A letter from a dead wife…
I almost didn’t bother including a recommendation for Silent Hill- It’s praised so widely I doubt many people are unaware of it. But just in case it got lost in the flood of names going past, or anyone didn’t realise how much it stands out, well here we are.
Each Silent Hill game is a stand-alone tale for the most part, and although the first one was good it was still coming into its element a little; It was by the 2nd it really reached its stride.
The games have their own atmosphere and cosmology. But primarily, what Silent Hill 2 is is a simple well told scary story. Silent Hill 2 begins with James getting a letter from his wife, despite her having died of an illness several years earlier, telling him to come back to the town where they used to vacation… It’s a narrative that carries throughout the game, as he travels back to first the park where they’d spent time and then hotel that they used to stay in finally.
The Silent Hill series is that rarity in eerie stories: a horror with a completely new identity & aesthetic all of its own; a range of features that’d go on to be enthusiastically copied by multitudes of devotees’ products ever after.
In fact it’s had so many imitators it’s easy to forget just how fully-realised and resonant silent hill’s experience in its original package is…
The unique tone of the soundtrack, its rustic decayed-americana setting, surrealist writing, mist-churned streets, psychological storytales and its juddering forms are all familiar now to many- But they aren’t just thrown in as random window dressing. The team which created Silent Hill made four games before throwing in the towel (and the rights passed to numerous other teams to make their own imitations after, and awful movies), and it’s the vision and coherence of the whole package of these originals that make the Silent Hill stories so deep & compelling.
Silent Hill 2 came out 15 years ago now, and it’s an old-school game- slightly clunky controls (and voice acting that leaves a lot to be desired), it’s more about patient, atmospheric pacing rather than fast action. It’s available for PC, Playstation&Xbox. And it’s still an immersive and beautifully horrific story.