Silent Hill 3 Hd Collection Comparison Essay

In an era where backwards compatibility has either been completely abandoned or stripped away via revised hardware, HD remasters make for an excellent alternative: why not take the games of yesteryear, port them over to current-generation consoles and make the most of precision high-definition visuals, higher frame-rates, cleaner artwork and improved texture filtering? In titles such as the God of War and Metal Gear Solid HD remasters, we've seen how, with careful nurturing, original PS2-era artwork can shine when rendered in high definition.

There's no reason why the Silent Hill HD Collection couldn't have joined the ranks of those highly acclaimed titles, but unfortunately it's a deeply disappointing release - and the game's fanbase is not happy at all. There's actually an argument that the first game in the collection - Silent Hill 2 - has its unique atmosphere diminished in the transition to high definition. This is a game that is defined by its lo-fi visuals, where detail that isn't obscured by the thick, murky darkness is blended away to certain extent by an intentionally aggressive grain filter.

The original artists at Konami would have built their artwork around this presentation, and the net result is that the HD version is unintentionally compromised as a result - the lack of texture detail in some areas becomes over-exposed in a way that was never intended by Konami's artists, and the game has a pin-sharp, pristine look entirely at odds with the ambience generated by the original release. Elsewhere, other effects (such as water) look fundamentally broken.

Just as bad - if not worse - is the way in which the game's fog effects have been handled in both Xbox 360 and PlayStation versions of the HD Collection. Thin, wispy and insubstantial as opposed to thick and cloying, the look of the outdoor scenes is fundamentally transformed, with far-off detail that should never have been seen now painfully visible. It's almost as though complete layers of fog are now omitted from the overall presentation, meaning that the sense of real volume to the effect is now fundamentally lacking.

To illustrate the complaints levelled at the work, here's how the Xbox 360 version of the game compares up against the original PlayStation 2 version running on a PS3 via full backwards-compatibility. A PS3 mirror of the video is also available, as well as a head-to-head of the two HD remasters - not that there's actually much to tell them apart in terms of image quality.

"Silent Hill 2 is a rare example of an HD remaster that is actually less satisfying to play than the original PlayStation 2 version of the game."

At a basic level, conversion-smith Hijinx has opened out the field of view to accommodate a 16:9 presentation, and used original PS2 artwork assets in their entirety - little or no work appears to have been carried out to ensure they look good when rendered in HD. Aside from typography and UI elements, there is very little evidence that there has actually been any kind of actual "remastering" of original artwork at all - a far cry from the kind of extensive touch-up work carried out, for example, by Just Add Water with its superb Stranger's Wrath HD. Indeed, sometimes we get the impression that textures are actually being omitted - for example, the ground frequently looks bare compared to the PS2 game.

The original Silent Hill games ran on hardware that didn't enjoy the benefits of hardware anti-aliasing and it appears that Hijinx hasn't made any effort to introduce it here. Resolution is confirmed at native 720p, but there's no evidence of any edge-smoothing as such. It's more than a little disappointing when directly compared with Bluepoint's work on the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, where both MGS2 and its sequel flowed smoothly at 60 frames per second with multi-sampling anti-aliasing adding greatly to the quality of the overall presentation.

Another disappointment concerns the video cinematics. Hijinx appears to have had no access to high-quality assets, so clumsy upscaling has been performed on the original videos, and in the process the aspect ratio has been shot to hell - expanded sideways in order to fill the 16:9 screen. These FMVs segued into gameplay almost perfectly in the original PS2 title, but the jump from muggy, badly blown-up video to ultra-pristine HD is very jarring on 360 and PS3.

Where there has been a genuine attempt to refresh the game is in the inclusion of new voice acting, re-recorded from scratch with new talent for both Silent Hill 2 and its sequel. Opinion is somewhat divided on which version is best, but the good news is that Silent Hill 2 offers players the choice between both renditions.

Bizarrely, the same choice is not afforded to players of the remastered Silent Hill 3, where only the re-recorded voices are an option. It's a frustrating inconsistency between the two games and an inexplicable decision certain to annoy the Silent Hill fanbase. It's a shame because, in a great many other respects, the HD version of Silent Hill 3 works rather well. Konami significantly upgraded the engine in the original game, allowing for higher-quality models, improved animation and more detailed artwork.

Freed from the resolution constraints of the original hardware, the artwork has much more room to breathe and often looks quite impressive running at native 720p. While the remastering work is as basic as it is in Silent Hill 2, there's never really the sense that the original vision of the developer is being compromised - the thick grain filter of the previous game is gone, for example, and while the fog implementation remains an issue, the fact is that it is deployed in far fewer situations in the sequel and isn't a fundamental element of the game's visual make-up this time around.

Here's how Silent Hill 3 looks compared between the original PS2 game and its PS3 counterpart. As with the previous comparison we also have an Xbox 360 version, plus an HD Collection head-to-head.

"With Silent Hill 3, Konami significantly upgraded the engine, allowing for higher-quality models, improved animation and more detailed artwork, leading to a more successful HD port."

Performance is an area in which the Silent Hill HD Collection has also received plenty of criticism, specifically from PlayStation 3 owners. The original PS2 titles operated with a 30 frames-per-second cap but were prone to dropping frames. However, in our tests the Xbox 360 version acquitted itself well, adhering to the same 30FPS limit as the original game and providing an absolutely rock-solid level of performance throughout.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the PlayStation 3 game. Similar to the other versions, v-sync is engaged but, for reasons unknown, frame-rate is completely unlocked. This results in a wildly varying performance level that changes at any given point - frames rendering either at 16.67ms or at 33.33ms, providing an inconsistent experience. Adding to the problem is the 4GB HDD install (yes, a mandatory install for two PS2 ports). Remarkably, reading in data from the hard drive appears to impact frame-rate during gameplay, resulting in a perceptible dip in performance when background assets appear to be streaming into memory.

The result is that while average frame-rates are at their highest on PlayStation 3, the experience is deeply unsatisfactory, manifesting as a near-constant judder with many annoying pauses - something that is completely alien to original Silent Hill gameplay.

One of the more curious elements behind the Silent Hill controversy is the delay in fixing issues brought to light by the gaming community. Remarkably, there's already been a patch for the US PlayStation 3 version, which apparently does very little at all (our UK version hasn't asked to be updated thus far) and, certainly, the notion of introducing a frame-rate cap shouldn't be too difficult - after all, it's already present on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

"An unlocked frame-rate in combination with frequent stutter makes PS3 performance jarring and inconsistent. The games feel worse to play than the PlayStation 2 originals."

The real question though is just how nobody at Hijinx HQ noticed this glaring difference between the two SKUs before gold masters were sent off. It's also equally difficult to imagine how most of the other glaring bugs made it through the quality control mechanisms of both Konami and the platform holders. It boggles the mind how the PS3 version's hard-drive-induced frame-rate drops, along with sections of out-of-sync audio, could have made their way into the final game in the first place.

The lacklustre implementation of the fog in the two games is a little more understandable, but only up to a point. Transparency effects on the current-generation consoles are relatively expensive to implement. By comparison, the PS2 is a bandwidth monster, with the benefit of operating at a much lower resolution. That said, we have to remember that GPU resources elsewhere are hardly being taxed - these games utilise low-poly models by today's standards and the original textures would need to have been crammed into just 4MB of video RAM. Also, with a set 30 frames-per-second performance target (on 360 at least), it's difficult to imagine that there's anything other than a surfeit of rendering time considering the relatively basic level of the visuals on offer here.

Complaints have been levelled at Konami that the development studio tasked with carrying out this HD remaster doesn't have that much experience with high-profile Xbox 360 and PS3 projects, and there's certainly a feeling that the power of the current-gen platforms isn't being tapped that much here: the notion of PS2-era games requiring a 4GB mandatory install on Sony's current console rings alarm bells, and when compared to the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection in terms of frame-rate and image quality, the technical inadequacies of these Silent Hill ports are swiftly brought sharply into focus.

In the past, we've raised concerns about the lack of effort being put into some of these HD ports. Sometimes the quality of the original assets just isn't good enough for an HD presentation, while on other occasions the original games have simply aged very, very badly and simply can't compete with modern games. With titles like the recently released Devil May Cry: HD Collection, there's the sense that very little effort has gone into the conversion work and the games simply deserved better treatment. But with Silent Hill HD, we see something arguably worse: a port that doesn't play as well as the original games.

Silent Hill 2 on PS2 and Xbox 360. Use the full-screen button on the bottom-right of this window for full 720p resolution.

Silent Hill 3 on PS2 and Xbox 360. Use the full-screen button on the bottom-right of this window for full 720p resolution. The PS2 game is the PAL version which may explain the somewhat 'fat' look to the visuals.

Performance analysis of Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 running in HD on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In the case of the PS3, it's a rare example of an HD remaster that feels worse to play than the original.

Silent Hill HD Collection

AKA

Silent Hill HD Edition (Japan)

Developer

Team Silent (original developer)
Hijinx Studios (port)

Release date

March 20, 2012 (North America)
March 20, 2012 (Europe)
March 29, 2012 (Japan)

Platforms

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Silent Hill HD Collection is a port of Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with 720p resolution (1280 x 720) at 30 FPS, originally developed by Team Silent, ported by Hijinx Studios, and published by Konami. It includes the Born from a Wish scenario from Silent Hill 2.

It features an alternate voice dub, as well as PlayStation Network Trophies and Xbox 360 Achievements. Players have the option to switch between the original voice acting and the alternate voice acting for Silent Hill 2, while the re-dub is mandatory for Silent Hill 3 because it lacks the original voice acting.

The Xbox 360 version is also available as a digital download; the PlayStation 3 version is not.

In October 2016, Silent Hill HD Collection was made available on PlayStation Now, meaning the game can be streamed to PlayStation 4 and PC. This also includes the latest patch.

Development

The collection was directed by Tomm Hulett. Silent Hill HD Collection was first announced in Konami's 2011 Pre-E3 show. It was revealed that both games would be given new voice-overs. The collection was originally supposed to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive, but an Xbox 360 release was eventually announced.

Due to the age of both games involved, the only code available to be given to Hijinx Studios by Konami was an unfinished incomplete beta build of the final version because Konami lost the source code.[1] This resulted in both versions of the HD Collection being hampered by severe technical issues.

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn was approached by Konami to direct the re-dub. The reason for the re-dub was due to Guy Cihi requesting residuals for the multiple ports and re-releases of Silent Hill 2 as he claimed that he owned the rights to James's voice and motion capture.[2] McGlynn, Troy Baker and Thessaly Lerner refuted this, stating that Guy did not own James's voice and motion capture and that his performance was always owned by Konami; this was the reason Konami never paid Guy for residuals.[3][4] No written contract between Guy and Konami was available.

In a letter to Konami, Guy stated that it was not about the money but rather "the thoughtless way that those involved in the production have been treated" such as not notifying him of any re-releases and hiding his contributions in "The Making of Silent Hill 2" video. Guy also called for Konami to allow the original voices and give fans the option to choose between the original dub and the re-dub.[5] Guy's close connection with fans of the series played a strong part in his decisions regarding these issues. Monica Taylor Horgan supported giving fans an option as well.[6]

Guy Cihi (James Sunderland), David Schaufele (Eddie Dombrowski), Monica Taylor Horgan (Maria/Mary) and Donna Burke (Angela Orosco, Claudia Wolf) eventually signed a waiver, allowing Konami to re-use their voices in the HD Collection.

In a post-release interview, Tomm Hulett reflected on the issues with the HD Collection, as well as preserving video games. Due to the development being different for every game in regards to coding and overall engine development, this can cause issues when remastering the game for next generation consoles.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Artistic changes

Silent Hill 2

  • Characters tend to use new words when starting sentences. This occurs most often with Laura.
  • During the opening monologue theme, the guitar has been changed from acoustic to electric.
  • The distances on the sign at the beginning have been altered. In the original version, Paleville is 10 miles, Old Silent Hill is 50 miles and Brahms is 265 miles. In the HD Collection, Paleville is 9 miles, Old Silent Hill is 6 miles and Brahms is 16 miles.
  • The textures on the first aid kits and the medical cross posters have been changed.
  • The street and sidewalks textures have been changed to look much cleaner.[8]
  • During Eddie's rant in the Labyrinth, when he says, "It doesn't matter if you're smart, dumb, ugly, pretty...", the subtitles say "your" instead of "you're".[9]
  • The Sunderland's video tape is now bordered by a TV screen rather than showing up full-screen. This may make it more difficult to realize that James smothered Mary with a pillow.
  • The FMV cutscenes are stretched horizontally to appear as widescreen, which is more problematic than Silent Hill 3 because Silent Hill 2 is more FMV-heavy. The incorrect aspect ratio results in a slight "stretched" or "fat character" look.
  • Although it is completely random, the Ranking Screen may appear white.

Silent Hill 3

  • Saving the game at a Halo of the Sun is fade-to-white instead of fade-to-red.
  • All music has been reworked or changed entirely. It is most noted in the Otherworldmall; the ambient music has been changed to a punk rock type of beat.
  • When Heather first meets Claudia, a baby's cry can be heard. Also the Game Over sound can be heard in this cutscene.
  • In the intro, a 3-second clip of Valtiel bending over to drag Heather Mason's corpse in Lakeside Amusement Park is changed to a 3-second clip of Heather turning on her flashlight in Lakeside Amusement Park. This was likely done because the original scene wasn't in HD.
  • There are some script changes. Despite these changes, the subtitles still read from the original script.
    • Claudia says, "They've come to witness the Beginning. The rebirth of Paradise, unspoiled by mankind." She previously said "despoiled".
    • The sewer fairy says, "I have finally found a truly honest person" in reference to Heather's gender, rather than, "I have finally found a truly honest man." [10] (Original localizer Jeremy Blaustein has approved of this change.)
    • Vincent tells Heather Mason (the reincarnation of Alessa) about Dahlia and that "she is your mother". This is corrected to as "she "was" your mother".
    • After Heather finds her father murdered, she finds Claudia and says, "I'll kill you, you bitch!'" rather than "I'll get you for this!".
    • Near the end, Vincent says God has "terrible" taste instead of "lousy" taste.
  • The scene in which Heather returns to her apartment to find her father dead has been changed so that Harry Mason's face is seen.
    • This is likely unintentional and simply a result of both games lacking proper cutscene letterboxing, as some of the cutscenes of Silent Hill 2 show letterboxing appearing, disappearing and reappearing in some scenes whenever the camera angle changes. Most notable of this is the introduction of the Lying Figure monster.[11]
    • Because of the lack of letterboxing, there is a quick one-second shot up Heather's skirt, which her vest is seen through.[12]
  • In the original PS2 release, Cheryl Mason, Harry Mason and Lisa Garland's voices were extracted from the first game, with subsequent ports omitting them altogether. These voices have been re-dubbed for the HD Collection.
  • During the Leonard Wolf boss fight, both Heather and Leonard are able to sprint full speed in the water as if the water doesn't exist.[13]
  • During Claudia's final speech, Innocent Moon is replaced with Maternal Heart, which is redundant since it already played when Heather spoke to Vincent in the library.
  • When Heather pukes God, a massive puddle of blood forms.[14][15]
  • In the Xbox 360 version, Memory of The Waters may be removed entirely when Heather cries after killing God.
  • When Heather returns to Douglas Cartland after the final boss, his coat is noticeably much bloodier than in the original for unknown reasons. This makes no sense because it is implied that Claudia injured Douglas' leg using telekinesis.
  • 14 of Heather's unlockable costumes that were present in the PS2 version were removed, presumably because they contain copyrighted and licensed gaming magazine logos. [16]

Technical issues

Many problems of the technical issues reported included:

  • The entire game crashing and freezing, sometimes when entering new areas, picking up items, and using items.[17][18][19][20] This seems more common in Silent Hill 3.
  • Entire rooms (such as the Lyne house) not loading, leaving the player trapped in an inescapable void.[21] This differs from the above glitch because the player can still move around and hear footsteps. It seems exclusive to Silent Hill 2, and is known to occur in the apartment complexes and Brookhaven Hospital.
  • Lag and frame-rate drops.[22][23]
  • Lag upon receiving Trophies/Achievements.
  • Graphical glitches, such as lighting errors.[24]
  • Sound loops.
  • Audio glitches, even to the extent of seconds of audio missing.[25] Sometimes, the background audio may stop entirely and there will be a few seconds of silence. [26] The submachine gun was also glitched.[27]
  • Missing sound effects.
  • Cyan blue fog.[28]
  • Reduced transparencies of fog, glass, shadows, etc.
  • Fog appearing where there should be no fog.[29]
  • Missing shadows, especially on characters.[30]
  • The game being too dark, even with the in-game brightness maxed, resulting in a dull "washed out" look.
  • Glitchy depth of field.[31]
  • Blurry scenes where there should be no blur.[32]
  • Non-blurry scenes where there should be blur.[33]
  • Extremely pixelated shadows.[34]
  • Inaccurate textures.[35] (The elevator has the floor texture - known to occur in the Xbox 360 version)
  • A serious glitch which makes it so that when any achievement is unlocked, the entire game freezes. It seems exclusive to Silent Hill 3 on the Xbox 360 version.[36]
  • Maria's jail cell cutscene can be completely glitched if the player picks up the Great Knife.

Some issues specific to the PlayStation 3 version upon launch were:

  • Erratic walking speed, at worst rendering the game virtually unplayable.
  • Game running before loading screens cleared (potentially allowing players to take unavoidable damage or miss the first bits of many cutscenes).

PlayStation 3 patch

A day one patch (1.01) was released for the PlayStation 3 version. Many players claimed that the patch made no difference.

Another PlayStation 3 patch (1.02) was released. It fixed a number of problems such as the frame rate and lip sync which were greatly improved. Missing sounds and music had also been fixed along with the fog density issues. Other minor visual/audio problems were also improved.

Cancelled Xbox 360 patch

The Xbox 360 patch was canceled due to "technical issues and resources" which made any attempts at resolving the problems ineffective.

Reception

Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game have received mixed reviews on Metacritic. The Xbox 360 version holds a 69 on Metacritic[37], and the PlayStation 3 version holds a 70.[38] IGN rated the collection 9/10.[39] GameTrailers rated it 6/10.[40]

As time went on, it was discovered that there were a plethora of artistic changes, many of which were unexplained, as well as glitches and technical issues. This resulted in the HD Collection receiving strong criticism. Konami allowing the HD Collection to be developed by Hijinx Studios was questioned, as the company's only console games were Frogger Returns and Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment.

Because the Xbox 360 version patch was cancelled, Konami offered compensation for owners of the Xbox 360 version by offering many other games including the same game for the PlayStation 3 if they sent their copy and receipt for proof of purchase to Konami.[41] This offer, however, is only valid for purchases made in North and South America.

Voice acting

The re-dubbed voice acting was received very indecisively by fans and has a mixed reception.

Fans of the original voice acting often cite that the voice acting was supposed to be realistic and that the characters actually sound like real people rather than actors, and the "awkward" and "stilted" manner characters spoke in helped add to the "surreal" and "dream-like" atmosphere, and also helped portray the cast of Silent Hill 2 as "damaged". They also tend to feel that some characters in the re-dub are too "melodramatic" and lack the original inflection and tone, and that Mary's deep voice doesn't suit her as much as it does for Maria. Angela speaks more awkwardly, stutters more, and has a more childish tone in the original due to being an abuse victim; in the re-dub, Angela speaks more naturally.

Of all the character redubs, the performance by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Mary Sunderland received the most backlash. McGlynn's voice is widely considered too deep to accurately portray the "soft, gentle Mary." McGlynn felt her voice was too deep to play Mary, but producers cast her anyway.

Fans of the re-dub often cite that the original voice acting felt "unprofessional".

Cast

Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 3

Trivia

  • Despite all original voices being replaced in Silent Hill 3, when Heather is hit by the rollercoaster, her original scream can be heard, probably due to developer oversight.
  • The texture of the water in Silent Hill 2, despite appearing with really bad textures, is the same texture that was used in the PlayStation 2 and PC version. But in the HD Collection, there is a layer of fog which is missing to conceal the textures.
  • The "If Looks Could Kill" achievement/trophy (received for obtaining Heather Beam) icon is an image of Heather in her Princess Heart costume. This image is actually unofficial and created by a DeviantArt user.[42]

External links

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