Silent Hill 2

On The Level: Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2

Andy Kelly at

Welcome to our new regular series, On The Level. Every week Andy celebrates a great map, level, or location from a classic PC game.

Silent Hill is a faded photograph of a town. You can see the traces of life, but they’re faint, indistinct. People lived here once, but now it’s a dead place, swallowed by fog and infected with some terrible evil. There are sights you’d see in any American town—school buses, gas stations, red fire hydrants. But also things that are alien and inexplicable. Cavernous cracks in the road, cryptic poems scrawled in blood, and that dense, pervading fog, which swirls and chokes the empty streets.

Reinstall: Silent Hill 2

Andy Kelly at

Reinstall invites you to join us in revisiting classics of PC gaming days gone by. This week, Andy returns to the foggy streets of Silent Hill 2.

Having finished Silent Hill 2 more times than I can remember, I know what lies around every corner, but the atmosphere is so thick and oppressive I still can’t play it for more than an hour at a time. This is partly down to the filthy, flyblown grime of its hospital corridors and fogbound streets, which seems to seep through your monitor. But mostly it’s because of how it sounds.

The audio design is rarely talked about with the same adoration as the wonderfully dark story and surreal, twisted art style, but it’s just as important. Audio director Akira Yamaoka used sound and music in interesting, unusual ways to create an air of both low-key melancholy and gnawing terror – whether it’s a lonely, solemn piano playing after a particularly harrowing moment in the story, or the sound of some unfathomable horror lurking in the shadows. If you haven’t played Silent Hill 2 – and I don’t blame you, because the PC version is difficult to track down – the game stars James Sunderland, who receives a letter from his wife, Mary, who died three years earlier. She says she’s in the town of Silent Hill, in their ‘special place’, and James travels there to meet her, only to discover that the town is abandoned and crawling with bizarre creatures. It’s one of the best videogame stories ever told, with unforgettable twists and turns that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling. It sidelines the series’ bloated mythology of cults and magic to tell a tragic, human and oddly romantic tale.