There have been many, many people who wrote why Silent Hill 2 is such a brilliant game. Our old friend Jim Sterling repeatedly called it his favorite game ever, Yahtzee Croshaw drools on it every chance he has, Shamus Young of The Escapist and Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer recently wrote great pieces on it... Instead of rehashing the same arguments these fine folks wrote, allow me to recount my personal history with the game.
(Contains spoilers, but seriously, this game is thirteen years old just play it already)
Growing up in a small town with no electronics store or big department store, buying new games was a rarity for me as a teenager. If I wanted to buy a new game, I had to wait until my dad needed something from the Wal-Mart three towns over and tag along, but that only happened three or four times a year, so most of the money that would have gone towards buying games went towards rentals. When we finally went to Wal-Mart, I was usually too broke to buy the game I wanted and just rented it again the next week instead. Some games I rented so many times I must have spent twice the amount of money they would have cost me to buy.
So one morning in the summer of 2002, I rode my bike to the rental store, browsed for a few minutes, and decided on Tekken Tag Tournament. I went back home, popped the disc in my month-old PS2, picked my two characters (probably Paul and King, because Paul and King are awesome), and... and...
...nothing. It was frozen. I reset a few times, always with the same result. I took the disc out and looked at it; it was scratched to Hell. You could probably have grated cheese with it. That's always been the problem with rental: dumbasses can't be trusted to take care of things, especially when they aren't theirs.
So I went out to bring it back to the store, but my mom stopped me: "Come back quick, lunch is almost ready". I raced to the store, showed the disc to the clerk, who agreed to exchange it. Since I was short on time, I decided to pick a game at random. My finger landed on this weird thing:
Today me knows how awesome Silent Hill 2's box looks and wishes more games had box art like this instead of dudebros with guns in low angle, but you have to admit a snot green-tinted depressed face isn't the best way to sell your game to a fourteen year-old boy. Still, the back of the box promised "horrifying creatures" and "a cinematic horror experience" and had pretty cool screenshots. I was also hungry and in a hurry. I picked it up.
Am I glad I did.
It wasn't quite love right away, as I found out this game has those stupid Resident Evil-style tank controls I hate, and the game takes quite a bit of time to get going. The first couple of cutscenes are very awkward (seriously, Angela, stop being so weird), and there's a good ten minutes of just walking through empty trails before anything happens. (Today me knows this is called pacing and is really important, but teenage me has no patience for this) Oh, a slow zombie walking away in the fog. Let's follow it. Finally, some acti~
OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK *BAAAARF*
Yes, that first monster was really disturbing, as were its friends that were now wandering everywhere around town - especially when they come crawling from under a car making the most horrible sound ever known to mankind, but then I ran around with no idea where to go, finding every road to Rosewater Park blocked off. I took out my frustration on the monsters, but I kept getting hit because of the shitty controls and I got really hurt and I didn't want to waste my health drinks so early in the game and~ ah fuck it. I turned it off and did something else until dinner.
Later in the evening, I went back to it, mostly because I had paid good money for this thing and I'm gonna get my money's worth, dammit. This time I avoided all the monsters and eventually found the convoluted clues to lead me to the Woodside apartment building, where I finally found a GUN! It was also around this time I looked up the options menu and found the "2D control" option, also known as the "not stupid" control option. Things were looking up.
And then this happened.
I didn't sleep very well that night.
I'll admit I had to check a walkthrough to get through some of the dumber puzzles - a certain case of juice cans comes to mind - but I got more and more into it. I didn't even get mad when Pyramid Head sliced me in two and I found out I hadn't saved in half an hour despite passing several save points. This game was genius.
About an hour before I had to take the game back I finally beat Pyramid Head (wasted so many bullets, though) and moved on to "the special place". The plot thickens.
Why yes. Yes you do.
I just had time to get to the first hospital save point before I had to take the game back. I had to wait a week before renting it again (damn parents and their... parenting) and experiencing the complete mindfuck that is the game's second half. Maria's repeated deaths, experiencing the other characters' personal hellscapes, the prison level OH MY GOD THE PRISON LEVEL and the final revelation at the hotel were nothing like what I expected the game to turn into. And it was exhilarating.
OH MY GOD THE PRISON LEVEL
Thank you so much, that one copy of Tekken Tag Tournament for being unplayable. If it wasn't for you, I might have never discovered my favorite game of all time.