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Konami recently released a new promotional video that supposedly showcases the improved visual quality of the HD remakes of Silent Hill 2 and 3 (full review here).


New comparison video of the original versions of Silent Hill 2 and 3 versus the new HD Collection.
It looks bad!

Does the video make the HD versions look considerably clearer than the PS2 counterparts? I wouldn't blame you for saying "yes". But to the trained eye (and to experienced Silent Hill players), this video is a blatantly disingenuous attempt to make the PS2 versions look bad.

Lack of film grain puts comparisons on unequal footing

First of all, all the HD clips are shown with the film grain effects turned off and some of the fog effects disabled as well. This is a cheap trick on Konami's part, as these settings can be turned off in the original game, and doing so clears up the images considerably. The fact that Konami didn't even bother to compare the shots on an equal footing goes to show how far out of their way they are willing to go to make the original games look worse than they actually are.

Cutscene stretching

But, disregarding this cheap manipulation by Konami, the HD footage also fails to impress for a multitude of other reasons.

The images in the HD shots do look noticeably smoother (although the SH3 footage is still no better than the original PC game on high resolution). But at the same time, the images tend to look "stretched" - particularly the cutscenes from Silent Hill 2. This makes the character models look unusually chunky. Poor Eddie isn't going to like this...

Silent Hill HD Collection stretched cutscenes
The HD cutscenes appear to be just stretched versions of the original 4:3 cutscenes (with new voice-acting).

But this is kind of to be expected when it comes to cutscenes, so I'm not going to complain too much. They new developers probably just took the original CGI and stretched it to fit an HD display. The actual in-game shots don't look as bad; since everything was remodeled, the extra screen space can be filled in by widening the field of view of the camera. So no stretching of the in-game images is necessary.

Washed-out colors

The most noticeably pathetic part of this comparison video, however, is how muted and washed out the colors in the HD port look in direct comparison with the original PS2 counterparts.

Silent Hill HD Collection composite of church in Silent Hill 3
These composite images from the trailer showcase a lot of the problems with the HD Collection's lackluster visuals. Lighting appears less dynamic, colors are washed out, and everything just looks bland.

Every screen looks much more gray than in the original footage. James jacket is noticeably less green, and the backgrounds in Silent Hill 3 footage lacks the strong red and brown tones that the original had. All the ambient rust and blood coloration has been subdued and looks like shades of pale gray. This makes the backgrounds just look horribly bland.

Silent Hill HD Collection washed out color in Silent Hill 2'
Colors look washed out and many details just can't be seen.

Has the film grain and fog been completely removed from the HD ports?

So, after watching all the videos of the HD collection that have been released so far, I really have to wonder if the developer actually removed all the film grain effects and fog effects. When watching the Silent Hill 3 comparisons, I notice that the fog effects that are present in the edges of the original footage are completely absent from the HD footage. This allows the player to see the solid black backgrounds behind the tops of some of the buildings in the amusement park. This makes the environment look very fake. Like a cardboard Hollywood movie set. It's bad. Really bad.

Silent Hill HD Collection lack of detail in Silent HIll 3
In addition to the colors looking washed out, textures have been completely changes and the rusty, bloody red tones have been completely subdued with pale browns and grays. The fog has been completely removed.

The pervasive fog effects and general graininess of the images in the original game were also a strong part of the games' visual appeal. They helped to obscure a lot of the things present in the environment, creating a sense of mystery and uneasiness in that the player can't really tell exactly what he or she is looking at. It leaves things up to the player's imaginations to fill in the unknown, and the original developers knew that with a proper nudge, the things that your imagination can come up with are far worse than anything that they could have come up with. That aspect of the visuals has been completely eliminated from the footage we're seeing. It makes the creatures and environments look less believable and less frightening.

Silent Hill HD Collection monsters leave little to the imagination
Being able to clearly see too many details of the monsters leaves little to the player's imaginations, makes the monster look less real, and thus, less threatening.

Have these fog effects been removed completely? Or is it just being turned off for the sake of demo purposes to make the images look cleaner? If so, this was a bad move by Konami. This new footage completely lacks the grittiness that was almost overwhelmingly present in the original versions of these games. If these effects have been removed without an option to turn them back on, then these HD ports are doing a huge disservice to the original games, as a primary contributor to the atmosphere of the environments is going to be lost in the port.

What really confuses me, though, is that in an earlier demo by GamesRadar, Tomm Hulett showed a clip from Silent Hill 3 HD, and it looked much, much better than what was just released. Textures didn't look as washed-out and still preserved a great deal of the original game's detail. The fog was still present; although, it was minimized to the point where I could still make out the black background behind the buildings, giving the amusement park the Hollywood cardboard set feel that I mentioned above.


An earlier demo version of the game from GamesRadar that showed better textures and a reduced (but still present) fog effect. What happened?

So what happened?

Silent Hill HD Collection early demo with textures and fog intact
This past demo that I saw on GamesRadar had the original textures and fog (mostly) intact.

Did Konami delay the game so that they could remove detail? Why does this newest comparison video look so much worse than previous demos that have been shown?

What is Konami thinking with these games?

Konami is ruining these great games just so they can make a quick buck. As if the re-recorded voice work weren't bad enough, they are also taking a lot of the visual flavor of the games away. Sure the images look sharper, but they lack the atmospheric attitude that helped make the original games' visuals so distinct and effective. The HD ports just look bland and washed-out by comparison. It looks like complete and utter garbage.

The only thing scary about these remakes is that people are going to play them and think they are representative of the original product. So sad.

UPDATE (March 12, 2012, 3:19 PDT): clarifications on my "hate" regarding the Silent Hill HD Collection

I fully recognize that the footage presented was tweaked to upsell the point that the port makes the images smoother. I realize that the brightness was turned up and contrast settings were tweaked, and that therefore, these images are not representative of the final product. But here is where I guess I differ from other people: to me, the whole point of a preview or a demo is to show potential customers what they can expect when the final product is released. I know that previews and demos will not be fully representative of the final product and are subject to change. But so far, everything that I have seen regarding the HD ports has been flawed in some way, whether it be a lack of detail in the visuals, manipulation of the final images by Konami, or the altered voice-acting (still haven't heard what Silent Hill 3 HD is going to sound like). Are all of these previews modified by Konami? If so, then why are they going so far out of their way to avoid showing us what the actual game looks like? If none of the previews that I see look good, then I'm not going to just buy the game on the faith that the final product will be better than what has been advertised. I've made that mistake before.

I love the original 3 Silent Hill games (and I like the fourth one too). Part of loving something is being able to recognize its faults but still accepting it for what it is. Silent Hill 1 is a horribly dated game. When I recommend it to my friends, I don't make any excuses for this. I tell them flat-out that the controls are going to be clumsy and uncomfortable, the cutscenes are going to be static and boring to watch, and the plot is going to be highly obfuscated (especially compared to modern games that hold the player's hand throughout the whole experience). But I still recommend the game because if they press on, then the things it does well will far outweigh the things it does poorly.

Silent Hill 2 and 3 still hold up well to this day. They have their problems, and they are starting to show their age, but those problems are almost trivial in context of the effect they have on the overall gameplay experience. These games did not need to be remade. At least not yet. I'm not just "hating" Konami for the sake of hating Konami. I love Konami. Konami has offered me some of my most cherished and precious gaming memories in the form of games like Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, and Contra. I'm just disappointed that Konami has fallen into the trap that the whole industry is falling into. The trap of being subject to the business desire to make the most amount of money possible with the least amount of work possible. What better way to do that than take games that people love (like Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill) polish them up a little, and re-release them knowing that hard-core fanboys are going to just buy them regardless of how the final product turns out?

While Konami owns the rights to these games and can do whatever they want with them, we, the fans, do not have to stand by and let them potentially tarnish these cherished titles. Just because a game can be remade in HD resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio doesn't mean that it should. We have to keep in mind that the games were designed with the limitations of the technology in mind. Team Silent did not make these games with the foreknowledge that TVs would get bigger and support higher resolutions, nor did they design the games such that they should support them. They were made to conform to 4:3, standard definition presentation. Choices in the games' design were made with these restrictions in mind, and in some cases, exploit these restrictions for added effect.

Maybe the designers don't want the game to be displayed in 16:9. Maybe they don't want the player to have a wider frame of view. It's pretty well-established within the Silent Hill fan community that the developers went out of their way in many areas to intentionally obscure certain details of the games and the environments and objects depicted therein. Just like a scene in a classic black-and-white movie could be shot specifically to take advantage of the unique lighting and contrast effects of a black-and-white format (an effect that would be lost if converted to color); the camera, controls, environments, and creatures of Silent Hill could have been (and evidence suggests that the were) constructed to take advantage of the "limitations" of the media for added effect. By expanding the game to a larger aspect ratio and clearing up the visuals, we risk losing the impact that some of the scenes, camera angles, and events might have on the player. All those instances in which something creepy happens just outside of the camera's field of vision, or in which an event itself is obscured by fog, limited draw distance, or simple camera blur, could be spoiled by increasing the camera's field of vision and clearing up the images.

If I can't trust the developers of the port to keep the original textures intact and maintain the fog effects of the original games, and if I know that Konami couldn't even manage to get the original voice talents for one of the games, then how can I trust that they won't ruin scenes or events in the games by showing something that wasn't meant to be seen or by delivering a line of dialogue in a way that changes its meaning or purpose?

If you want to buy the game, then go right ahead. If you want to be excited about the game, then go right ahead. I don't want to take that away from you. If you're confident that it will be equal in quality to the originals, then I can't tell you not to buy it, and I fully respect your right to do so. And if it ends up being every bit as good as the originals, then, heck, I'll buy it too!

But remember that once you buy the game, Konami doesn't care whether you "like it" or not. They got your money. If you're going to ignore warning signs presented in preview videos, and reserve judgement for the final product that you're going to buy anyway, then your judgement is moot. Once you buy the game, as far as Konami is concerned, the product has your 100% satisfaction. At that point, the best you can do is tell other friends not to buy it. But if every fanboy goes out and buys the game on day-one and ends up hating it, then Konami got everything they wanted/needed out of making the game, and they will continue to think that they can get away with releasing sub-par products.

But I've seen too many red flags regarding this product, as well as Downpour, so I'm not going to give these games the benefit of the doubt. I've done that in the past and been burnt. I pre-ordered Star Trek: Online along with the $280-something lifetime membership based on my Star Trek fanboyism and all the pre-release hype, despite the fact that none of the pre-release previews really looked that impressive to me. I played that game for a week before getting bored to death of it. That was an expensive week. I vowed that I would never let another company take advantage of my fanboyism like that again to swindle me out of money. But, low and behold, Firaxis did the same thing to me with Civilization V a year later, which was horrible on release-day and took almost 5 months of patches to reach a level of playable respectability.

...Fool me twice...

Not again.

And I don't want other fans to fall into this same trap.

Comments (9) -

Elias
Elias
03/09/2012 18:27:13 #

thanks for this amazing work all the fans of the world should seen this!

dan
dan
03/10/2012 02:50:44 #

just because the preview came out yesterday doesn't mean the video was made using the most recent footage?
For all we know the footage in that comparison video is months old?
And I think its really obvious they lowered the contrast, film grain, and fog to show the improved resolution for the sake of the demonstration video.
Plus contrast and brightness is an easy fix, just use the in game brightness control, or the controls on your tv, so simple.

I can't believe you made this huge article over something that is probably nothing.
wait till the game is released, plus how accurately can someone really judge image quality on a youtube video?


03/10/2012 07:26:03 #

@Dan: The primary point was to show that the preview left the film grain and brightness at their default levels in the original footage, but used as clear and bright an image as they possibly could for the HD footage. The purpose for doing this is not to make the new version look good by comparison (the lack of fog and darkness makes the HD footage look horrible); rather, it is intended to make the original game footage look bad. Probably because so many people have asked the question: why did Konami think these games needed to be updated?

Regardless of whether the washed-out colors are the result of brightness and contrast settings on the TV, the lack of fog, poor texture work, and overall color shift can be seen as possibly representative of the final game.

And if they are using a very old build of the game to advertise it 2 or 3 weeks before its release, and that old build lacks certain details in order to make the game appear to look smoother, then they are still being disingenuous with regard to properly representing what the final product will look like. Bottom line is: if they are trying to impress Silent Hill fans with this preview, then (in my case) they have failed miserably because the new footage looks considerably worse than the original.

dan
dan
03/10/2012 13:41:35 #

I think they released a bad demonstration video
but I'm not gonna judge it until I see the HD collection on my HD tv, not judge a compressed youtube demonstration video.

And I agree removing the fog and grain to show how much clearer the game is was a big mistake on Konami part, because of fans like you who judge a game before its released
Those things dont bother me because I can see the improvement in resolution, and lack of miore
and I know the darkness and fog and grain will be in it.
The removal of blood and rust is bothersome, but again I'll wait till I actually see the finished game

sfsdfsdfds
sfsdfsdfds
03/30/2012 09:10:37 #

i have the HD collection and as excelent

03/30/2012 16:05:43 #

@previous anonymous poster:

I'm sure you are enjoying the game. I'm sure there are a lot of people who are enjoying the game. And I'm sure that there is plenty of enjoyment to be had in the HD Collection for those people who have never played the games and/or do not own the original PS2 versions. However, your classification as "excellent" seems to be contrary to what a lot of people are saying about it.

On Amazon, the Collection currently has only a 2.5-star rating based on 45 reviews (as of March 30, 2012):
www.amazon.com/.../ref=sr_1_1.

Gamerankings gives the game a 77.6% (PS3) and 73.67% (XBox360):
www.gamerankings.com/browse.html.

Which is at least a whole letter grade worse than the ratings given to either Silent Hill 2 (90% on PS2, GH edition), or Silent Hill 3 (83.79% on PS2) individually.

So it would seem the critics and fans (in general) agree with me that the game is a lousy port. Or at least, that it doesn't do the original games justice.

But if you like it, and it was worth your $40, then by all means, continue to play, and I hope you enjoy it and become a huge Silent Hill fanboy like me! Laughing

BTW: I have a friend who purchased the HD Collection, but decided to buy the original PS2 versions off ebay after being disappointed by the HD Collection. I have asked to borrow his copy of the HD Collection for the purposes of reviewing it, so hopefully I can get a review up eventually.

04/01/2012 21:10:10 #

Valuable information and excellent design you got here! I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up.

09/09/2012 01:04:45 #

I totally agree with you, mate. It is just that. Konami is making the mistakes, but we tha fans, the consumers, the users are the ones that have the final word in what we want and what don't. Silent Hill HD Collection is a con and an insult to the series and the true fans. They thought that making changes (and plus bad changes) would be enough excuse to resell and reearn money for something that already produced benefit, and far enough of it. We want quality and the new releases to be faithful with what the series was originally.
They have one of the best franchises ever and they are destroying it. All for greed and bad administration, and for giving power to the incorrect people and leave the games to people that are not good enough.
I honestly hope that the glory of old days will return someday. Maybe for PS4... or perhaps in 10 years...

06/18/2014 18:21:23 #

I still play my original SH1 disc. I've had to move it to my PS2 but I still prefer it to the rehashed re-releases I've seen. Give me the original line of 1, 2 and esp. 3 over the others. I have received some of them as gifts from well-meaning friends and family and I've accepted them with grace and plenty of thank-yous. But after trying them, I've quickly shelved them and when I got a SH craving went for the originals - or the Silent Hill Sims neighborhood I've created based on those games. Sad to say but I've done a better job recreating the SH look-and-ambiance in the Sims 2 than Konami did with all of their rehash releases.

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