The genius of Silent Hill 2

Steve Williams explains his passion for the twisted town...

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It's no secret that Silent Hill has lost its way since the end days of PS2, but it is a surprise it was ever popular. Released by Konami even as its beautiful Metal Gear Solid series took over PlayStation, it offered fog, dodgy combat and a series of horrific stories the tabloids, in their ignorance, were falsely accusing other games of. Silent Hill 2, for instance, covered incest, euthanasia, sexual abuse, murder, suicide and madness. Hardly mainstream.

Yet it gets sequel after sequel, developer after developer - film after film - even though none of them seem to understand what made it great in the first place. There's been little innovation since The Room. Much is recycled.


Pyramid Head, for instance, was a manifestation of (SH2 main man) James Sunderland's sexuality. The creature's brilliance came from its place in that story, from what it represented and how it consequently behaved, and not from its look. Bringing it back for other characters, rather than creating new landscapes of hell from their own minds, is a basic misunderstanding. It's like deciding Jack from The Shining was popular and scary, and casting him in the latest SAW.

So Silent Hill 2 was a high point - not just for the series, but for games - but that's not to say there weren't other brilliant moments. The original may get overcomplicated as you get into the cult and its drug-dealing, demon-raising activities, but it's a masterpiece of mood and bravery. What other game makes you so underpowered you must run from your enemies? What other game offers motionless freaks you can creep past - probably - in the dark? What other game conditions you to fear the hiss of static from a radio?

And then, perhaps the coup de grace. Silent Hill 3 featured a female lead - Heather - who finds herself subject to one of the greatest headf*ck lines ever. For hours she bludgeons her way through a mall in some vision of shopping hell, when cult member Vincent turns up. They talk. She mentions the monsters.

"They look like monsters to you?" he says. Oh yes: Silent Hill is a special place indeed.

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