Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams
First posted on 15 October 2011. Last updated on 01 March 2013.
Silent Hill is the archetype of survival horror adventure. Since the series' debut in 1999, Silent Hill has had its fans hiding underneath bed sheets, too terrified to enter the eerie town of Silent Hill. Silent Hill 2 continues the formulaic series by featuring different characters, settings, gameplay, and a completely new storyline to ensure that gamers do not have to play through the original Silent Hill to get the most from this sequel. Originally released in 2001 for the Sony PlayStation 2, the game has been subsequently ported to the both the Microsoft Xbox and the PC. On the PC, the game has been renamed to Silent Hill 2: Restless Dream in the US and Silent Hill 2: Director's Cut in the UK.
The storylines in the Silent Hill series have always been mature and somewhat mystifying. It seems that the developer purposely leaves holes within the games' own stories to give gamers the opportunity to fill in the gaps themselves by using their own imagination; this, in turn, ensures that the game delivers a different experience to every single player. In Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams, you play as the character James Sunderland who has recently received a letter from his dead wife asking him to meet her in the town of Silent Hill. James, though skeptical of the letter's origin, travels to the town and begins his investigation to find out whether his dead wife is alive or whether a more sinister meaning is behind the letter. During the investigation, James encounters the desolate town's many other characters, each with its own dark secrets and problems. The game succeeds fantastically in making you feel attached to both James and the characters (such as Angela) he encounters throughout the game. In fact, this is done so well that the game has managed to draw a tear to my eye on many occasions with its back story of James and Angela. The game also succeeds in making you feel insecure, from the fantastic ambient sound effects to the demonic enemies which James will encounter in the game. Who, after all, can forget Pyramid Head, the most formidable character introduced in this game for the series and possibly amongst the most terrifying characters to be ever featured in a video game? The storyline which the developer has created for this game is truly a real gem.
The visuals in Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams are generally fantastic. The lighting plays its part perfectly and makes the monsters lurking in the shadows even more terrifying and foreboding. The game also features fantastically pre-rendered cut scenes and are used at various breaks throughout the game to propel the story forward. The character animations all work well and make the game feel more realistic. For example, James swings an iron pipe and fires a handgun like a complete amateur (atypical for the main protagonist in a survival horror game), making you feel even more insecure defending the many threats that he constantly faces. The monsters have fantastic animations, with every monster looking and acting so differently that it almost feels like each monster is trying to tell you a different back story about itself which together adds even more depth and emotion to the main story. At times, however, the visuals are a little inconsistent, especially when you are exploring the exterior areas of the town. Also, the textures of James' clothing sometimes look a little simple and sketchy, whereas the textures of the buildings' exteriors often look too rushed and relatively flat. None of these flaws are game breaking in the slightest though.
The sound in Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams is absolutely astonishing. The soundtrack from Akira Yamaoka is breathtaking. This is amongst the scariest yet beautiful soundtracks to be ever featured in a video game. The soundtrack consists of some of the most terrifying melodies I have heard in a video game. These sounds will put you on edge and will scare you more than the actual monsters you will encounter in the game. The soundtrack also consists of some beautiful piano melodies which are played to really emphasize emotional moments in the story, aside from the great acoustic and electric guitar tracks that are played as well.
The version of the game released on the PC adds a few bonus features to the original version of the game released on the console. The new version comes complete with multiple official trailers and videos that have been released up to the point of release for the game. It also features a bonus storyline can be unlocked after you have completed the main story. In this bonus scenario, you play as Maria, a character that James meets early on in the main story. Although this extra story is very short, it is still a nice addition to the game. Nonetheless, the bonus contents may not justify the game as an added purchase for gamers who already own the original, except for those who long for a little more back story for the game. While the new version released on the Sony PlayStation 2 version has retained the name Silent Hill 2: Director's Cut, the version released on Microsoft Xbox has been renamed to Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams. On the PC, the game has been released under both names. The only difference between the versions is the name; they are otherwise identical.
The gameplay in Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams features very traditional elements of survival horror games. You will generally find yourself preoccupied with finding items, solving puzzles, and attacking enemies. The puzzles are pretty simple and require you to either combine items or place them in specific locations. There are a few puzzles which are more difficult and require more thought, such as a puzzle that centers around a grandfather clock and multiple hangman nooses. However, the gameplay has a few annoyances. A particular annoyance is that the game is full of rooms that have broken locks. It can become very irritating when you must search through a whole corridor of doors, only to find every single room has a broken lock, thus rendering the last few minutes of gameplay a complete waste of time. Another annoyance is that the combat system generally feels sluggish and a little too predictable. It is clear that combat was not the main focus for the game. In particular, the frame rate can sometimes drop down to such a low level that makes combat completely unplayable. As well, on some occasions, the cut scenes lose synchronization with the audio, which then causes the audio from the cut scenes to continue to play after the video has long finished. Further, some cut scenes randomly freeze during playback, forcing you to reload the game in order not to miss important parts of the story. In addition, the game generally crashes when you exit the game, and once it crashes, the graphic options will all revert back to the lowest possible settings and therefore must be reset almost every time you play the game. Yet, by far, the biggest game breaking annoyance is a bug that causes items from your inventory to disappear. This means that items, ammunitions, or weapons may disappear at random, to the extent that you may not be able to progress further in the game. If you encounter this bug, the only solution is to reload from an earlier save or restart the game from the beginning.
Overall, Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams is amongst the greatest survival horror games you can possibly have the pleasure in playing. The storyline is engaging, the soundtrack is emotive, and the graphics are fantastic. It is s a must play for any survival horror fan. The game even includes multiple endings and secret weapons, encouraging you to replay the game several times in order to access these bonuses. The game's atmosphere is outstanding and leaves you on edge from beginning to end, so that you will really feel connected to the characters and the fates that eventually befall on them.