Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams
"In my restless dreams, I see that town... Silent Hill. You promised you'd take me there again some day... but you never did. Well, I'm alone there now in our special place... waiting for you."
Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams is such an exceptional product that its reputation has basically carried the subpar Silent Hill series through 4 games. This is one of those titles were everything works together flawlessly. The primary strength of the game is the storyline. Silent Hill 2 weaves a tale of harsh reality and horrible guilt. The brilliance of the story is that unlike other games that feature epic battles between good and evil, space monsters and marines, or magical creatures and wizards, the basis of SH2's story is centered around a terrible yet believable situation the average player may have experienced.
The presentation and atmosphere are almost equally impressive. If you could visualize and represent what it's like to go mad, Silent Hill 2 would be the blueprint. The artistic style takes mundane settings and transforms them subtly into oppressively unsettling venues. The locations aren't just elaborate haunted houses like your typical horror movie or game. The world of Silent Hill hits a discordant note with the human psyche. Ambient effects like the use of white noise over a radio, the scratchy film quality of the display, and the jerky, inhuman movements of the creatures that infest the game are all an unnerving gameplay experience.
I was also very impressed by the handful of supporting characters. Much like a good movie, the dialogue in the game produces many memorable quotes. Like the chilling opening of Mary's letter to James (see above). The crowning achievement though is the character of Maria, who virtually comes to life as she is developed throughout the story. The conflict between James and Maria is a relationship that is based in reality. For James, Maria represents a rebound from the loss of his wife, but Maria also represents just the wrong thing for him. It is a dilemma that most people have faced as they bounce between good and bad romances. The average game simply does not engage the player on that kind of emotional and intellectual level. It would be accurate to label this one of the few games aimed at adults in the non-sexual context of the word.
Silent Hill 2 is a brilliant game; one that I had in mind when I started this section of my webpage. It is fitting that it is the first game that I annoint as one of the great games of all time. It is more than just a game to experience, it is art.