999 Teen Choice Awards. Eddie Dombrowski's name was taken from actor Eddie Murphy back during the beginning phases of production when Eddie was originally designed with a pleasantly optimistic personality. The name of Angela Orosco was derived from Angela Bennett, the name of the protagonist in the film The Net, and Laura's from the novel No Language But a Cry by Richard D'Ambrosio. The developers satirized guns in American society by allowing James to find a handgun in a shopping cart. There are also indications that the layout of Silent Hill has been based on the town of San Bruno, California, to a certain extent.

Audio

Akira Yamaoka composed the music of Silent Hill 2. At his home, Yamaoka took three days to write the music for "Theme of Laura", the main theme of Silent Hill 2, by combining "a sad melody" and "a strong beat", although he does not consider a melody to be the "most important" element of a music piece. He wanted to evoke emotion from the player with the music. Silent Hill 2 makes extensive use of sound effects ranging from screams to footsteps on broken glass. In charge of the game's fifty sound effects, Yamaoka wanted to surprise the player with different sounds and create an unsettling environment. He also incorporated occasional silence, commenting that "selecting moments of silence is another way of producing sound.

Konami published Silent Hill 2 Original Soundtracks in Japan on October 3, 2001. Eight tracks ("Theme of Laura", "Null Moon", "Love Psalm", "True", "Promise", "Fermata in Mistic Air", "Laura Plays the Piano" and "Overdose Delusion") appeared in the 2006 PlayStation Portable release The Silent Hill Experience.


Releases

Silent Hill 2 was first released for the PlayStation 2 in North America on September 24, 2001, in Japan on September 27, 2001, and in Europe on November 23, 2001. The original European edition also included a second disc: a "Making-of" DVD video featuring trailers, an artwork gallery and a documentary on the title's development. The revised version of the game was ported back to the PS2 and billed as a director's cut under both the "Greatest Hits" and "Platinum" labels depending on location. Both of the rereleased versions contain an additional UFO ending and Born From a Wish scenario. In 2006, Konami re-released Silent Hill 2 with its indirect PS2 sequels, Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill 4: The Room, as The Silent Hill Collection and again in 2009.

Ports of the game were also published. Konami released the Xbox port in North America on December 20, 2001, in Japan on February 22, 2002, and in Europe on October 14, 2002. Each region had a different subtitle: the Xbox port was subtitled Saigo no Uta (最期の詩?, lit. "Poem of the Last Moment") in Japan, Restless Dreams in North America, and Inner Fears in Europe. Creature Labs ported Silent Hill 2 to the PC, which Konami released in December 2002. The PC port is equivalent to the Xbox port and the PS2 budget versions, and includes Born from a Wish and the extra ending. Added features included the ability to quicksave, and trailers for Silent Hill 3.

Legacy

The events and characters of Silent Hill 2 have been referred to in subsequent installments in the series. If the player has saved data from Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3's protagonist Heather can investigate a clogged toilet in the alternate dimension of the mall, and the player can prompt her to remove the blockage—much like the optional decision in Silent Hill 2. Unlike James, Heather, however, will ultimately refuse, asking "Who would even think of doing something so disgusting?" James also makes a cameo in the "UFO" joke ending of the game. Silent Hill 4: The Room revealed that James disappeared when he went to Silent Hill. It also introduces his father, Frank Sunderland, as the superintendent of the South Ashfield Heights Apartments building in the fictional town of Ashfield. The seventh installment, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, finds James briefly interrupting Cheryl Mason's therapy session during the "UFO" joke ending. After he leaves, Dr. Kaufmann states that James is a couple's therapy patient and remarks that Mary hasn't been seen for some time.

Notes

^ This can be seen prominently with James, who experiences a version of the town influenced by his guilt and delusions for the majority of the game. His version of the town fades as he comes to term with his guilt and responsibility for his actions. In contrast, only Laura perceives the town as normal because she is not burdened with guilt or past misdeeds; to her, neither the monsters nor Maria exist.

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