Silent Hill Remastered (Or How to Revive Classics Just to Kill Them)

The remastering of classic games is often the source of a great deal of excitement for fans of the original games and newcomers alike. For devoted fans, it’s a chance to replay beloved games in high-definition, and, for newcomers, it’s the opportunity to finally play lauded games on more readily accessible consoles. Two prime examples of remastered collections include the God of War: Collection (featuring God of War I and II) and the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (featuring Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and Peace Walker), both of which were widely celebrated for their enhancing of the original games’ resolutions to 720p, while maintaining smooth frame rates and leaving game mechanics and stories unchanged.

Following the success of such collections, game developer Konami decided to follow the trend and remaster two of their own classic games: Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3. While the decision was met with some confusion — much of which surrounded the absence of the first Silent Hill despite its popularity and relevance to the plot of the third game — there was still an air of hope for many. After all, the possibility of seeing the Silent Hill universe’s trademark haunting atmospheres, terrifying monsters, and unsettling textures in HD was a truly thrilling one.

Tragically, however, this hope was unceremoniously extinguished upon the collection’s release, with bewildered fans finding the remastered games to be a host of terrible and often baffling problems that affected their visuals, audio, and gameplay.

Where fans expected elevated visuals, they found only poorly rendered messes. Much of this stemmed from the fact that Konami’s Hijinx Studio chose to use incomplete source codes for Silent Hill 2 and 3 (as Konami had somehow lost the final source codes) for the games’ remastering, rather than simply reverse-engineering the retail data of the original games from discs, as was done for the other previously mentioned remastered games.

http://i.imgur.com/MwAvM.jpg?1?4003

(Left) A screenshot from the original Silent Hill 2, & (right) a screenshot from the HD Collection, in which the wave textures were kept, while the fog texture was removed.

Beyond resulting in several bad, polygon-laden tragedies, the alterations caused by the poor debugging and remastering also dealt a considerable blow to the atmosphere for which the Silent Hill series has become so famous. For some reason, developers chose to often remove the heavy fog that swallows much of the games’ settings, thus removing the otherworldly and isolating feeling the fog created. Likewise, the grungy, disgusting textures prevalent throughout the games were removed (with roads and walls appearing remarkably clean for a decaying nightmarescape) and an odd blur texture was added to many cut scenes.

http://static.giantbomb.com/uploads/original/5/59825/2161232-AXKvz.jpg(Top) A screenshot from the original Silent Hill 2, and (bottom) a screenshot from the remastered version, with “clean” textures, a stretched ratio, and oddly muted colors.

While some horror was removed by the odd design choices, new, unintentional horrors were added through mixed-up textures, such as the now-infamous “teeth eye,” which is better seen than explained.

http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130914160942/silent/images/4/45/Maria_eyes.pngIn terms of audio, the remastered games did not fare any better. Strange choices were made in terms of the music, with the acoustic guitar in the opening scene’s song being replaced with an electric guitar, musical pitches being altered, and various songs stuttering at their loop points. Even more baffling is the fact that some sound effects were jumbled, with the sound of footsteps playing when there should have been the blast of a fog horn, and the sound of one character’s footsteps on metal grating being replaced with the sound of a loudly clattering gate to an obnoxious and distracting effect. Most criticized, however, was the fact that, because the developers chose to record new voice-overs, the new actors struggled to match the lip movements of the characters and the dialogue audio was often disastrously out-of-sync.

Even in terms of story and gameplay the remastered games were not safe, so marred were they by bizarre alterations and glitches. In particular, a strange two-second fade from black was laid over every custcene, resulting in the beginning of each scene being replaced by blackness (and also resulting in the complete invisibility of a particularly short scene). This fade from black is also present every time that the player exits their menu screen, resulting in two seconds of complete vulnerability if the player paused during a fight scene. Also jarring is the degree to which the game often lags, with characters often moving so slowly that parts of the game are nearly unplayable and combat feels impossible. Other issues include glitches in which, randomly, the player may walk through a doorway and find themselves in a black abyss, scenery disappears, and objects constantly clip into one another.

Overall, Konami’s usage of incomplete source codes in its remastering technique, the developers’ bizarre artistic revisions, and the wide variety of overlooked errors and glitches resulted in a product that not only devastated fans, but garnered a great deal of poor press for the company. One reviewer stated that, “incomplete, glitchy, and visually degraded, Silent Hill HD Collection is Konami’s greatest insult to the series,” while another warned that “unless you want to experience a butchered version of Silent Hill 2 and a somewhat decent Silent Hill 3, don’t buy this collection” (Sterling) (Sheard). And, though plenty of reviewers gave the collection lukewarm reviews, the fans maintained a notable animosity towards the remastered games and the developer of the original games, Masahiro Ito, sent out a series of upset and critical tweets. Even with patches (most of which are inefficient), the damage of the Silent Hill HD Collection was done and many fans came away with the feeling that Konami had long since stopped caring about one of its most influential creations and the people who loved them.

Sources:

Sheard, Dominic. “Silent Hill: HD Collection.Dark Zero 27 Apr. 2012. Web. <http://darkzero.co.uk/game-reviews/silent-hill-hd-collection-xbox-360/>.
Sterling, Jim. “Review: Silent Hill HD Collection.” Destructoid. 24 Mar. 2012. Web. <http://www.destructoid.com/review-silent-hill-hd-collection-224478.phtml>.
Twin Perfect. “Silent Hill HD Collection Review Part 1 (TRSHE 14a).” Online video. YouTube. Youtube, 4 Sept. 2012. Web.

Twin Perfect. “Silent Hill HD Collection Review Part 2 (TRSHE 14a).” Online video. YouTube. Youtube, 4 Sept. 2012. Web.

  4 comments for “Silent Hill Remastered (Or How to Revive Classics Just to Kill Them)

  1. isolemnlyswear
    January 30, 2015 at 3:23 am

    I’ve never played any of the Silent Hill games but have seen multiple let’s plays of the game. The changes you outlined are very distinct and I agree that it takes away major elements from the original games. Maybe the developers weren’t concerned with the remastered game because of other games they were making. It might be because of the idea that fans might not buy the remastered game if they have the previous one, but I agree that they should have payed more attention to the development of the remastered game. Overall, I like how you went through each element of the older games in comparison to the remastered one to argue your points.

  2. kokopelli11
    February 13, 2015 at 1:22 am

    I have played through part of Silent Hill 2 a long time ago, and have recently seen a let’s play of the original version of the game. Based on the screenshots from the game and the video sources you provided, I can agree with your assertion that Konami made unfortunate decisions concerning the visuals and programming when remastering Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3. In my opinion, I don’t think the company spent as much time on remastering these games as they should have, possibly because Konami released two new games in the Silent Hill franchise in the same year as the release of the remastered games. The company could have put all of their energy into Silent Hill: Downpour and Silent Hill: Book of Memories in hopes that they would bring more fans to the Silent Hill franchise while Silent Hill: HD Collection was ignored due to fans already owning the games. In the end, I find the argument of the article to be appropriate when criticizing the company, especially when the critique is supported by such strong gameplay visuals like the “cleaned” textures.

  3. silver
    February 27, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Although I’ve never played through a Silent Hill game, I know the pain or dread that comes with a re-make. Fans are often left wondering how the game will translate onto a new console, or what (if anything) will the developers add to the game. Oftentimes a remake is justified with “newer better graphics!” or “new cut scenes and plot!”, but whether or not these promises are carried out vary. It says a lot about a companies feelings toward a game when a remake is left with less to be desired. What makes a company popular is its history with games they developed. A remake is a way to “replay” the history of a company, but if the replay is no good, then the history is left marred. Players with no history with the company have no way of knowing how beautiful the original was if the remake destroys all semblance of beauty. A company can only continue if it brings new players to the field, so a faulty remake that insults players of the original and deters possible new players will only receive a scar on the name of the company. I must agree that oftentimes the company destroys a game in the attempts to revive it, and must improve upon the set standards of the game while keeping the fundamentals that made the original popular enough to remake it in the first place.

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