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  • Fear And Emotion In Silent Hill 2

    [01.26.12]
    - Demitrius James Pennebaker

  • Breakdown

    (Spoilers)

    The narrative in Silent Hill is a nightmarish play on common western notions of women and romantic relationships. In a short but sufficient setup, the narrative portrays its protagonist as a lovesick victim, still struggling to find consolation years after the unexpected death of his wife due to illness. Throughout act two, it becomes increasingly clear that James is in fact struggling with his own sanity. Near the ordeal at the end, our ideas about James' benevolence finally die. It appears that because he was tired of supporting his wife as she suffered from prolonged illness, James actually murdered his own wife, then repressed the memory (some elements here vary depending on which ending is achieved. This review deals with the previously mentioned ending).

    The narrative implies that James' repressed memories cause the hallucinatory manifestation of Silent Hill, possibly as self-torture or some other type of hell as punishment for his actions. In the end, Maria, Mary's doppelganger, reveals herself as the face of James's torment, and in fact the antagonist in the (in this case) final ordeal, represented by a third, grotesque form of Mary. Regardless of whether or not James survives the ordeal, the truth, his bitter elixir and reward, is that he is condemned to this rightful place in his own personalized hell. There will be no reunion with his wife, an idea that by this point seems absurd, and no return to the happy ordinary world which James himself destroyed three years ago.

    (End of spoilers)

    The designers segment narrative and gameplay in a traditional cut scene/gameplay/cut scene/gameplay/et cetera format. The story and plot successfully achieve their goals to intrigue the player long enough to give them some good psychological scares and emotional reactions. Of course, as in any good game, high quality design in multiple aspects supports immersion and emotional content. Sound effects, music, visual style and quality, gameplay, and narrative all come together to create an immersive entertainment experience. One could even argue that the clunky Resident Evil style controls added to the atmosphere of vulnerability and regular human-ness in a threatening environment. Obscured visibility, strange sounds, high quality original music, disturbing enemies, disturbed characters, and a slow and utterly human player character give the player a strong sense of fear and intrigue.

    Most importantly, Silent Hill 2 is effective at tugging on the player's emotions beyond just visceral fear. Players relate to the ‘normal guy's' tragic circumstance. They want to know what is really going on in this strange place. They want to believe that Maria really is Mary and that James will break through her façade and find a way to reunite. They are conflicted and sickened when a cut scene finally reveals that James killed his own faithful and humble wife.


    Strongest Element

    The strongest element that supports the emotional content in Silent Hill 2 is that a character other than the player character is the most interesting and arguably most important character in the game world. Maria and her relationship to Mary, is more intriguing than the all but blank ‘template' of a character that is James. His motivation to find, protect, and understand her is synonymous with finding comfort or closure to James' ongoing torment, and provides motivation comparable to the basic need for self-preservation. James illustrates this time and again when he dives into even greater danger in pursuit of these goals.

    Unsuccessful Element

    As with any game, Silent Hill 2 is not perfect. There are characters that seem disconnected from the core of the story. Angela Orosco and Eddie Dombrowski, two of the six in total, are more filler characters than supporting ones. Though their odd mannerisms are interesting and relevant to the theme, their backstories are apparently unrelated to the core narrative. They are successful if the goal is to create more somewhat interesting content, but unsuccessful if the goal is for them to be relevant additions to the narrative.

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