Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Silent Hill HD Collection - PS3 review

To most who care about these things Silent Hill 2 represents a near-perfection of the art of survival horror that has been slowly eroded away in both its sequels and others aspiring to be part of that genre. So with the advent of an HD remastering of both it and Silent Hill 3 how could I resist?

The PS3 version doesn't start well demanding a gruelling 4Gb installation. Seriously it'll stream of an XBox 360 disc, but you need the extra oomph for a PS3? It's a one-off, but still. The menu screen appears pretty quickly and gives a choice between the two games. Atmospherically spot-on, for those returning to the series these menu sounds will pull you straight back in. Pick a game and it has to install the trophies for it; again a one-off though. Then a minor wait and into the game proper.

Silent Hill 2

No spoilers. You play the part of James Sunderland who arrives on the outskirts of the town of Silent Hill responding to a letter from your dead wife who says she'll meet you there. Yeah your dead wife - get used that weirdness.

Born from a Wish

What would now be classed as DLC for Silent Hill 2 this allows the player to take control of one of the other characters and play out their story up to the point they join the main plot. As one would expect it's not as spread out as the main story, but covers a far bit of ground and time and makes for a nice inclusion.

Silent Hill 3

A sequel to Silent Hill (1), which I recommend playing, this time you take control of Heather Mason daughter of our first hero who is pushed towards Silent Hill for answers and vengeance.

I'm going to deal with both games together because essentially they're running the same engine with only some minor tweaks in terms of inventory layout etc.

These are both survival-horror games that means at the highest difficulty levels often the most intelligent option is to "RUN AWAY". If that sort of game sounds like fun don't bother reading the rest of this just go and buy the game.

Just for a change there are two separate levels of difficulty one for the action and one for the puzzles. At the hardest level of the puzzles you will be racking your brain and I hope you know your Shakespeare for one riddle

Both are a third-person over the shoulder affair with the odd fixed camera angle (think Resident Evil). Neither character are uber-marines so although they'll aim at enemies they won't turn to track them or always hit them. The screen itself has no HUD (think Limbo). There's no health or ammo counter and no mini-map. Even a main map may not be always available as these are things that have to be found or it may be simply too dark to use.

Graphics are 720p HD with most textures conforming to this standard with only the odd blur. A lot of complaint has been made regarding the fog; the fog is fine only those running the new and old games side-by-side will notice a difference. Enemies also aren't made less scary because they're in HD, camera distance, fog, and darkness keep them from being in your face. A downside are the odd pre-rendered movie. Jumping to such a movie normally means a slight jarring experience from the imperfectly rendered game to a perfectly rendered scene. For these games it's the other way around; fortunate that there are only a few such occurrences and most of the time cut-scenes are dealt with in-game.

Although I don't normally pick this out for mention, aurally it really works. Enemy sounds will have you twisting about trying to locate them. Sadly this highlights the flaws with the voice acting. In Silent Hill 2 a choice is presented between the new or original voices. The new voices fit in well, but the original sound as if they've been recorded off the PS3 using a tape recorder. Either way there's also a syncing issue with the in-game cut-scenes with all the sound lagging by half-a second at times.

In terms of the engine itself there are times it too starts to lag; most noticeably when running. Combined with the normally excellent sound running produces a set rhythm with gaps which   just   start   to   get   longer before settling back down. Ironically I found that atmospherically this inspired me to think of bad dreams; like wading through treacle.

So some issues with the sound (with an update supposedly on its way to fix) some frame-rate issues oh and yes having the "ting" trophy awarded pop-up does pull you back from the immersion so turn it off. For those returning to the series there's nothing really to complain about; sure it's not as polished as it could/should have been, but it's not the mess one would expect from 'fanboy' reviews.

For those new to the series - whoo boy are you in for a treat. Turn off the light; turn up the sound and soak it in.