Konami, in partnership with the Bloober Team, announced in October 2022 a retelling of the iconic psychological horror game Silent Hill 2 for the PlayStation 5 and PC. Originally released on the PlayStation 2 alongside other classics such as Metal Gear Solid 2, Devil May Cry, and Final Fantasy X, Silent Hill 2 has since established itself as one of the greatest games of all time. After the much-anticipated cancelation of Silent Hills, the announcement of a remake of the poster child of psychological horror caught the attention of the gaming sphere at large.
Several fans have expressed concern about how well Silent Hill 2 will be remade given Konami’s negative track record with outsourcing development of Silent Hill games to western developers since the disbandment of the original development team, Team Silent.
The last official entry into the series was Silent Hill: Downpour in March 2012. Developed by the Czech game development team Vatra Games, it had received mixed reviews for its technical issues and adoption of, by then, old-fashioned gameplay. Silent Hill 2 proper was rereleased in the Silent Hill HD Collection in that same month, developed by the American game development studio Hijinx Studios, and was met with below average reviews after failing to measure up to other remastered collections released at the time.
Since the cancellation of the highly anticipated Silent Hills (also known as Silent Hill P.T.) in 2015, Konami CEO Hideki Hayakawa announced that same year the company would focus on the mobile gaming market — notably the virtual casino game market — making the Silent Hill 2 Remake the first entry into the Silent Hill series in well over a decade.
The Polish development team responsible for Silent Hill 2 Remake, the Bloober Team, have developed and published a few popular horror titles, like Layers of Fear and The Medium. The Medium is the closest example of a Silent Hill derivative. Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka worked on The Medium’s soundtrack, and the gameplay, thematic elements, and overall presentation is demonstrably inspired by Silent Hill and Resident Evil.
Despite Bloober games having mostly positive reviews on Steam, a common issue with their games is the handling of mental illness and the general lack of subtly in storytelling. At best, the games are criticized as heavy-handed and not leaving much of the plot for interpretation; at worse, they have problematic portrayals of mental illness and trauma. Given that the story of Silent Hill 2 is largely about trauma and how it can affect people, it is a common source of concern among fans of the Silent Hill series.
“We’re remaking enemy AI from the ground up to be designed in a way that will allow players to enjoy the combat. Bloober Team’s love for the original is strong, so they’re not going to simply add new enemies. They are looking at fine details that can help make combat fun, though, which means changing AI or small design elements. It might look the same, but it’s different when you look closely. They really did a good job all throughout the game,” producer Motoi Okamoto.
Both Konami and the Bloober Team appear to have taken steps to ensure the upcoming remake is a faithful but modern reimaging of the original experience. Composer Yamaoka and art director Masahiro Ito are returning to work on the remake, and creative director and lead designer of the Bloober Team, Mateusz Lenart, said in an interview with the Polish pop culture magazine Rytmy “we decided to keep all the threads of the story, only modernizing the dialogue and adding some threads here and there, to draw players even more into this engaging story [translated from Polish to English.]” The combat system, AI of opponents, the approach to characters, puzzles, camera, and level design are said to be areas Konami and the Bloober Team want to improve upon.
The suffocatingly dark atmosphere was created, in part, by the technological advancements made at the time. Similar to how Final Fantasy X was praised for its graphical improvements over the previous Final Fantasy games, videogame magazines like PlayStation: The Official Magazine frequently noted the significant graphical leaps Silent Hill 2 displayed. The PlayStation 2’s hardware enabled the development of better lighting and shadows, better fog, better sound design, and better character models. The opening scene where James touches his face while he looks into the bathroom mirror, his eyes obscured by dark shadows from the harsh lighting was famous because of how realistic it was for its time. While the outdoor portions of the game has shown its age, the indoor levels like the Wood Side Apartments or the Brookhaven Hospital still have the visually impressive dark, grungy appearances.
We are updating the Silent Hill 2 experience comprehensively. With the possibilities of the Unreal Engine 5, we’re bringing the foggy, sinister town to life in ways that were impossible up to this point. The game will delight PlayStation 5 players visually, auditorily, and sensorily. Some of the Unreal Engine 5 features that really shine are Lumen and Nanite. With them we’re raising the graphics to new, highly-detailed and realistic levels, while turning the game’s signature nerve-racking atmosphere to eleven.
The Silent Hill 2 Remake is going to be created using the Unreal Engine 5, released in April 2022. One of the Unreal Engine 5’s key feature is their fully dynamic lightning system Lumen. Within the overview of the Lumen Global Illumination and Reflections, Lumen is shown to help achieve realistic lighting, shadows, fog, and reflections without significant performance loss. The PlayStation 5’s 3D audio capabilities in tandem with the WWise sound engine is said to allow players discern the exact location of sounds and provide a realistic soundscape.
The Bloober Team is well-known for their latest horror games being visually impressive with the team having used the Unreal Engine 5 in their Layers of Fear (2023) remake. As videogames are nearing photorealism, however, the Bloober Team cannot rely exclusively on visually impressive set pieces. If the Silent Hill 2 Remake is to succeed, the Bloober Team should take note of the successes of the latest Resident Evil remakes.
Resident Evil 2 Remake can be said to have started the recent trend of remaking classic games with modern sensibilities, although the first Resident Evil was remade for the GameCube back in 2002. Having captured the spirit of the original Resident Evil 2 from 1999, the Resident Evil 2 Remake is a great benchmark for the qualities of a good reimaging: modern graphics, combat, dialogue, and level design, but old-school set pieces and familiar characters. The presentation of characters is particularly important in the case of Silent Hill 2 as it is largely the characters and the atmosphere that carries to story.