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“In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill. You promised you’d take me there again someday, but you never did. Well, I’m alone there now… in our special place… waiting for you…”

Silent Hill 2 came out on the PS2 about ten years ago, but I’ve just gotten to it now. It’s gooooood stuff. The game is widely regarded as one of the best games in the series, and in the entire survival horror genre. What makes the game special is the powerful atmosphere, mysterious plot, and psychological undertones.

The story begins when a man named James Sunderland arrives at Silent Hill, after receiving a letter from his wife (Mary) asking him to come see her. The only problem is… she died three years ago. Things only get more bizarre from there. It turns out Silent Hill is a deteriorated ghost town… with monsters lurking in the shadows! There are a few other mysterious people lost amidst the town as well, including a woman named Maria–who happens to look just like Mary. What’s going on here?

The mystery slowly unfolds as you explore the eerie, foggy streets and weathered, decrepit structures of the haunted town. Is Mary really alive? What is she doing here at Silent Hill? And what’s with all the monsters?

It turns out that this game is very psychological, and once you begin to realize the true reason James has come to Silent Hill, and the details of what really happened three years ago, everything starts to take on new meaning. Each of the creatures actually represents different things, and if you take the time to analyze the story’s recurring motifs and side character subplots, you can discover all sorts of interesting things about James’s psyche. The story’s presentation is quite intelligent, and using the medium of a video game, the reveals feel much more personal.

The atmosphere in this game is one of the best I’ve experienced in terms of sheer despondency. This is not what I’d call a fun game. It’s an experience designed to leave you unsettled. And to be honest, I wouldn’t even say Silent Hill is a particularly scary game–it’s just very… distressing. The monsters aren’t a constant presence, like in many other horror games, so their appearances have a bit more impact. And the protagonist is not exactly a top fighter, so it’s often a safer option to flee if the situation becomes too dire. Much of the game is spent just being worried about what may happen next, as either the ghostly silence or the unidentifiable background noises slowly begin to unnerve you. And in Silent Hill, everything is shadowed amidst the fog, broken furniture, and rusty scrap metal. For long periods of time, you will search the town for items to help you progress in the story, and you never know when you’ll run into another of the foul creatures roaming about aimlessly.

Such as Pyramid Head. This is easily one of the best antagonists I’ve seen in a video game, but to say why would be falling into spoiler territory. Suffice to say, this is one menacing figure you don’t want to mess with.

All in all, Silent Hill 2 is a really enjoyable video game experience–at least for those of you who like classic survival horror games. It’s certainly not a perfect game (eg there’s some pretty nonsensical puzzles, the combat controls are a bit clumsy, and the voice acting is probably mediocre at best), but what it does do right, it does really well. For a really immersive journey into a dark, foreboding world, give Silent Hill 2 a try! And if you have a PS3, it will be coming out soon with better graphics (along with Silent Hill 3). And speaking of Silent Hill 3, I’ll probably start playing that some time soon… :>