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SILENT HILL 2 (and why it’s still the scariest game ever made)

It’s difficult to scare a gamer who grew up on a diet of horror and gore movies as a teenager. Horror games have a tendency to focus on jump scares, blood and action than on tension and dread. Sure, Dead Space was scary. It made me jump a few times, in between bouts of being a one man wrecking machine blasting the limbs off anything that moved. Condemned had some real jump-out-of-your-seat moments (Locker Room, anyone?), and who can forget the exhilarating panic of being chased through the log cabin in its sequel? Alan Wake was scary for the first hour until you realised the game was just filled with the same easily killed nasties for its entire duration. Resident Evil 4 had the Alien style Right Hand sequence, pitting the player against a terrifying creature but ruining the experience with immersion breaking QTEs. Resident Evil 5’s only frightening aspects were Sheva’s AI, and the spectacularly stupid racial caricatures.

This is why playing Silent Hill 2 makes me sad. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s so good. It’s hard to believe that in almost a decade since its release, not one developer has managed to create a horror title with anywhere near the same level of primal, gut wrenching fear that this masterpiece instills in the player. One would think with the technical advances of today, devs would be able to enhance the medium’s ability to get under our skin and make us quiver like jelly on a washing machine. Not so. So why is it that Silent Hill 2, with its now dated graphics and clunky control scheme, is still by far the most terrifying game on the market today?

The reason is that it isn’t just scary, it’s deeply, intensely unsettling and disturbing. For ten hours, Silent Hill 2 worms its way into the player’s mind, rattling the psyche and bringing us face to face with our deepest, most primal fears. Death, sex, guilt, isolation, anger, disease… all are presented in subtle, terrifying ways that pry into the subconscious and unrelentingly distress the player on a profound level. The game is ingenious in its synergy, making the most of imagery, sound, a fantastic soundtrack and an emotionally charged story. Everything gels together wonderfully to create, in my opinion, the most atmospheric game created to this day – an astounding achievement given its age. Read the rest of this entry »


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