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Silent Hill 2 | We should fear ourselves

Posted on 19 December, 2022

Game designer

Studio

Art Director

Masahiro Ito
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Lead Composer

Akira Yamaoka

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Type of game

Genre

Subgenre

Country

Platform

PC

The sequel to the successful horror game published by Konami and developed by Team Silent, Silent Hill 2 came out in 2001 as a Playstation 2 title, and only later on Xbox and Windows. While it will soon received a next-generation remake and a live-action adaptation from the director of the first Silent Hill movie, Christophe Gans, the original game still has great influence.

In fact, many consider Silent Hill 2 to be the most representative entry of the survival horror saga, as it was the first game to deeply explore the psyche of its characters and to focus on symbolism and grief. Therefore, not only is it a chilling, anxious experience, but also a compelling narration with more depth than many video games at the time, and so Silent Hill 2 quickly became one of the most lauded games of its era — and even more so of the genre it helped to shape.

Silent Hill 2
Image courtesy of Konami

Through fog and fears

James Sunderland, the protagonist, arrives in the town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his wife Mary, claiming she’ll be waiting for him at the lake. The only problem is, Mary died three years prior due to her illness. Nonetheless, James comes in search of her, and here his journey in the American countryside town of Silent Hill, Maine, begins. Through large, empty roads filled with blinding fog that abruptly ends in ravines, and abandoned apartment buildings still carrying the painful, yet ordinary stories of their inhabitants, James will dive into a terrifying vortex of physical and mental pain.

Horrifying monsters populate Silent Hill, creatures designed by Masahiro Ito that combine human flesh and limbs in unnatural shapes. These monsters, and somehow the town itself, are generated from the psyche and inner pains, fears, and frustrations of the person entering Silent Hill. The most iconic of James’ projections is Pyramid Head, or “Red Pyramid Thing”, a monstrous man carrying the “Great Knife” and with a rusted steel triangular thing on its head.

To each their story

Other than the monsters, Silent Hill also allures other people, trapped like James in the lakeside town by their own demons. Angela Orosco is a girl in search of her mother while running away from the abusive projections of her father; Eddie Dombrowski a teenager with a violent past; Laura a lively, disobedient child. The most stunning encounter, though, is Maria.

On the bank of Toluca Lake, where James was supposed to meet his dead wife, he meets Maria instead. This woman is strangely similar to Mary, only more self-confident, more lustily dressed, and she immediately takes an interest in him. Through locations such as hospitals, prisons and decommissioned hotels, every character will face their worst monsters: the ones that come from inside.

The iconic, foggy town

The first Silent Hill game already established some of the most important aspects of the series’ future, such as the dense fog and the broken roads. Another essential touch of personality is Akira Yamaoka‘s fascinating, yet unnerving score, mostly made of strange, repetitive sounds rather than actual musical instruments. Such an ambient, industrial soundtrack is difficult to find elsewhere, but a less horror-style example of this kind is Mr. Robot‘s original score by composer Mac Quayle. Ito’s monster design, instead, was inspired by the art of painters such as Andrew Wyeth and Francis Bacon.

Silent Hill 2
Image courtesy of Konami

What Silent Hill 2 added to the mix is another layer of narration. The original concepts for the game sprung out of the themes of guilt and paranoia of Fëdor Dostoevskij‘s Crime and Punishment, while visually it took inspiration from the imagination of David Lynch and Adrian Lyne’s movie Jacob’s Ladder. The resulting work is a suggestive story of disturbing creatures that are as repulsive on the outside as much as the human characters are on the inside. Silent Hill 2 delivers a story full of metaphors and subtext, allowing every player to experience the horror through their own filter and sensitivity. It’s not a surprise that, for years, the fanbase discussed and conceptualized every inch of the game’s space, every dialogue line, to the point where it’s impossible not to consider Silent Hill 2 a milestone of psychological horror in gaming.

The town exists still

After some less fortunate sequels during the Playstation 3/XBOX 360 generation and many years of unsettling silence, Silent Hill was going to come back thanks to the genius of Hideo Kojima. Father of another Konami iconic saga, Metal Gear Solid, Kojima started working on a game called Silent Hills, announced through the immediately famous demo “P.T.”, only for the project to be cancelled due to internal difficulties.

More time has passed since, and everything stayed silent, until Konami finally announced its projects for the future of the saga. New games will come, to explore Silent Hill‘s brand in new ways and settings; but the announcement of a remake of Silent Hill 2 and a movie following the same game’s story shows us that, still today, James Sunderland’s tale in the lakeside town is still the most crucial piece of the puzzle.

Nonetheless, if one appreciated Silent Hill 2, they would certainly need to play the other titles as well, at least until Silent Hill 4: The Room, for the town lets you in, but it hardly lets you out.

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