Silent Hill 2 picks up the pulse from where its predecessor left off with a new adventure and a new cast. The tone is set by the camera work and grainy 8mm style graphics. You immediately find yourself in a rundown WC next to a dank, foggy lake at the entrance to the enshrouded town of Silent Hill. New characters include Maria who James meets early on. She looks disturbingly like his dead wife and seems to know more than she lets on. There is also Laura, a small mischievous girl, and a fat college boy with a penchant for vomit and guns.
The outside locations inevitably lead to claustrophobic interiors with hideously detailed backgrounds of almost-impenetrable darkness where the bulb of one flashlight is Sunderland's only visual aid. Footsteps and scraping noises emanate from corners and Silent Hill's alternate reality spells undreamed of danger for James.
The settings ooze decadence and decay: blood stained walls and grime covered furniture are commonplace amongst the derelict buildings (these include a Prison, a Mental Institution and a dilapidated Apartment Block). The visuals are punctuated with pulsating grinding, scraping and mind piercing noises which will have you trembling at the very thought of opening your eyes let alone exploring the next room.
The creatures that confront you in Silent Hill 2 are some of the most horrifically grotesque creations ever to grace a console. The first glimpse of one of these graphically twisted monsters is enough to have you racing for the nearest toilet. The barely humanoid mutilated messes stagger about spewing clouds of toxic mucal phlegm from their sliced glistening torsos.
The lighting and skewed camera angles add a crucial dimension to the atmosphere of the game. James wanders about the town, which is already murky as a stagnant pool of God knows what, with only a flashlight attached to his lapel, a revolver and a lump of wood with bent rusty nails protruding from the end. The half-light of the torch provides an excellent base for the creation of anxiety and sheer terror. It's almost pointless against the impenetrable darkness, but it's enough to make out the oncoming outline of an emaciated nurse or a fused body boasting two sets of legs.
Game play hinges on the atmosphere and the ability the game has to keep you playing even in the most disturbing of circumstances. It combines a mixture of survival and puzzle elements to please the sickest of minds. Be careful though, you may have shot down the foul demons that stray in your path, but be sure they're dead or they'll splutter into life and scurry around your legs like some kind of rotted dog.
Sometimes shocking, sometimes unnerving, always gripping, no other Playstation game has melded such an immersive game, such atmospheric scenery and characters, with utter behind-the-sofa tension in to such a psychological thriller.
Relax - you've got till November 23rd to wait. Rest assured this is going to be the scariest Halloween of your life...
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