That Special Place. In Hell.
Konami continues their Month O’ Horror ™ with the much awaited release of the Silent Hill: HD Collection. Like its cousin the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection, this game is also missing a critical title, namely the original Silent Hill from the PS1 era, but fans of the series get Silent Hill 3 and, most important of all, Silent Hill 2, arguably one of the greatest survival horror games ever made. The question then becomes, if you’ve already got these two games, did Konami do enough with this collection to make it worth buying them again?
As to be expected for an HD collection, Hijinx Studios, the developer handling the porting duties, didn’t just cut n’ paste the original PS2 games onto discs for current generation consoles. Both games got the necessary increase in resolution for textures, as well as a nice boost to the frame rate that mostly remains super smooth for the majority of the games. One interesting thing to note is the occasional performance hitch, almost a pause or jerk in frame rate, that occasionally plagues the games—particularly in large areas—as the games stream in more data. On the whole however, this definitely looks sharper and plays smoother than the originals, although PS3 users should be made aware the collection actually has a mandatory 4 GB install. And then there is the biggest—and to some, most unwelcome—new feature that’s been added to the game; new voice acting. Voice acting in games today is at a higher standard than it was in 2001 and 2003 when the original titles were first released, so it’s fair to say there’s actually been an improvement. Delivery does feel more natural and more emotive, but strangely this comes at the cost of lip synching. The new dialog often falls out of synch with the lip movements of the characters during cut scenes, a problem that can be rectified in Silent Hill 2 by switching over to the original voice over work, at which point everything is still properly synched. Unfortunately, no such option exists for Silent Hill 3, which means that this is something people will have to accept.
Aside from those additions, this is simply the two games we’ve come to know and even fear to some degree. Early owners of the PS2 version might be happy to know that the version of Silent Hill 2 included here is actually the Restless Dreams aka Director’s Cut/Greatest Hits edition that includes the sub-scenario, Born from a Wish. It’s too bad that’s the only thing that made it over from those editions of the game. The original editions also included bonus “making of” materials that would have been a perfect fit for an HD collection celebrating the series, but Konami didn’t feel it was necessary to include any ancillary material this time for the fans. Another nice edition, especially when considering the passing of the years, would have been Silent Hill 4: The Room. While it’s not as rare as something like Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, it has historical value of sorts for fans of the series, much in the same way as Konami included the original MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 in in the MGS collection as curiosities, so too would Silent Hill have benefited from a chance for less familiar gamers to access an interesting but problematic entry in the series that is often cited as the point where the series started to lose its way. It would also go some way towards getting more money-minded gamers to get away from the idea “I’m paying $20 each for two last gen games.”
So is this worth the $40 that the collection is currently going for in stores? For fans, it’s still an iffy proposition. On the one hand, these games have never looked better on a console, and of course, they benefit from a proper widescreen aspect ratio, the addition of trophies/achievements, and the increased technical performance. On the other hand, the games are devoid of extras, and in the case of Silent Hill 3, the new, sloppily edited voice acting falls out synch with the lip movements. And of course some purists may not be able to accept the new voice acting at all. If, however, you’ve tried playing these games in their original format on a modern television, you know how blurry they end up looking, so the new coat of HD paint for one of the greatest horror games ever made might be enough to justify the purchase.
There are better HD collections out there that really show how it’s done, such as Konami’s own Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection and Sony’s outstanding Sly Cooper Collection that add new content or bring in materials from other platforms, instead of just sharpening up a game. Of course for desperate Silent Hill fans, there’s really no choice; it’s out in HD, it looks good and still sounds as spectacularly disturbing as ever. For people that were hoping this would be a reverential, almost archival treatment of the franchise in the vein of a Criterion Collection film, prepare for disappointment.