How Silent Hill 2 revolutionized horror storytelling

How Silent Hill 2 revolutionized horror storytelling

“ In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill. You promised me you'd take me there again someday. But you never did. Well, I'm alone there now. ”

2022 has been a very, very important year for the entire video game industry. Between big arrivals and innovations capable of bringing many small revolutions to a constantly evolving market, there have been announcements capable of striking and exciting thousands of players all over the world. After so many years of waiting, the news that everyone was waiting for has finally arrived: Silent Hill is about to return, this time for real.

Moreover, we haven't been back to that city since March 2012, so many emotions he gave above all to longtime enthusiasts. If with P.T. we had hoped to be able to relive those unrepeatable sensations, the cancellation of the project seemed to have marked the definitive death of a legendary franchise, but which by then no longer had much to say... Until recently.

Among the many announcements of the last October, we also find what all the fans have been wanting for years and years: the remake of Silent Hill 2 , perhaps the most important title of the entire saga. What we want to do today is very simple, and starts from a step back to the middle of the nineties. From there we will analyze how and how much Silent Hill 2 has, in all respects, revolutionized horror storytelling.

Telling the horror, in a whole new way.

It was 1992 when the world knew the first chapter of Alone in the Dark , a saga unfortunately disappeared from the radar but which had the merit of starting that vein so extraordinarily rich in facets which is survival horror. In the opinion of many, the genre was born even ten years earlier with 3D Monster Maze, which in effect defined a scheme that will form the basis for this type of experience: the player finds himself having to rely solely and exclusively on himself to escape and survive the more disparate dangers.

Alone in the Dark took everything to an even higher level, managing to involve the player through… An ever more faithful reconstruction of true, pure terror. The possibility of carrying out actions that went beyond simple escape, being able to count on weapons and tricks of various kinds to save one's skin, represented the real keystone: in short, the survival horror genre had all the potential to equal the films that decades thrilled viewers around the world.

In 1996, then, a another twist. Capcom releases Resident Evil, and the video game world will never be the same again. We're talking about a franchise that, despite the ups and downs it has certainly gone through over the years, has managed to enter the collective imagination and leave an indelible mark on popular culture. And not just in the gaming industry.

Chris and Jill's adventure was a fundamental crossroads in the continuous evolution process of survival horror, which led insiders to try to push everything even further: net of the big steps forward, what more could have been done? In January 1999 the first chapter of Silent Hill arrived on the market, which to be honest followed many of the characteristics that had made Resident Evil an almost unique product of its kind. However, there was something different: the public found themselves in their hands a work with an atmosphere never seen before.

Something sensational born, moreover, almost completely by chance. Did you know that the famous fog that envelops the town actually arises from a purely technical necessity? In order not to exaggerate the hardware of the first PlayStation, Konami developers decided to introduce it into the game environments to make them easier to process. The end result is an element that enriches that atmosphere we have just referred to, which combined with a top-level soundtrack (thanks to master Akira Yamaoka, but we will come back to this later) brought the public a new experience from many points of view.

However, the real radical change comes with the new millennium: the team working on the saga decides to further raise the bar, being able to count on the much more powerful PlayStation 2 for an even more refined technical sector. It is 2001, a year that sees masterpieces such as the first Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 2 and GTA 3. However, the world of video games was about to be shocked by another new revolution: Silent Hill 2.

The return to the foggy and dark town, however, takes place in a completely unexpected way, starting from a basic concept that it goes to upset and not just what had been the previous work.

Here we will take on the role of James Sunderland, who arrived in Silent Hill after receiving an inexplicable letter from his wife Mary Shepherd. A letter inviting him to go to the place where years ago they built so many beautiful memories together and where Mary, who died three years earlier, claims to be. So it all begins with a first great mystery, on a journey that will forever change the way horror is told in the world of video games.

Silent Hill 2: a necessary return?

Discovering little by little the Silent Hill of the second chapter, our protagonist will get to know some truly unique characters. Central will be the role of Mary, a sort of doppelganger of James's wife: the woman appears in fact with a totally opposite character to Mary, and towards the end of the adventure we will be able to discover and understand the nature of this character.

It is essentially a reflection inherent in the psyche of James himself, who has always wanted in his heart to have a person like this by his side. An aspiration, his, which led him to make an extreme gesture such as the murder of his soul mate: in short, the horror narrated in this game must be perceived from a very psychological point of view.

Silent Hill 2 leads us to dig deep into the mind of the protagonist, investigating the thousand facets of the complex human mind. The attempt to overcome a mourning, trying to hide what is the origin of a pain of this type: all issues that are not easy to narrate and explain in the correct way, but the work signed by Konami manages to do it more than excellently.

The city itself becomes to all intents and purposes a narrative tool, managing to convey a sense of anguish thanks to a truly impressive level of detail for the times. The aforementioned fog, combined with a geography designed specifically to create gloomy and claustrophobic environments, accompanies James in an unprecedented and labyrinthine mental loop. The locations manage, in a very singular way, to communicate this sense of anxiety even on a mental level.

Another element that creates the perfect atmosphere is the aforementioned soundtrack, with which Akira Yamaoka has created something more than just musical accompaniment. Seeing every action marked by the right note at the right time is what makes Silent Hill 2 a unique experience, where even the audio sector is functional to the narrative. From every single point of view. We have already talked about the role of music in videogames several times, and there are titles that thanks to it are able to communicate very specific sensations: in this case fear, fear, anxiety but at times even an apparent calm before the tempest.

A restoration operation of a similar work must inevitably be treated with great, great care. We're talking about a masterpiece that can thus be (re)discovered by new generations of players, while managing to elicit a smile and a few more emotions from longtime fans. In a perfect world, Konami would retrace what Capcom did with Resident Evil: a slow but constant process of renewal of a saga that, on balance, still has a lot to say.

Only time will tell if we will see, with this remake, a new revolution in the world of survival horror. Just as, more than two decades ago, the original managed to leave an indelible and unprecedented mark. The word now passes to you: tell us your personal experience with Silent Hill 2 and, above all, tell us your opinion on how this great return can really (or not) revive a franchise that absolutely needs it.

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