Report filed by nur_ein_tier • Mar 26th, 2012
Well, March is almost over. A lot of us had been waiting years for the releases that came out earlier this month. I’ll admit that I was worried about Downpour. Really worried. Once I played through it, it wasn’t half bad. There were a lot of good things about it, as I mentioned in my review. However, the openness of some of it felt messy (this wasn’t the intent, I’m sure, but playing through, it struck me as chaotic), there were framerate issues, and the save system and combat were terrible. But overall, I am calling Downpour a success because I did have fun playing it. No, it wasn’t the same as playing Silent Hill 2, but if you want that, you should play Silent Hill 2 (more on that later). And while the outdoor areas look really awesome, some of the indoor areas (hotel, apartments) left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. I thought the sound was generally good, and sound has always played such a major role in Silent Hill. That’s why everyone was freaking out because of someone other than Yamaoka doing the music. While I enjoyed the game, I also found it to be deeply flawed. It’s as if there is potential for greatness there, but it just wasn’t fully realized.
Which brings us to the Silent Hill HD Collection. Silent Hill 2 and 3 are beloved among fans, critically acclaimed, and just very enjoyable games. How on earth could anyone go and fuck it up? Well, I’ll tell you…
I can understand the delays now, and they should have been delayed a few more years to work through all the problems. There were also a ton of really questionable decisions made here. The sound effects, which were a big part of the Silent Hill atmosphere, were pretty much ruined in a lot of parts. They sounded worse, they were looped poorly with obvious seams, and some were even missing. Some of the music was also changed. And then there is the visuals. There were really bizarre glitches in both games, like things changing colors and melting. Some textures were changed for seemingly no reason. Others were obviously changed because it’s HD and they needed higher-res textures, which is fine, except for the fact that the new versions were so different. The most glaring example are the streets. Silent Hill is supposed to be grimy and yucky looking, and it seems bizarre to have these clean, freshly-paved streets in it.
What’s the big deal about changing textures?, you might ask. Well, I think it comes down to what the original team wanted when they designed the game. Making Silent Hill look all neat and clean is completely changing the whole intent of the original’s art direction. And if you watch or read any old interview or watch the Making Of videos, you will understand that they did have a specific creative vision for the look and feel of Silent Hill. That vision didn’t include fresh asphalt on the streets, among other things. So that does bother me quite a bit, because it amounts to changing the overall feel of the environments. And there is a glitch that causes the hanging bodies to disappear from pyramid head’s lair in the labyrinth level.
Silent Hill 2 was designed to look good on the PS2. I remember this well, because it’s the reason I bought a PS2 console. And when you were used to playing SH1 on a PS1, boy did it look beautiful. I clearly remember this game blowing my mind. And remember that this was on a PS2, SDTV, and more than ten years ago. The fog was specifically designed to look awesome as well as to hide the edges of the game map and soften the look of things like the water. And it succeeded.
My memory’s a bit hazy on this, but I know that the first few PS3 consoles released that had smaller hard drives did actually support PS2 games. I didn’t feel the need to buy a PS3 yet at the time, so I held out and bought a 160 Gig slim later. The PS2 had a CPU called the Emotion Engine. This was largely responsible for making the PS2 games look and work so much better than the original console. The early PS3s had it, but it was removed shortly after to cut costs. The problem is that without the Emotion Engine, there is no backwards compatibility and there was no software included on the PS3 to emulate it. (Note: You’ll notice I am ignoring Xbox completely, and that’s because I don’t have one.) That’s why, when you go the the PSN store, there are very few titles in the “PS2 Classics” section: because they need to be completely reworked to work at all on the PS3. And that’s why there’s no SH2, SH3, or SH4 there. And that’s probably why they couldn’t get the fog to look right in the HD Collection.
I would’ve preferred they just reworked the games in whatever way to make them compatible and then rereleased them for download on PS3 and Xbox, but it seems they thought it was a better idea to jump on the HD Collections bandwagon and release 2 and 3 that way. And if it had been done right, I would have agreed. I’m used to playing on PC, so I am used to crisper textures; but stuff does look murkier on PS2 and Xbox. With a proper HD release, everyone would win. Of course, the one we got was not quite a proper one… And that’s why Amazon has stopped selling it, because it’s too broken and there were too many complaints/returns.
Meanwhile, Book of Memories has been delayed until the end of May and/or indefinitely, so perhaps they’re working through issues with that. Hopefully, it will at least play properly, but I can only imagine that there is so much bad press right now due the to HD Collection, that releasing any Silent Hill stuff at the moment would be a bad choice commercially, anyway. And despite many positive reviews for Downpour, the month does seem to be ending on a sour note for the franchise in general. Hopefully they will pull things together to get all this sorted out soon.