Silent Hill 2 gets named dropped pretty often around here as being one of my favorite horror games. Does it qualify as classic? I personally think so. It literally set the precedent for several horror games that came after it and still has a heavy presence in the horror game community. Let’s look at some of the unique things that make SH2 a classic game.
The fog of Silent Hill literally made Silent Hill… well… Silent Hill. The fog became an integral part of the game. What was created to cover up limited draw distance ended up shaping the town and giving it its creepy and dream-like vibe. Playing on PS2, we could only shudder at what could be lurking in the fog and jump at the sounds of things we could not see.
Maybe the controls were just clumsy or maybe the developers were just lazy, but you can’t deny the feeling of helplessness as you explore Silent Hill through Jame’s eyes. James is far from soldierly, making the gun and ammo you find pretty useless until you get used to the shooting mechanics: take out the gun, manually aim, and shoot. That’s 3 buttons to try to kill an enemy.
James really only has one way of staying alive and that is to RUN. As you find yourself fleeing from Silent Hill’s enemies, you get to the nearest door and… it’s locked. Several doors remain locked in SH2 even after you finish the game. The multiple and identical-looking hospital wings also leave you feeling pretty disoriented. James is very vulnerable with no real way to protect himself from the monstrosities that seem to lurk around every corner.
Speaking of enemies, Pyramid Head is still one of the most terrifying enemies you will ever encounter. Guilt personified, he’s essentially invincible. But symbolism is heavy in SH2 and doesn’t stop there. The nurses are representations of James’ repressed sexuality. Maria is a reminder of his deceased wife: who she was and who James’ wanted her to be. Laura is the loss of James’ innocence. They all seem to be a representation of James himself.
The mind games of SH2 don’t stop with the characters. The insane multiple endings are not hinged upon what you do but rather how you do it. Without giving away any spoilers: how you handle your health, how you treat other characters, and James’ state of mind all aid in what ending you’re likely to get.
Modern games make us over powered, the hero, and the good guy. Silent Hill 2 takes away our power and leaves us with a sense of dread. Are we really the hero in this story? We are made to feel uncomfortable, disoriented, and helpless. SH2 set the ground work for all horror games after it. The fog gives you chills as you hear ungodly things rustle past you. You are made to feel helpless even when you have a weapon. Environments continuously keep you on your feet but confused. Enemies and characters alike screw with your fragile psyche and leave you with more questions than answers.
And it makes playing Silent Hill 2 one of the best horror game experiences I’ve ever had.
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What is your favorite classic game? Let me know in the comments!