HD Collections are always particularly exciting for me because they usually contain two or three games from a series that I had not previously played. I was not part of the heyday of PlayStation and PlayStation 2, as I was solely a PC gamer at the time, getting back to consoles around 2004. Anyway, done right, HD Collections are a great way to experience classic games for the first or dozenth time. Additionally, for the most part, publishers take their HD Collections (or any re-release for that matter) seriously, and with pride. That was true for the Konami published Metal Gear Solid HD Collection from a few months ago, but their recently released Silent Hill HD Collection leaves an awful lot to be desired.
The visual difference is significant, but it can’t overshadow the problems…
The Silent Hill HD Collection (SHHDC) contains two games: Silent Hill 2 (I don’t think it’s the Restless Dreams version, but I could be wrong), and Silent Hill 3. The first Silent Hill was released on the original PlayStation, so while I don’t have official confirmation on this, I presume it was left out because HD-ifying something that old likely poses a major, cash-draining challenge. SH2 is considered to not only be the best in the series to date, but also one of the best horror games of all time, so adding it is a no-brainer. SH3 is a sequel to the original in that it involves Harry Mason’s daughter, and adding it makes plenty of sense as well. What’s really too bad and frankly disappointing is that they stopped their. Hijinx Studios, responsible for the HD ports, could have added Silent Hill 4: The Room, Silent Hill: Origins, or Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. All three games were released on PlayStation 2 (as well as other platforms). Naturally, adding all of these would have taken a lot of time and bumped the price of the release up, but I think fans would have been more than happy to pay for that if they were done right.
All that and more I’m afraid.
While it feels like a missed opportunity, having HD versions of just SH2 and SH3 is a pretty sweet thing in itself. Having only ever played the original Silent Hill and the newest one, Downpour, I was excited to experience these older classics. I did not make sufficient time to play the original versions before jumping into these HD ones though, despite planning too for a few months. That said, I knew I wasn’t able to appreciate this HD collection to the fullest. However, as I switched back and forth between the two games, chipping away at the story of each, I noticed several technical issues that I thought were too surprising to have just been part of the original games. At the very least, I would have thought that if they were somehow from the original games, that Hijinx would have cleaned these up in the process.
The first major snag I noticed was the slowdown that occurs in SH3, which seemed to occur most often when I was running in an area with one or more monsters. I don’t know the exact formula for what causes these ‘running through water’ moments, and at first I almost thought it was just a part of the original game, a strange attempt to add atmosphere to the game by making it feel like you were running in a dream. But, in reading online fan sites like the Silent Hill Historical Society, who not only know more about the franchise than I ever will, but also posted a superb review of the HDC, it’s clear that this issue is one of many stemming from the HDC. I noticed audio dropping out and the looping problem with the radio (making it more of an irritant than a catalyst to the unsetting atmosphere), but I was shocked to learn that certain parts of the original audio recording were flat out missing, amongst a variety of other flaws. In SH2, several scenes were actually altered and censored from the original, I suppose to avoid some kind of backlash or a AO ESRB rating or something. Regardless why, it’s a punch in the gut to franchise fans who were wanting a quality HD-ification of these originals.
Good to know!
On the positive side of things, the graphics are technically improved, that much is clear. From what I have read (as I have not played the original games), it looks like Hijinx may have gotten a little liberal with the artistic freedom and actually pushed out the fog in SH2, giving the player more visible area. They probably thought that less of the murky fog would make the experience more appealing, but it gives the player too much of a viewing distance and that spoils some sequences that would have otherwise been more intense if your visibility were more limited. I think they did a pretty good job with the textures, though, as you can see in the comparison screenshots in this review. That certainly goes a long way, but in the face of the technical flaws and content alterations, it doesn’t mean that much.
By this point I was already planning on getting to a good stopping point with these games and hunting down original PS2 versions on eBay or my local game stores. From the amount I had played, and the praise I had heard and read over the years for these games, it wasn’t worth wasting what might be my only play-through on ports riddled with issues.