So after some considerable faffing about regarding delays and whatnot Silent Hill HD Collection has landed in the UK.
For those looking to comparisons to the original, I can offer a comparison on Silent Hill 2 as I owned it on the Xbox, but this is my first time playing Silent Hill 3.
So this being an HD re-release I'm sure the first thing you will be wondering about is graphically how it compares to the original. Silent Hill 2 as far I can tell looks much the same as the original, some textures have been cleaned up but others however have suffered, in one scene looking over the lake the water just appears to stop after a few hundred yards as if it suddenly dropped off a cliff. Also the thick fog has been scaled back somewhat to allow you a less restrictive version than before, however it still inhibits your field of view as originally intended.
Character models are nicely detailed, but look aged, which is understandable given that SH2 is ten years old, SH3 is a noticeably improvement in graphical quality everything is much sharper. Environments I'm pleased to say still stack up well, the whole town is very atmospheric and in some later areas of the game, you will be hesitant around narrow paths and blind corners as you hear enemies lurking in the distance. One thing I found slightly jarring in SH2 was that some cutscenes are rendered as FMV's part way through and then the game will go back to in game engine cutscenes. Some players have reported texture bugs, the PS3 version coming off worst due to a technical issue. I have to say this factored into my decision to get the Xbox 360 version.
Also SH2 has a very grainy look which is amplified to some degree by HD resolutions, I think this is an artistic choice on the developer's part rather than a design flaw, but it can be distracting at times.
Now onto another bug bear, Konami have re-recorded the voice work for both games. Thankfully for those of you wishing to preserve your nostalgic memories in SH2 the original voicework is included for you to listen to you if you choose. However for Silent Hill newbies, I would advise going with the new voices as they seem to fit better, the old voices have a so this-is-so-bad-it's-good quality that reminded me a lot of the older Resident Evil games (another favourite of mine, known for cheesy voice acting). However with regards to Silent Hill 3, I looked up some youtube footage and compared, the original voicework was better, the character of Heather seemed much more genuinely like a frightened teenager. Unfortunately in SH3 there is no option to use the original audio, so we're stuck with it. Thankfully it's not all bad, just not as good as before. Some players have also noted how the lips don't quite sync correctly with the voices duriung cutscenes, thankfully though is only minor.
The music fits nicely with the surroundings, with some sombre tunes evoking real moments of sadness and freakier pieces which play when enemies are near. The tracks all fit well with their surroundings. However Konami are also clever enough to realise that in some situations the scariest tool in the box is complete silence, they use this method nicely to build suspense at key moments.
The monsters themselves all have a variety of freaky sounds when they move or attack. This coupled in with ambient effects, including something which sounds like an animal being tortured in one key location, were definitely enough to get under my skin and make me wander the dark surroundings to find the source of it.
Some sounds have been absent from the mix, but it seems as though a patch is being prepared to remedy these issues soon.
Now I'm going to take a guess here and say that some of the people buying this game will have never played Silent Hill before, so let us quickly run through the basics for those unfamiliar with this series.
Controls are broken down into to 2D and 3D type, 3D type is best compared to the tank style controls employed by Resident Evil, forwards is always forwards on the analog stick, left is always left etc, this is based where your character is currently facing. 2D type is different, in 2D type, left moves you to left of the screen, right to the right, down to the bottom etc. My personal preference is 3D I tried both options early and could only go in circles using 2D type and got frustrated, I switched to 3D and it was much better, I was able to orientate myself and move round the world with ease. For those of you familiar with tank style controls, you will probably prefer them like myself, but for players new to third person survival horror, you may prefer 2D. Here's a tip try it on the opening part of Silent Hill 2 as you will not encounter any enemies for about 5 minutes, this will give you a good chance to try both.
Combat in Silent Hill 2 follows the genre tend, you ready your weapon with an aiming function (mapped to the right trigger in the defaults controls) then press A to attack, in Silent Hill melee weapons will make up the bulk of your arsenal, while guns are available for you to use, their ammo is limited and you'll need to hang on to them for tough boss battles later. So get yourself into hoarding mode and save every last bullet you find. You can also press the X button while standing still, this allows you to block some attacks and if you do it right, you may come out unharmed, however bear in mind some attacks are unblockable. I personally chose to avoid battle where I could in the name of saving ammo, in the streets of town this was easy as the area is wide and allows a lot of room to outrun the monsters roaming around town.
Also you will need to have your thinking cap on for this game and keep a pen and paper handy to write down solutions to puzzles, some of these range from a simple code to riddles which you must interpret correctly to proceed. Also many of the codes are randomly generated each time, so bear this in mind on repeat attempts to solve some tougher puzzles.
Also keep your eyes pealed for first aid kits, health drinks and ampoules which are used to restore your health after battle. Finally we have the menu inventory screen, this shows everything you are carrying and your health, which is represented by a picture in picture in the top left, it's it's colour indicates your current health, green means you are unhurt, normal colour means you are hurt but not badly, finally we have red which indicates your character is near death.
I would rank this game as 8/10 - it is a highly enjoyable experience, however small bugs and glitches detract from the overall experience. If you can look past these faults and put aside your desire for astonishing graphics, you will have a blast. So go back to that special place in Silent Hill and experience it once more.