This is an edited version of the article originally published on videogameperfection.com here. All updates to this article will be published here.
The internet certainly wasn’t staying silent about the 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. 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 still runs on modern Windows PCs, 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 re-released HD collection did on the games consoles.
Silent Hill 2 should install without any difficulties. Simply Put CD 1 into your optical drive and install. The installer will offer to install or update DirectX for you, but this step should be skipped.
There was only one patch for Silent Hill 2 Directors Cut, you can obtain it here. Install the patch by double clicking the file once it is downloaded and following all on-screen prompts.
Before attempting to play the game, make sure that it runs with a single CPU core. Silent Hill 2 came out before dual and quad core CPUs 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.
With this step complete, you can now play the game. However, if you want to play the game in full HD and widescreen resolutions, continue reading.
Playing in Widescreen
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. You can obtain the fixed .exe file here. Download the file, then open the install directory for Silent Hill 2. Create a backup file of the original Silent Hill 2 executable by renaming it first (e.g to sh2pc-old.exe) and then copy in the new executable.
Now, download and run Squ1zZy’s Silent Hill 2 resolution patcher. If you want to play Silent Hill 2 in widescreen (e.g at 1080p or 720p), 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”. You’re now all done configuring the game for widescreen.
There are some minor issues when playing in widescreen. At the start of the game, for instance, the developers used a picture as background as you look over the lake. This gives the opening scene an eerie quality as the picture is entirely static and unnaturally still. As you walk around the car park you can see where the picture ends and doesn’t correctly join up due to the games screen being wider than the developers originally designed it for. This kind of glitch seems pretty rare however and should not put you off playing the game in widescreen mode.
You’re now ready to try running the game. Click the shortcut and start the game, it should load without any problems. If it does, move directly onto the next step, if it does not, skip ahead to the troubleshooting section.
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, PS2 or PS3 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 our recommended 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. The rest of the buttons are left blank because they can be configured in-game.
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.
Other visual improvements
Getting anti-aliasing (the smoothing of rough edges on the image) working for Silent Hill 2 is unfortunately a bit of a pain. To fix the anti-aliasing, first exit the game then open up either the Catalyst Control Centre or the Nvidia Control Panel. Add Silent Hill 2 to the 3D settings and then disable anti-aliasing for it (don’t worry, we’re going to enable it again later). You may need to consult your graphics card documentation for instructions on exactly how you complete this step. For most Nvidia cards, you open 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 anti-aliasing settings. The process is similar for ATI cards too.
Unfortunately you will need to repeat these last two steps each time you play the game. With anti-aliasing disabled in your graphics card software, start the game again. 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 anti-aliasing 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 games 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.
Alt+Tab out of the game (do not quit the game) back to the desktop and go back into the Nvidia or ATI control panels. Now you can enable anti-aliasing for Silent Hill 2. 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.
The screenshots below were taken with 8xMSAA, feel free to experiment with other settings. Click each image to see a bigger version.
Audio and surround sound
For a long time we thought that this version of Silent Hill 2 came either with a stereo or simple Pro Logic 2 soundtrack. When you enter the games advanced options menu you can see there are options for 5.1 and 7.1 speaker configurations and also the option to set various modes for software 3D sound. Microsoft dropped support for hardware accelerated sound in Windows Vista, but software 3D sound should still work perfectly. There are full options for software 3D sound in the game, so this should mean that surround sound is available in Windows Vista and later. Once you start the game however the rear speakers are completely silent.
If you use a tool such as Creative ALchemy, that is designed to restore surround sound capability in legacy games while running them in Windows Vista or later, you will notice that if you go back to the games advanced options, next to “Software 3D Sound” it now reads “Hardware 3D used”. However, start a game now and there’s still no audio from the rear speakers whatsoever.
Microsoft may have dropped support for Windows XP, but it certainly pays to keep a copy around if you like retro gaming. If you still have a bootable Windows XP installation on one of your PCs and you have a suitable sound card, such as a Creative Audio card with an X-fi chipset, you can play the game with full surround sound. Obviously for a psychological thriller like Silent Hill 2, having the full surround sound soundtrack really adds to the atmosphere of the game.
Notes on running the game under Windows XP
For the most part running the game under Windows XP is exactly the same as running it under a modern version of Windows. You can turn on all the enhancements we talked about in the guide thus far. There are a few little things you will need to do differently however.
You cannot alt-tab from the game – Under Windows XP, you cannot alt-tab back to the desktop.
You do not need to disable and re-enable antialiasing in your graphics cards control panel – Considering the above, this is rather fortunate. The bug that prevents some of the advanced graphical options being turned on in-game if antialiasing is enabled in your graphics cards control panel does NOT affect Windows XP. Simply enable the desired antialiasing mode in Nvidia control panel or Catalyst Control Centre, start Silent Hill 2 then set the advanced graphics options.
Setting processor affinity – You still need to set the game to run on only one CPU core under Windows XP. However, you will find that the tutorial on how to do this doesn’t work under Windows XP. You can still use Task Manager to set the game to run on a single core, but being as you can’t alt-tab from the game in Windows XP this is somewhat difficult. Instead, you can use the Sysinternals tool PSExec. Drop this tool into the Silent Hill 2 folder then launch the game using the following command “psexec -a 1 sh2pc.exe”.
The popular gaming utility Xfire supports Silent Hill 2 – Directors Cut, allowing you to take screenshots and videos as well as chat to your friends and browse the web all without having to leave the game. This is especially useful in Windows XP since you cannot alt-tab back to the desktop.
If the game wont start, the first thing to do is update both your video card drivers and the version of DirectX you are running. Remember, Windows does not automatically update DirectX runtimes. Download the latest version here.
If you hear glitches in the music or sound, make sure that you have applied the patch and make sure you set the game to run using only one CPU core.
Problems saving games – Like many older games, Silent Hill 2 places its save game files and various configuration files in the same directory that it is installed to. Profiles and save games are stored in a the data\save sub-folder. This can cause problems on more modern versions of Windows as programs are not normally permitted to write to the program files directory. To avoid this problem, either install the game to an alternate location (e.g c:\Games\SH2) or manually edit the permissions on the “Silent Hill 2” folder. A tutorial on how to edit folder permissions can be found here.