Note – This version of the article is out of date – this page is now maintained and updated on Play-Old-PC-Games.com here.
The internet certainly isn’t staying silent about the new Silent Hill HD Collection. An eagerly awaited remastering of the two seminal survival horror titles, Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3, the HD collection should have introduced a whole new generation of gamers to these psychological thrillers. Few games have the atmosphere and eerie creepiness of these excellent titles, so it’s a shame that the remake has been met with such widespread disappointment. Eurogamer called the remake “sloppy in places, inexcusably inattentive in others”. Destructoid was even more scathing, calling the conversions a “pathetic mess” and branding the package “Incomplete, glitchy, and visually degraded”. Pyramid head would certainly not approve and is no doubt chasing the tortured programmers down brown coloured corridors in their sleep.
The Silent Hill HD remake isn’t the first HD version of these games, that honour falls to the PC versions. In the case of Silent Hill 2, the PC received an improved and updated port in the shape of Silent Hill 2 Directors Cut. This version of the game is now somewhat rare, but still readily available on E-bay. Expect to pay between £20 and £30 for a copy in good condition. Most importantly, this version still runs on modern Windows PC’s, 32 or 64 bit. It makes a firm point about PC gaming when you consider that the PC version, released in 2002, actually supports a higher resolution than the recently released HD collection. If you’re wondering how the PC port stacks up, the answer is pretty nicely indeed. In fact, with a little effort it becomes the definitive version, surpassing the shoddy HD remake quite easily. If you don’t believe me, have a look at a couple of these amazing screen-shots. Thanks must also go to the user “Lime” on the NeoGAF forums. The screenshots are taken from this thread. Rather than steal NeoGAF’s bandwidth, I’ve put the screenshots up here, if the original poster wants them removed, naturally I will do so. Click on the pictures to see the full-size versions.
As with many older PC games, a little tweaking is necessary to get the best from this almost ten year old piece of software. For all but one of the tweaks this is a one-off process, meaning once you’ve spent a little time customising the game you’re good to go. So, lets get started.
Step 1 – Install the game as usual. You should have no problems installing the game even on the latest versions of Windows. Put CD 1 into the drive and install. No need to install DirectX from the CD, you should keep DirectX up to date on your gaming PC anyway, see this link for more information on this.
Step 2 – Obtain the patch and install it. There was only one patch for Silent Hill 2 Directors Cut, you can obtain it here. Install the patch in the usual way.
Step 3 – Obtain a fixed .exe file. In order to patch the game for widescreen, we’ll need a fixed .exe file. This is because applying the widescreen fix tinkers with the games executable, making the copy protection panic (hurray for DRM, still messing things up years later). You can obtain the fixed .exe file here. Download the file, then open the install directory for Silent Hill 2. Rename the original file to sh2pc.bak and then copy in the new executable.
Step 4 – Download and run Squ1zZy’s Silent Hill 2 resolution patcher. If you want to play Silent Hill 2 in widescreen (e.g at 1080p), you’ll need this little patching utility. You can download it here. Copy the downloaded file into your Silent Hill 2 directory and run it. Choose the resolution you want and hit “Patch”.
Step 5 – Open up either the Catalyst Control Centre or the Nvidia Control Panel. What we need to do is add Silent Hill 2 to the 3D settings and then disable antiailasing for it. Don’t worry, we’re going to enable it again later. In the Nvidia Control Panel, select “Manage 3D Settings”. Click on the “Program Settings” tab, and then click “Add”. Browse to the Silent Hill 2 executable (sh2pc.exe) and add it. Now turn off all the antiailasing settings.
Step 6 – Make sure the game runs with a single CPU core. Silent Hill 2 came out before dual and quad core CPU’s were common and because of this it was never tested with multi-core systems. There are several ways to make a program run using only one CPU core, the most convenient way is to change the programs shortcut. To do this, see this handy tutorial.
Step 7 – Run the game. Click that shortcut and start the game, it should load without any problems. If it does, move directly onto step 8, if it does not, skip ahead to the troubleshooting section.
Step 8 – Tweaking controllers. Back in 2002 there wasn’t anything near a standard PC gamepad. This means that you are going to want to spend some time tweaking the games controls to suit whichever controller you happen to be using. If you have a 360 or PS2 pad, you can for the most part copy the button mappings from those respective console versions. However, the controls don’t quite match up, but more on that later. Firstly, from the game menu choose Options->Control Options. Go ahead and map the buttons on your controller to the functions in the game as best you can. For reference, the console version buttons were:-
WHITE: Flashlight Control
BLACK: Toggle running and walking/guard attacks
D PAD/LEFT STICK: Move character (Run for the stick)
RT: Arm weapon
BACK: Item Screen
D-Pad or Left Analog Stick: move character
D-Pad or Left Analog Stick + Square Button: run
Select or Start Button: item screen
L1 Button: strafe left
R1 Button: strafe right
L1 + R1 Button: fast 180 degree turn
L2: search view
L2 + Right Analog Stick: look around
R2: draw weapon
Triangle Button: map window
X + R2: attack
X: search, confirm
Square: cancel selection, guard attacks
If you are using a 360 pad, the first problem you will encounter is that the analogue triggers are not mappable from within the game. The 360 pad also doesn’t have the white and black buttons, you can map them to LB and RB if you want to, but the PC version has a handy “target switch” feature which is ideal for mapping LB and RB to. For the best results its time to turn to that indispensable PC gaming utility, Xpadder. This will let you map both the D-pad and the analogue triggers, making the game much more playable on joypad. Here’s a screenshot of my Xpadder profile:-
The right trigger now puts James into combat mode, while the left trigger activates “search” mode. Left and right on the D-pad quickly cycle through available weapons, up on the D-pad quickly toggles the flashlight and down reloads, if of course you’re lucky enough to have any ammo.
At this point you will probably want to start a game just to check that the controls are to your liking and tweak to taste.
Step 9 – Tweaking in-game video options. Unfortunately you will need to repeat these last two steps each time you play the game. From the in-game menu options, go to “Advanced Options”. From here you should be able to set “Advanced Filters” and “Lens Flare” both to On. If you cannot, it is because antiailasing is enabled in the Nvidia/ATI control panel. Exit the game, disable these options and then start the game and try to set the options again. Enable these features and then exit the setup menu. Note – If you have applied a custom screen resolution using Squ1zZy’s Silent Hill 2 resolution patcher, the screen resolution will show up in this menu as 640×480. Do NOT change this! If you do, you will undo the custom resolution patch.
Step 10 – Tweak the Nvidia/ATI control panel options. Alt+Tab out of the game to the desktop and go back into the Nvidia or ATI control panels. Now you can enable antiailasing for Silent Hill 2. The screenshots were taken with 8xMSAA, feel free to experiment with other settings. Before you go back to the game, make sure to have Triple Buffering set to OFF, to avoid strange graphical artefacts/lines appearing in the game.
That’s it! You can now play the definitive version of Silent Hill 2. Enjoy and don’t have nightmares.
If the game won’t start, the first thing to do is update both your video card drivers and the version of DirectX you are running. The game should run perfectly fine on all modern versions of Windows.
If you get glitchy music or sound, make sure that you have applied the patch and make sure you followed step 6 in order to make the game run using only one CPU core.
Speaking of sound, the game never shipped with a surround sound soundtrack to my knowledge, and does not use EAX, so the sound should work just the same in Windows Vista/Windows 7 as it did in Windows XP.
Have a suggestion how to make PC Silent Hill 2 even better, or did you spot something I did wrong? Let me know in the comments.