A Breakdown of the Silent Hill 2 Announcement

Silent Hill Transmission, the big showcase for Konami’s return to their psychological survival horror series, has dropped, and there are many exciting reveals to cover. Some people seem disillusioned with the direction of a few of the announced titles, but I couldn’t be more excited for the future of the series. Celina, the pro horror gamer and variety streamer, presents the event alongside Konami producer Motoi Okamoto. Throughout the showcase, they’re joined, both in person and digitally, by those involved with the new Silent Hill projects. The entire transmission is beautifully presented, accompanied by haunting Silent Hill music and locations. I suggest giving it a watch if you haven’t already. Now, without further ado, let’s get into it!

The first trailer we see is of the rumored Silent Hill 2 remake. It presents a moody and emotional return to what many consider to be one of the best survival horror games of all time, if not the best. The trailer shows no gameplay, but the graphic style appears to be fairly realistic, though stylized enough to skirt the uncanny valley. Bloober Team has done a visually impressive job of updating the survival horror classic.

From what I’ve seen, it’s this remake trailer that is receiving the most flak from Silent Hill fans. There appear to be two chief arguments being made. The first is that the original is a classic that should not be touched, and the remake lacks the soul that made the game special. The second argument is against Bloober Team specifically, stating a poor track record of game releases. I disagree with both cases, and the next couple of paragraphs expound on why.

To the first point, the original Silent Hill 2 is a pinnacle of the survival horror genre that holds up exceptionally well 20 years after its release, and in no way does a remake affect its standing. If you want Silent Hill 2 untouched, then it is still there for you to enjoy. It’s the newness of the remake that makes it so exciting, and here is why. The original Silent Hill 2 is a surreal and psychological horror exploration of James Sunderland as he attempts to unravel the mystery of a letter from his deceased wife. His performance during the game only adds to the uncanny atmosphere. James is stoic, detached, and not nearly as rattled by the denizens of Silent Hill as one might expect. He also functions as an unreliable narrator throughout the story, yet still earns your trust. I love everything about it. However, 21 years later, fans know his past and expect the end game reveal. It’s because we understand his circumstances that Bloober Team can expand the depth of this character, potentially hitting emotional climaxes that the original didn’t, simply by virtue of the original’s framing. They could ask players to develop sympathy toward James by portraying him as miserable rather than lost and confused. Both versions of Silent Hill 2 may tell the same story from vastly different angles, which I find very interesting.

Speaking of Bloober Team, I don’t understand the aversion some people have. The Layers of Fear walking sim style of game isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but their 2022 release of The Medium is a worthwhile adventure that makes use of fixed cameras, a third-person perspective, and interesting puzzles. It even benefited from Silent Hill talent, Akira Yamaoka and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and features a creepy parallel reality. It’s one of the few modern survival horror titles that hearkens back to the “golden age” of the genre. Bloober Team’s focus on psychological horror and thick atmosphere (along with their strategic partnership with Konami) makes them a natural fit for a Silent Hill title.

Now, with those arguments out of the way, let us further examine what we learned about the Silent Hill 2 remake.

Masahiro Ito, the monster designer for the first three Silent Hill titles (and art director for 2 and 3) has returned as a concept artist. Ito’s method for designing monsters by twisting human likeness into disturbing reflections of symbolism contributes much to the series’s horrific tone. Considering how much love the first three Silent Hill titles received for their art direction, it’s exciting to see Ito returning to the franchise two decades after first birthing the Red Pyramid Thing.

Akira Yamaoka, the composer for every mainline Silent Hill game except Silent Hill: Downpour, has also returned. In a video message played during the showcase, Yamaoka discusses his happiness with Silent Hill 2, stating,

I was trying to create something new and unprecedented as a theme, even within the context of video games . . . I was searching for music, but I also remember that I was challenging myself in many ways. I felt that with this title, I could create a new kind of music. The fact that Silent Hill remains in everyone’s hearts more than 20 years later makes me very happy. I couldn’t be more proud.

Yamaoka goes on to say that the remake brings with it “new challenges” and a “new musical style” that both fans of the original and newcomers will be pleased with. He concludes by saying, “I hope to create something that will have the same impact as when Silent Hill 2 was first released.” Despite how horror fans may feel about the trajectory of the Silent Hill series in the past, it would be foolish to argue that Yamaoka isn’t a master at his craft. The sound he brings to the Silent Hill series, both achingly beautiful and deliciously dread-inducing, is enchanting.

Next up is a video from Bloober Team members, including creative director and lead designer Mateusz Lenart, CEO Peter Babieno, andlead producer Maciej Głomb, discuss their appreciation toward Silent Hill 2 and their approach toward developing the remake. The team stresses they are approaching the project with great respect to the original and with a desire to maintain the “unique Silent Hill atmosphere” by “working closely with original creators”. That said, the team goes on to state that “certain things need to be modernized” to meet player expectations. We learn that the camera perspective is shifting to an over-the-shoulder view in order to “immerse players into the game world as much as possible”. This is an interesting change from the often distant viewpoint of the original, as well as Bloober Team’s previous projects. It makes me wonder if they took notes from The Evil Within 2, one of the few open world survival horror games whose own small town of Union was itself influenced by Silent Hill. The video closes with Babieno’s assurance that “[our] goal is to recreate everything [that] made the game a timeless classic, but to give it a new form which will draw players even deeper into the foggy streets of Silent Hill.”

walking down the foggy streets of Silent Hill

It will be interesting to see how Bloober Team tackles the challenge of updating such a beloved game, but I trust their hearts are in the right place. Speaking of Bloober Team, Okamoto remarks, “Konami receives proposals for Silent Hill from teams around the world every year. They were the most passionate and you can see the love they have for the game.”

Wrapping up the Silent Hill 2 remake portion of the transmission, we see a video from Christian Svensson, Sony’s VP of Global Third Party Relations, giving congratulations and expressing excitement for the Silent Hill revival. We learn that the game will first release on PS5 and PC, and will remain exclusive to those platforms for at least 12 months. Everything we learn during this showcase excites me for the Silent Hill 2 remake, but we don’t get many gameplay details. Fortunately, in a new Playstation blog article, Okamoto expounds further on the project.

Okamoto opens the article by stating that “[when] it came to reviving Silent Hill, what we saw as most important was to do so together with those who love the series,” which reinforces my restored trust in the series. Okamoto then turns the explanation over to Bloober Team’s Lenart, who expands on what the new over-the-shoulder perspective means for Silent Hill 2. He states, “With that change we want to immerse players even deeper into the game, make them feel like they are a part of this unreal world, and deliver them a more visceral experience across the board.” Lenart goes on to say, “With a new perspective, we’re rebuilding the combat system and certain set-pieces . . . Now that you see basically what James can see, we could find new ways to keep the player on edge.”

The Silent Hill 2 remake features a rebuilt combat system

Lenart proceeds to point out the dramatic leap in technology between the 2001 original release and the remake. With “state-of-the-art motion capture sessions”, they’re able to “deliver the best facial expressions in the series’ history”. Since James’s expressions and raw emotion in the trailer were some of the first things that caught my attention, I love that it’s a focus for the team. Lenart also discusses the features permitted by the Unreal Engine 5 engine and PS5. These technologies include dynamic light and illumination and 3D audio capabilities. There is plenty more to a game than graphics and audio, but considering how much of the dread, emotion, and psychological horror in the original Silent Hill games are filtered and enhanced through light and audio, I expect the same attention to detail in the remake.

A bubble head nurse waits

As you can tell, I’m excited about the Silent Hill 2 remake, and for Silent Hill in general. At this moment, the only thing I wish I heard more about is the handling of the town’s fog. I hope Bloober Team pays as much attention to it as they do the rest of the audio-visuals, because Silent Hill’s fog is as much an antagonist as the creatures it hides. Only time will tell how successful the remake ends up, but I hope fans can appreciate the game as an earnest return to Silent Hill.

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