My favorite trend of this generation is undoubtedly the rise of the HD Collection. Selling fantastic last-generation games at lower prices in a bundle is something I want to see more of, especially when I missed out on those games when they were first released. See, I’ve never played any of the Silent Hill games until recently, when I was assigned this review. I’ve been told about how they’re the best horror games of all time, and other such accolades, so I was pretty excited about having an excuse to take a look at this collection. But after playing quite a bit of each game, I’m beginning to think I should just hunt down the PS2 versions and play those. It’d be cheaper and probably not aggressively mediocre.
As we all know by now, the gameplay sucks. Both games come from the Resident Evil school of camera control, which means that the camera is usually at a fixed angle depending on where your character is. The combat is equally clunky, with no real indication of how much damage you’re doing or any targeting system to help you actually hit the freaks heading towards you in the hopes of devouring your organs. Using one button to attack, which would be easier, isn’t the norm here. First you have to go into a fighting stance, then you eyeball what the best distance would be, and finally you mash the attack button until whatever in front of you dies.
The people I’ve talked to about these games say that this lends to a feeling of oppression and horror, but for me, it just makes combat too cerebral. Instead of feeling panicked and worried about the combat, I’m thinking too much about what I need to do to get past these monsters. In a genre where immersion is crucial, making the ‘game’ part of the game much more prominent than necessary can easily take me out of the experience. The Silent Hill 2 port adds to this problem by toning down the fog effect, allowing the player to see textures and models the developers would rather you didn’t. A lack of fog also leads to a clearly defined line at the end of the horizon; now I can clearly see where the draw distance ends. It’s pretty ironic that a HD collection on a current-generation console makes people pine for games released on the PS2.
As for the individual games, Silent Hill 3 holds up better and is ultimately where you’ll be getting your money’s worth here. The voice acting is superior to both SH2’s original and new voices, and I found that the game spending time in the real world helped create a more prominent disconnect between the different worlds. I also like Heather as a protagonist a lot more than James since she acts like a human. But that only goes so far to help it escape from the disappointing gameplay and unfortunate lack of significant graphical upgrades.
For the record, I didn’t encounter any glitches during my time with the game. But I’ve heard a lot of complaints from other critics. Sound glitches, framerate drops, and a problem in Silent Hill 2 where James glitches between walking and running would easily have been deal breakers…if I had encountered them. Konami is supposedly working on a patch, but releasing a game with this many issues is just unacceptable.
If the art director of the games you just re-released is shocked at the final product, you should take a serious look at what you’ve just put on shelves. On the PS2, both Silent Hill games stumble when it comes to gameplay but earn a pass for their atmosphere. When you take away the saving grace of a game, all that’s left is how much fun it is to play. And the Silent Hill games aren’t really fun to play at all. They’re okay. The Silent Hill HD Collection, in its current state, contains 2 mediocre games with severe glitches. And that’s just not something I can easily recommend.
(If you absolutely need to play these games in this form and you don’t feel like purchasing the PS2 originals, go for the Xbox 360 version. SH:HD on the PS3 has more glitches.)
Thanks to Konami for providing us with a review copy!
American Fugitive Review — A Grand Tale of Theft and Auto
The original Grand Theft Auto rocked the virtual world with its violent gameplay from a birds-eye view perspective back in 1997. Once the series moved to a third-person, 3D perspective with Grand Theft Auto III, few gamers looked back and few developers attempted to replicate the original style. More than 20 years later, Fallen Tree Games has become of those few with American Fugitive.
Players control Will Riley, a man convicted for a crime he did not commit and filled with the desire for revenge. Once he has escaped from prison, Will must find old friends—and meet some new ones—to run errands and discover the person who killed his father.
The game is played from a top-down perspective in a 3D open world. More reminiscent of Chinatown Wars than the original Grand Theft Auto, the camera adds a level of complexity to American Fugitive, as players often will not see what lies beyond the edges of the screen. While a behind-the-character perspective would, at times, not go amiss, players will eventually grow to familiarise themselves with the camera, respecting the callback to classic open world titles.
The open world itself is also reminiscent of classic titles, with simplified designs regularly complimented by the detailed art style. The game’s animated, cartoon design scheme is fitting of its fast-paced action gameplay, always managing to keep the player on their toes and keen to discover more. Technically, the game plays almost flawlessly, with no significant performance issues to disrupt the player while they explore the map.
Players can explore the rural open world of Redrock County on foot or in a vehicle. The vehicular gameplay may take some time for players to familiarise themselves with, with some overly slippery mechanics leading to some unfortunate collisions, though fitting to the game’s tone. Thankfully, most environments in the game are destructible, so sliding off the road—if the player follows the road to begin with—does not often lead to disaster.
Despite beginning the game as a seemingly innocent man, Will doubles down on his criminal actions once he escapes from prison. Akin to Grand Theft Auto, the player can hijack cars, kill civilians, and attract the attention of police. Most residential buildings in the game can be robbed by the player, often leading to tense confrontations with the homeowners or police, so players must continue at their own risk.
The ‘wanted’ system in the game works similarly to Grand Theft Auto games, with players accumulating up to five stars depending on their behaviour. The stars often accumulate a little too quickly, however, with additional stars regularly added simply for evading police. Oftentimes, the player may possess a full wanted level—complete with large police vans and circling helicopters—within a minute of committing a minor offense. While this over-the-top gameplay design is fitting to the pace of the game, it may lead to frustrations within the main story missions by bringing the player’s progress to a halt.
The missions are also reminiscent of those in Grand Theft Auto, tasking the player with a wide variety of tasks to keep them busy while the story evolves. While many of these missions may seem disconnected to the main narrative structure, they are unique and regularly keep the player entertained, ranging from simple fetch quests and car robberies to full-scale shootouts. The game’s fast-paced gameplay and lack of loading screens also make the poorly-placed checkpoints bearable, especially when the beginning of missions require the player to drive to a certain location.
American Fugitive‘s storyline is simple in design but entertaining enough to keep the player engaged. The game’s ‘cutscenes’ exist in the form of text atop character designs; while some simple voice acting would elevate these scenes with more dramatic tension, they are short enough to maintain the player’s attention and continue the missions at a fast pace. Players will find themselves surprisingly engrossed in the story, wanting to see it through to its full conclusion.
Accompanying the fast-paced gameplay and narrative is the game’s music. From slow, explorative themes to fast-paced tracks, American Fugitive‘s original score is reminiscent of some of the best soundtracks across different media—from television’s True Detective to video gaming’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us. Each song accompanies the gameplay nicely, ramping up and down as the player makes the appropriate actions, and, along with the expert sound design, add the auditory sprinkles atop a visual and narrative treat.
American Fugitive, simply put, is fun. Fallen Tree Games has added its own unique twist to a classic gameplay formula, and utilised a simple but engaging narrative and a beautiful original score to maintain the player’s interest until the very end. Despite a few minor flaws in gameplay, the game stands strong against its competition. Players looking for a fast, fun, and mature sandbox game should not miss American Fugitive.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.
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