As many of you my know Cj from Rely on Horror and myself were invited down to Konami Headquarters back in September. During our visit we not only got to play a bit of Silent Hill Downpour but we were also given the opportunity to play through the entirety of the Silent Hill HD Collection on the Playstation 3 (I took Silent Hill 2 while Cj played through Silent Hill 3). Since the collection is releasing in a few weeks Cj and I have been given the okay to talk more in-depth about our impressions.
I have to say the improvements to the visuals in both games are immediately apparent. As someone who’s only played both on the Playstation 2 versions I was blown away at just how crisp and clear everything was. It was definitely a new experience finally seeing the little details in the environments that were muddy and blurry before such as store signs, details in James’ jacket and the random graffiti in sharp focus. It was such a difference to both of us, so much so that we were constantly yelling to one another to come over and look at some small little detail we missed seeing in the past. It seriously felt like I was playing Silent Hill 2 again for the first time with just how much “new” things there were to see.
I think the HD visual improvements really hit home for me when I reached the Silent Hill Historical Society/Prison in Silent Hill 2 and when Cj had reached the Alternate Hilltop Center in Silent Hill 3. In the Silent Hill Historical Society and the Prison there’s a lot of cool paintings/photos that line the walls, including a Silent Hill 2 Staff picture Easter egg and other macabre art depicting Silent Hill’s darker past. I remember while playing on the Playstation 2 I had a hard time really seeing the details of art as the environments were not only dark but the art and photos were tiny and blurry. Since I couldn’t really zoom in for a better look I had to depend on James’ one sentence description and in the end I didn’t think much about their content when I played. It wasn’t until years later after taking a closer look at the painting textures ripped from the PC version on Alchemilla Hospital.net did I gain a greater appreciation for all the details Team Silent had put into the game…even those I couldn’t see due to technical limitations at the time.
Painting Texture from Silent Hill 2 PC
One of these small details that blew me away was the painting in the Toluca Prison cafeteria that depicts the room with Eddie’s gunshot victim in the forefront. In game it just looked like a painting of the room with the weird and creepy inclusion of the corpse but nothing too special. However, on viewing the painting texture texture up close it became quite obvious there was something off about the scene depicted. That unknown brown and muddy looking corpse slumped on a table near the exit? Well in the painting it looks quite different… in fact it looks like James has taken his place since the corpse has lighter hair, a green jacket and blue jeans! In a way I think the painting was foreshadowing James and Eddie’s battle to the death at the end of the Labyrinth. If James wasn’t careful he would end up like all the other people Eddie killed with a bullet in his brain.
The painting is definitely unnerving up close and it’s a shame that in the original Playstation 2 game these color changes are hardly visible…until now that is. With the HD upgrade you can easily note the subtle color change just by staring at the painting in game. It was amazing and when I pointed it this out both Cj and Tomm they were both surprised as they had never known about that small detail before!
Silent Hill 2 wasn’t the only one benefiting from the focus of smaller environmental details. Throughout our time playing Cj constantly pointed out a variety of text on the walls and other visuals in Silent Hill 3 that neither of us noticed before. I believe the biggest surprise on this new clarity in graphically superior Silent Hill 3 was when Cj reached the Otherworld Hilltop Center. In One Stop Imports next to vending machine there’s graffiti of a poem that when Heather observes it reads:
What was a bag of silver coins is
now the number in a book.
Yet faith hath no price…
Ah, but do people know this?”
Texture from Silent Hill 3 PC
In the Playstation 2 game the poem in hard to read on the wall but in the HD collection we could read the poem word for word without a close up observation shot by just staring at the wall. It was a little funny too because noticed that “coins” was misspelled! It was this new found clarity that really made us both want to slow down and just spend time looking at every little bit of the environments just to try to uncover other previously unknown details (unfortunately we couldn’t really spend too much time as we wanted to get through the game with the limited time we had!).
So both games look gorgeous but I’m sure you all probably care more about what I thought about the new voice work. For those who may have been in the dark these past few months it was announced early on that both Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 would have an entirely new voice cast in this upgrade. Not surprisingly, this change upset many Silent Hill fans and had had also become a deal breaker for purchasing the collection for many. As an old fan myself I have to say that yes the new voices do sound strange and are jarring at first because I’m so used to the old ones but in my opinion they are in no way terrible.
Troy Baker as James really grew on me as I played through the game. His voice is pretty deep and raspy when compared to Guy Cihi’s original performance so I was really unsure about him going in but I’m happy to say I ended up really enjoying his performance overall. His James sounded more emotional to me especially in the later half of the game where he sounded so shaken up at times that I thought at one point James might just break down and cry.
One of the other shining stars for me was Angela’s new voice actress who also plays Claudia in Silent Hill 3. She really did a fantastic job, I loved, loved, loved that her Angela sounded like a troubled teenager and not a woman in her 40′s. With the improved the pacing of the line readings there was also no comical stutters or weird long emphasis on random words (“LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSST?”) which I really liked.
The rest of the new Silent Hill 2 cast did a fine job as well. I enjoyed Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s huskier and more seductive take on Maria but I felt her deep voice was a mismatch for Mary Shepherd-Sunderland as it made Mary seem older and less innocent. So hands down I have to say I prefer Monica Taylor Horgan’s Mary performance but again I want to emphasize that it’s not terrible it is just my personal preference. Mary Elizabeth still gave a very powerful performance and the lines were read quite well and I’m happy to report that hearing her rendition of the letter at the end was still able to choke me up!
As for Silent Hill 3 from what I heard I really liked it! We went in cold and both Cj and I were pleasantly surprised. The new Heather sounded age appropriate and sassy (though I miss Heather Morris). The new Claudia sounded nearly identical to Donna Burke’s portrayal but she carried a bit of a harder edge. I believe the change in pacing greatly improved the delivery of Vincent’s lines. The new actor sounded just like Clifford Rippel’s original Vincent but without the random dramatic pauses and inflection changes so his lines flowed a bit better. The new Douglas sounded less gruff but I believe his performance was quite good as well. Really from the snippets I heard watching some of the cutscenes over Cj’s shoulder I think people will be pleasantly pleased with the Silent Hill 3′s new voice cast.
Even though I already own both games for the Playstation 2, I see the HD Collection as a must have for any Silent Hill fan. Even if you are iffy on the new voices (luckily we now have the option to switch to the old with Silent Hill 2) you should definitely at give the collection a try just to see both games in such high detail if nothing else!