Silent Hill 2 #1 | Introduction & Plot Outline (Major Spoilers)

"Every detail in the game is conceived to shake the player up mentally and emotionally"

Silent Hill 2 box art.
In Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe, TV writer and director Graham Linehan laments how everything about video games are getting better apart from the storytelling. This is very true, it's obvious that many single player campaigns the modern military shooters saturating the market at the moment clearly have the set pieces figured out as a priority, with the plot written around these elements. This isn't always a bad thing, Resident Evil 4 has one of the most (seemingly intentionally) camp and absurd plots of any game but it's still downright fun to play. Detractors of video games understandably see storytelling as the one thing that keeps the industry from being sophisticated or comparable to high standards in the best films and TV shows. However, in my and many other people's opinion, the bar for video game storytelling had been set back in 2001 with Silent Hill 2, a psychological horror game that presented its narrative in a way that was so well crafted it's honestly difficult to envision another game coming anywhere close to its achievement. It is a game that rewards repeat play throughs because of the symbolism found within as well as how layered the plot is, dealing with incredibly dark and taboo issues that other games wouldn't dare to touch upon. Both WhatCulture and Gamesradar have ranked it amongst the very best examples of storytelling in video game history.

    "In my restless dreams, I see that town, Silent Hill. You promised you'd take me there again someday, but you never did. Well, I'm alone there now in our 'special place', waiting for you" 

One of the last true survival horror games, it was created by Team Silent whom had worked on the original Silent Hill back in 1999. The main character, James Sunderland arrives in Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his beloved wife beckoning him to the town in order to find her at their 'special place'. James is understandably confused, as he reveals in voiceover narration that Mary actually died three years ago of that "damned disease". Despite the impossibilities, James is determined to find his wife, even though the town is deserted and something clearly isn't right...

Silent Hill 2 fog.
Some developers are obsessed with the need to improve graphics, believing that only ultra realistic looking products will allow for an emotional investment from the player. 2K Games stated in 2012 that photorealism is a necessary achievement that games must fulfil in order to create deep emotions from the player, which is ludicrous. Consider The Walking Dead by Telltale Games, in keeping with its origins it had a comic book aesthetic that was in no way realistic, yet received practically unanimous praise for its writing and emotional resonance. 

Similarly, SH2 had graphical problems it had to overcome being on the Playstation 2, but it used the graphical limitations of the console to its advantage. The constricted draw distances of the era were hidden by the dense fog that induced a huge sense of tight claustrophobia when wandering about the town. This meant that, because you could barely see eight feet in front of James you'd initially hear the horrific enemies before you actually saw them, which increased the tension dramatically. Ironically, the interiors of many of the areas you'll find yourself in have a high level of detail and artistry that remarkably stands out even amongst todays games. 

In the making of video, the creators wanted to evoke a sense of revulsion within the environments. This is no more true than in the introduction scene, which sees James standing in a dilapidated bathroom on the outskirts of town, staring into a mirror and contemplating the letter he has just received. Unable to go any further because of the roadblocks, he sets off on foot to find his wife. The 'special place' that Mary was talking about, he concludes was Rosewater Park that they once spent a whole day in. To get into town, you have to play through a prolonged running sequence through a forrest path which goes on for a matter of minutes, this length was exaggerated by the makers in order for the town to seem more isolated and far from reality - so there was no turning back. 

Soon he meets a young woman called Angela, one of just four characters that you'll meet on this journey. Although you'd think it would be comforting to find another human in this town, especially since she too is looking for someone close to her heart (her mother), the advice that she gives you isn't exactly reassuring:

"This town, there's something wrong with it" 

James with Angela
James assures her that while he believes what she is saying, he doesn't care because of how much Mary means to him. She points him in the right direction and goes on his way. 

Finally arriving at the streets in Silent Hill, James notices blood streaks on the road which acts as a directional tool for the player. Your first glimpse of a monster wanders into the fog before you really get a chance to identify it - you're forced to walk in this direction and eventually you come to a boarded up tunnel that contains a radio emitting static. As James examines it you'll notice a horrific being feeding on a corpse that can best be described as a monster in a straight jacket, the same one that you went after. It's a staggering monstrosity that looks oddly human which you're forced to kill with nothing more than a wooden plank that James desperately rips from the barrier behind him. Anyone else would most likely have made a run for it right there, but James is compulsively drawn to finding Mary, despite how desperate the situation is. Upon leaving the tunnel, the radio starts emitting a woman's voice that is very hard to decipher but which definitely calls his name:

"Ja...... I'm...e. Come to...... s......ting f..... ...... id you k....Jam...." 

James keeps the radio. It is a staple of all Silent Hill games as it emits a terrifying sound of static when an enemy is nearby, helping the player to prepare themselves. 

Lying figure Silent Hill 2

James soon realises that there is no way to get to Rosewater Park unless he goes through an apartment complex to get there. Many roads are caved in and there are now several monsters roaming the streets. Upon entering the Wood Side apartments you'll find a map of the building, yet you're unable to read this because it's too dark.... time to find your trusty flashlight. 

Silent Hill 2 mannequin and flashlight
Now for those who don't really play games, the survival horror genre is extremely 'video gamey', if that makes sense. There are seemingly unrealistic puzzles that have to be solved, which enables the player obtain keys in order to progress. For example later on in a game you have to run around a hospital, finding several keys in order to unlock an elaborate box... which contains a human hair (no joke!). When exploring the apartments you'll find that many of the rooms are locked, so it's necessary to enter all the open ones, keeping an eye on your map in the hopes of finding solutions to advance the plot. Eventually you'll stumble into a room that contains the all important flashlight that has been placed upon a mannequin dressed in womens clothes. Once you've grabbed the light, you're unwelcomely introduced to the next monster, basically two sets of legs that are sewn together - an extremely feminine creation and flesh-like similar to the first one you encounter in the tunnel. There is a reason for these designs, which I'm going to cover in my analysis, but for now let's just say that the impossible noise that is emitted when you hit this monster will stick with you for a while. They're different to the other monster in the sense that they don't actively seek James to hunt him, sometimes they simply stand there eerily until you go near to them - just one important mechanic of many that this game employs which has symbolism and significance to the story.

You'll find a handgun in one of the rooms, but James is no military soldier. What makes Silent Hill different to its Resident Evil counterpart is the fact that you always play an everyman with no fighting skills, increasing the desperation of the combat even more. As the game progresses you'll find a shotgun and hunting rifle that are both painfully slow to reload, a far cry from some FPS's in which you can reload rocket launchers in about two seconds. Saying this, I do think that the Resident Evil 1 remake in particular does have a more realistic gameplay element over SH2 and that is that ammo and health is much more scarce. There are moments in SH2 where you'll run around with over 100 handgun bullets on normal difficultly which means that it lacks those 'surviving by the skin of your teeth' encounters that made the Resident Evil Remake so exciting.

Pyramid Head apartments Silent Hill 2
Your first encounter with 'the red pyramid thing' 

James dead Silent Hill 2
Does he look familiar? More on that in the analysis
After further exploration you'll hear the muffled noise of a man's scream coming from a room, following the origin of this noise will take you down a long corridor that ends with some prison like bars. As your radio emits static you'll see a figure simply standing there staring at James. Bathed in a red light, with a triangle shaped head and a filthy white uniform, it defies description. Pyramid Head, as called by the fans is a lesson in understatement, Japanese horror games tend to abide by the philosophy that less is more. What you don't see is usually scarier than tonnes of gore and monsters that's found in the western developed SH games (Lest we forget, in Silent Hill Origins your introduction with The Butcher - basically a carbon copy of PH consists of you watching a cutscene of him butchering a female nurse). Many players may just stand and stare, pondering what this horrific being is doing there and what it has done to anyone else that has come into its path. After you've entered the room where the scream came from, you soon find out, when approaching a static TV you'll discover the body of a man that is drenched in blood, if you needed any more evidence that something wasn't right with the town, then there it is.

Now the next cutscene is one of the most infamous and shocking in all of videogames, remember the mention of taboo topics at the start? James again sees Pyramid Head with two of the mannequin monsters, engaging in what looks like an aggressive sexual act with the them.  Sensibly James hides in a nearby cupboard (Blue Velvet reference?) just as PH starts walking in his direction, crudely dragging one of these mannequins, with him. Un-sensibly James breaks his stealth by firing bullets upon the monster who appears to be invincible, but after a few seconds PH thankfully walks out the room, leaving the player to recover for a few seconds from what they just witnessed.

Eddie Silent Hill 2
You'll meet a teenager called Eddie in the bathroom of room 101, the kitchen of which has another dead body in. Upon meeting Eddie he's throwing up in a toilet and assures you that the body had nothing to do with him. Furthermore the teenager has no idea what James is talking about when he mentions the 'Red Pyramid Thing', which makes you think that there is something wrong with James' mind... is he imagining the enemies? You don't get much in the way of information as to why Eddie is in Silent Hill:

Eddie: "I'm not even from this town. I just... I just"
James: "You too huh, something just bought you here too right"
Eddie: "Umm yeah, you could say that"  

The two tell each other to be careful and James will soon encounter Angela again lying on the floor holding a knife. James, aware that she is contemplating suicide tells her that there is "always another way", to which she responds that suicide is what they deserve (it all makes sense in the end, honest). They ask each other if they found who they were looking for, but Angela is obviously still looking for her mother, she then tells James to look after the knife for her before screaming and running from the room.

Angela Silent Hill 2
So.... when you're looking for a deceased wife of three years and you're (initially) the most normal person, that's when you realise something's wrong. Despite the human characters being a welcome change to the monsters intent on killing you, they do nothing but contribute to the sense of isolation. None of them seem to be all that normal, especially Angela who seems to be in a sort of trance in this cutscene - these few, unreliable people cause a crushing feeling of dread as you question whether or not you're the only sane person for miles and miles. James may be on an impossible journey to find a woman that no longer exists, but you get the sense that he is so desperate and determined that he's willing to try anything in an attempt to move on from his loss.

Pyramid Head Silent Hill 2The final barrier in your way before you exit this stage is none other than Pyramid head. As the door behind you miraculously locks you're forced into the first real boss fight. I say boss fight, but the best advice is to actually save your ammo and time your sprints away every time PH swings the giant buster sword that he drags along by his side. Eventually a loud siren rings and the basement below you clears of water, leaving you to get the hell out of there.

Laura on wall silent hill 2
Now, finally you get to leave the disgusting apartments and make your way to the park; before getting there you meet a child named Laura for the second time sitting on a wall (you briefly see her in the apartments and she steps on your hand as you're reaching for a key like a little brat). Questioning why a little girl is in such a dangerous town, James notices that she's holding a letter which he asks about, to which Laura replies "It's none of your business, you didn't love Mary anyway". She runs away before you can question why she knows Mary's name. As you can imagine, James is shocked by what he has just heard but carries on the the hopes that he'll get to meet Mary at  the park.

James and Maria Silent Hill 2
Aren't we all 
Once you arrive, you'll walk by a river and notice the siloute of a woman leaning against the railings - could it be her? James walks upto her hopefully and is shocked when she turns around to see a blonde women that bares a incredible resemblence to his late wife. "You could be her twin" James says "just your hair and clothes are different". The woman replies, stating that her name is Maria. Now if you thought the other characters you've met thus far where mysterious then Maria is on a whole new level. Is it a coincidence that this woman looks so much like Mary or is she there intentially? She's dressed promiscuously, has a flirty personality and you start to think that perhaps the town itself is scheming against James by throwing up all of these oddball characters. The makers of SH2 used the same voice actress and created both Mary and Maria's face with the same polygon structure in order to emphasise their similarities. Maria asks if this was their only 'special place', which prompts James to recount the time that they once spent at the Lakeview Hotel. As he sets off to the new location, Maria points him in the right direction and asks if she can tag along so he can protect her from the monsters & he agrees.

"I'm all alone here, everyone else is gone... I look Like Mary don't I? You loved her right? Or maybe you hated her" 

Eddie and LauraThis being a video game, you obviously get sidetracked and instead of going straight to the hotel you have talk to both Eddie and Laura in a bowling alley, leaving Maria outside. Overhearing their conversation you'll discover that Eddie is on the run and that 'nobody will ever forgive him' for what he's done. Once James walks in, Laura runs off and he's compelled to run after her whether it's to protect her or to find out what she knows about Mary. Eddie's seems to be enjoying his pizza too much to care though....

Nurses Silent Hill 2After Mary and James give chase to Laura, she enters Brookhaven Hospital - a mental institution... just what we need. Once you enter there's no-one to be seen in the desolate and dark corridors except for the new monsters that are much tougher that what you've met before; nurses wielding lead pipes who lunge at James. They walk in a way that appears to be extremely painful, limping whilst dragging the weapon behind them, appearing to be seconds from stumbling over. You'll notice that all the enemies thus far have somewhat human qualities apart from their faces which are obscured, or in this case deformed. Masahiro Ito, who was in charge of the creature designs for Team Silent said that this was intentional, he wanted to undermine these human aspects by giving them odd and unique methods of movement to make them more disturbing. There are no cliche' monsters with three heads, mechanical arms and tentacles to be found here.

Mary Silent Hill 2

A few more puzzles and alot more door opening later, Mary says that she's not feeling too well from her 'hangover' and so takes some pills and lies down on the most disgusting bed ever. Continuing on your journey to find Laura, James eventually gets up onto the roof of the hospital and you'll hear a familiar and terrifying sound coming from behind you... the scraping of Pyramid Head's buster sword on the floor. When he turns around, James is hit and knocked back onto the fencing surrounding the edge of the roof, falling off and landing into a previously locked section of the hospital. This enables James to enter other rooms to find the solution to the locks on the aforementioned silly box puzzle that contains nothing but a human hair. Combining this with a needle enables you to reach into a drain pipe to get an elevator key, no I'm not making this up.

hanging monstors silent hill 2Finally you get to see the bratty Laura again, completely unharmed despite the odds. She reveals that she was friends with Mary at the hospital after meeting her last year. This is obviously impossible, since Mary died three years ago, but nonetheless the two set off; whilst walking down a corridor Laura  says that she has a letter from Mary stored away. Tricking James, she locks him a room and you'll face another boss fight with caged monsters that fall and dangle from the ceiling - they're not very fast but because of the confined space you may find that a few health drinks are necessary in order to take care of them. After they're taken care of, James passes out and in first person perspective is wheeled down a corridor on a gurney as both the familiar siren as well as the voice of a woman whispering "James" sounds out. He awakens in another section of the hospital, which enables him to get into the hospital basement where he bumps into Maria, but she isn't happy.....

She screams at you for leaving her, stating that she could have been killed and that she's never been more scared in her entire life - delivering maybe the most insensitive line in the game - "All you care about is that dead wife of yours".

Mary: "You couldn't care less about me, could you?"
James: "No, i just..."
Mary: "Then stay with me. Don't ever leave me alone. You're suppose to take care of me"  

She forgives him and says that, despite not knowing her that it's her duty to protect Laura. Upon leaving a stairway a winding corridor meets you, which naturally you start to follow. After a few seconds your radio starts to blurt out static and an extra two footsteps behind you and Maria catches your attention - RUN! Pyramid Head appears again, this time being able to walk much quicker than before, an open elevator at the end of the path provides you with an escape route but in the ensuing chase, Maria is fatally stabbed in the back when the doors close on her. 

James falls down in the lift, devastated. Leaving the hospital you get this internal dialogue from him displayed on the screen:

"Maria's dead, I couldn't protect her. Once again I couldn't do anything to help. Laura has run off somewhere. Mary... what... what should I do? Are you really waiting somewhere for for me? Or is this your way of taking....I'm going to find Mary. It's the only thing I have left to hope for"

Now the fog has been replaced by the darkness of night and James is back on the streets. You find a memo on a map that basically tells you where to go next, that includes the following passage:

"He who is not bold enough to be stared at from across the Abyss is not bold enough to to stare into himself. The truth can only be learned by marching forward" 

What truth? This memo was placed by someone who wants James to carry on no matter what. He's unable to uncover what really happened to Mary until he goes to this 'Abyss' that the memo maps out for him. Only then will he be able to look into himself to uncover his own secrets. 

The map details the location of a letter and a wrench that is waiting for you. It is at this point that you can (optionally) enter a bar which has the following message written on one of the walls:

If you really want to see Mary, you should just die. But you might be heading to a
different place than Mary, James
Now the town... or someone, is really messing with James' mind. Essentially the memo is saying that should James die, he'll be heading to hell while Mary is in heaven, but why? It's at this point in the game that things really start to get screwy. While it's obvious from the get go that Silent Hill is no normal town - you start to wonder whether James himself is going crazy. 

Upon solving the aforementioned wrench and letter, you eventually gain a key to enter the Silent Hill Historical Society - a sortove museum. This letter forms the second half of the message found on the map and contains information specific to James. The writer states that a part of the Abyss is in this Old Society, and that should James with to continue he/she prays the lord to have mercy upon his soul. 

The religious symbolism of heaven and hell is continued once you've entered the Historical Society. You find a hole in the wall with stairs that takes about a minute to walk down - it seems like an impossibility that you're able to go quite so far underground (into the Abyss!) and the first time I played it I wondered if there was a glitch because of just how long this staircase is. When descending you'll hear that eerie siren noise again. 

When you've reached the end - you'll discover that, from the documents lying around you're in a underground prison. Exploring, James finds that there are no other doors or cells that allow him to progress except for a hole in the floor that is too dark to see down. You given the option of jumping yet you'll ultimately discover that it's necessary to take the risk in order for you to keep moving. There is another one of these pitch black holes for you to jump down that is located in a room in which the dimensions and geography is messed up (see picture on the right). Descending even further you'll end up in a cafeteria and you'll meet your old pal Eddie again, this time holding a gun instead of a pizza and has gone a bit, well... mental.

Eddie Silent Hill 2
James shines a light on his face and Eddie goes into a monologue about how easy it is to kill a person, there is another dead body lying near him like there was back in the apartments. Eddie murdered him simply because the man was making fun of him 'with his eyes' and that he has, up until now always let people walk all over him.  The unidentified dead body, it turns out also met the same fate as Eddie's dog, which he also admits to have killed in the past. Before making a run for it, Eddie says to James that he is "only joking", I can imagine at this point James is regretting going down those holes to this in-escapable prison. But now it's revealed that Eddie is a murderer, it's clear that the 'Abyss' which the letter referred to is now slowly showing James secrets about the other characters that exist within the town. 

Silent Hill 2 CellsYou're now free to explore the prison and you'll have to collect several items in order to craft a makeshift handle for a trapdoor. The area is obviously full of cells and while the whole prison is now disused, wet and delapidated there are deep voices coming from these locked cells. They can not damage James and you're unable to actually see them yet you're able to hold the gun up and kill them.... spooky. 

I've neglected going into detail about the sound design present within SH2 but to be honest everyone knows that composer Akira Yamaoka is a genius. Nonetheless, there is a moment in the prison section that deserves a special mention. A delightfully cheerful puzzle involving gallows requires solving before you progress, James places three tablets that he's found around the prison: The Tablet of The Oppressor, The Tablet of the Seductress and the Tablet Of The Gluttonous Pig upon the structure. Each time one is placed, the sound of a horse galloping is heard in the background, then when all three are done with, a blood curdling scream rings out. It really sends chills up your spine and tells you alot about the history of the prison, clearly the inmates that were housed here faced being hung and quartered. 
Gallows puzzle
The next stage after the prison is what is known as the Labyrinth. Yet again you have to drop down several more holes, including one located in a morgue full of decaying dead bodies. James has to descend downwards for one last time via a elevator which, like the stairs in the Historical Society involves an abnormal amount of waiting. 

The Labyrinth, like the name suggests consists of lots of winding corridors that are pretty disorientating. This is broken up by a circular area with caging making up the flooring, because of the shape of this room you're unable to see around the corner.... so naturally when you literally bump into Pyramid Head it's quite the surprise. PH is literally just roaming in a circle so it's fairly easy to escape him - James enters a room that appears to PH's warehouse/storeroom, where you can pick up that giant buster sword he likes to carry around. This is a video game so naturally James can just store a 6 foot sword in his pocket or something. In an upstairs area James solves yet another puzzle and enters a door to trigger probably the most brilliant and important cutscenes of the whole game....

To Jame's surprise, he see's Maria safe and well behind some prison bars. She seems to have no recollection of the events in the hospital, and instead knows things about Mary and James' relationship that no one else besides them could possibly know. She says the following lines in a more friendly and caring voice than what we've heard before:

Maria: "James honey, did something happen to you? After we got separated in that long hallway? Are you confusing me with someone else? You always were so forgetful, remember that time in the hotel? 
James: "Maria?"
Maria: "You said you took everything, but you forgot that videotape we made, wonder if it's still there" 
James: How do you know about that? Aren't you Maria?

"I'm not your Mary" - Maria suddenly retorts in a different, more sterner voice. She then tells James to come get her & release her from the cell that she's in - playing it or watching the cutscene itself you'll notice that she switches between two personalities; Maria and Mary. 

Abstract daddy silent hill 2When he leaves to try and free her James encounters Angela again. You'll hear another noise while walking much like the muffled scream you heard in the apartments. This time, it's the voice of a woman shouting: "No! Daddy, please don't". When you enter the room that the voice came from, Angela is being taunted by a new monster known as the 'Abstract Daddy' a new monster - the walls of the room itself are lined with holes that are basically being penetrated by cylindrical objects. James fights this new boss and Angela reveals that her dad used to "force her", the symbolism of the walls clearly represent this horrific abuse. Angela shouts at James despite him trying to help and calm her down, saying that men are "only after one thing" and that James "probably found someone else" & didn't want Mary around anymore.

James finds the route and keys needed in order to get to Maria, but open arrival she is lying dead on the bed, the left side of her face badly hurt while the mattress is stained red from blood. James leaves the room, and this depressing and sombre song plays while you're walking around. The end of this section comes when James walks into a graveyard with tombstones for each of the characters, his own grave has been buried which he has to jump into.

Eddie is waiting for him, and is even more crazy than before; surrounded by bodies he rants that anyone else who makes fun of him will die - so obviously James makes fun of him, asking whether he's gone nuts. After a brief gunfight Eddie flees into the next room which is like a industrial freezer with hanging slabs of meat. Eddie reveals that he fled from his home after killing a dog and shooting a man in the leg. 

James: "You think it's okay to kill people? You need help Eddie
Eddie: "Don't get all holy on me James, this town called you too" 

James is forced to kill Eddie himself out of self defence, and is distraught over the fact that he's now a killer. After kneeling down next to the body he actually questions his own motives, asking himself "Mary, did you really die all those years ago". 

If you check Mary's letter that has been in James' inventory all this time, the one that beckoned him to the town in the first place; you'll notice that it is now completely blank. This game will mess with your head unlike anything else. 

Exiting this area you'll be back outside in a dock area, it is here you'll finally make your way to the Lakeview Hotel (by boat) that Maria mentioned back at the park - James and Mary's 'special place' that they went to on a vacation years back. 

The Lakeview Hotel is actually like the Ritz compared to the other environments you've been in so far. It's crawling with enemies of course but James remarks that it looks just like it did all those years ago. Picking up a map as you walk in there is a delicate note written on inside one of the rooms that says 'waiting for you' - room 312 was where James and Mary stayed.

James finds Laura in the hotel's restaurant and what follows is actually one of my favourite cutscenes, mainly because for once the two are getting along quite nicely and it bodes well for one of the eventual endings that you'll get. Plus the ambient music is quite pleasant too. Laura shares her memories of Mary from when they knew each other at the hospital, apparently Mary talked alot about Silent Hill because she really wanted to go back. Laura gives James a letter which she stole from a nurses locker, Mary wrote it Laura for her to have after she had died. It basically says that had things worked out differently, Mary was hoping to adopt her and that Laura should be nice to James despite his surly personality...."happy 8th birthday Laura, your friend forever. Mary". Laura reveals that she only turned 8 last week, which means that Mary was alive 7 days ago, not three years ago like James said.

Laura runs off yet again, and James finds the videotape which Maria mentioned in the Labyrinth. Apparently James left it behind when he was vacationing here with Mary so he takes it with him. The stair gate that leads to room 312 is blocked off; so it's necessary to explore the whole environment in order to find the key to unlock it. Upon turning around on this staircase and heading back down, you'll hear a woman crying James name. 

The road to getting the key that will unlock room 312 takes you into the staff areas of the hotel, which involves a moment in which you're forced to dump off all your possessions (weapons included) in order to take a weight restricted elevator to the basement, leaving you totally vulnerable. It's like that moment in Resident Evil Remake where you're unable to run or shoot enemies because you're carrying a very fragile fuel canister that can blow up at any minute. 

Mary Silent Hill 2
Eventually you'll reach the point that the whole game has been leading upto. Upon entering room 312, Mary isn't anywhere to be seen, but James views the videotape that he picked up which documents the time he and Mary spent in room 312 when she was still healthy. Mary is filmed talking to James, saying that she loves the town, asking James to promise that he'll take her back someday - but then she suddenly starts coughing. The video then cuts to some incredibly grainy footage of James standing by Mary's bedside, he kisses her on the forehead then smothers her with a pillow. Before the video cuts out and just emits static...

James sits, slouched over in his chair looking at the floor for about a minute until Laura comes in asking if he's found Mary. James is completely unresponsive until she pushes his shoulder, he looks upto her and reveals to her that she's dead, she's dead because he killed her.

Laura: "You killer! Why'd you do it?! I hate you!! I want her back, give her back to me! I knew it, you didn't care about her! I hate you James, I hate you I hate you! She was always waiting for you, why... why" 

Laura and James Silent Hill 2 room 312

Laura storms out and James slumps back in his chair, unable to come to terms with what he's just seen. Just then, Mary's voice is heard coming from James radio:

"James, where are you? I'm waiting, I'm waiting for you. Please come to me. Do you hate me? Is that why you won't come? Please hurry, are you lost? I'm near. I'm waiting nearby James. Please, I want to see you James. Can't you hear me? James..." 

Silent Hill 2
When he steps out from room 312, the hotel has completely changed state. The corridors are wet, dirty and broken down. It's particularly disorienting because the rooms you enter actually warp you around the corridor and yes - even this has symbolism (James warped sense of mind right!). There are sections blocked off with fire/police banners & researching it you'll discover that the hotel suffered a fire sometime between James & Mary's visit and the present time. 

The last encounter with Angela occurs shortly after in an extremely trippy cutscene. She's on a set of stairs that are engulfed in flames, she asks for the knife back that James took in their second meeting in the Apartments. "Saving it for yourself?" she says, "no, I'd never kill myself" replies James. She feels that she deserves the abuse that she suffered at the hands of her father. Regarding the appearance of the room that they're both in, she says that "for me, it's always like this", suggesting her life has been a living hell. Angela then proceeds to head up the stairs which many fans see as the moment that she committed suicide. 

james and angela stairs silent hill 2

A few more dingy corridors later you enter a room and see the most terrible sight ever. TWO Pyramid Heads! Maria is alive again, suspended upside down next to the two monsters, until she is stabbed by a spear. James finally realises why he has been pursued by Pyramid Head and why he's had to witness the death of Maria so many times. 

"I was weak, that's why I needed you. I needed someone to punish me for my sins. But that's all over now"

Pyramid Head was a manifestation of James' own mind that grew out of a repressed desire for him to be punished for killing Mary. PH is basically a punisher/executioner that had to make sure that James finally understood the truth. The same can be said for Maria, which I'll go into more detail about the the Analysis. 

James fights the two PH's until, eventually they empale themselves on spikes; having served their purpose. 

This next scene is the one that I've always remembered since playing Silent Hill 2 for the first time. It provides a lot of context as to why James did what he did and it's one of the saddest and in my opinion most well voice acted monologues in all the games I've played. You have the option of skipping it (which influences the ending that you'll get) but in my four play through's of SH2 I never have. I couldn't find a full and good quality version with the old voice acting on youtube but below is the transcript, it's a conversation that plays when James is running down a corridor and is about his memories of visiting Mary when she was sick in hospital. The disease clearly effected her physical looks and she would lash out at James:

Mary: What do you want, James

James: I, uh I brought you some flowers...

Mary: Flowers? I don't want any damn flowers. Just go home already.

James: Mary, what are you saying'

Mary: Look! I'm disgusting! I don't deserve flowers. Between the disease and the drugs, I look like a monster. Well what are you looking at. Get the hell out of here. Leave me alone alreay! I'm no use to anyone. I'll be dead soon anyway. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow....It's be easier if they'd just kill me. But I guess the hospital is making a nice profit off me, they want to keep me alive.... Are you still here? I told you to go! Are you deaf?! Don't come back!

James.... Wait.... Please don't go.... Stay with me. Don't leave me alone. I didn't mean what I said. Please James.... Tell me I'll be okay. Tell me I'm not going to die. Help me...

So, is James a monster for killing his wife? Well, yes and no. Without this conversation we'd most likely look upon James as a heartless man that killed her because she wasn't physically attractive anymore, but it's more complicated than that.

After this, the last gameplay section of the SH2 arrives and while there are several different endings, the 'Leave' one is the one that most players will get on their initial play through. In an outdoor area with an open roof you'll once more (honestly) see Maria, dressed in Mary's clothes. She berates James for continually mistaking her for Mary when he murdered her - saying that he deserves to die too. James is understands that he doesn't need Maria anymore, and she transforms into, well this:

In the next upsetting and really well acted scene, James is by Mary's deathbed, asking her to forgive him. He says that he killed her because he couldn't bear to watch her slowly suffer, but he also admits that he 'wanted her out of the way' so that he could move on with his life. She forgives him and hands him a letter, this letter is read out over footage of James and Laura leaving the town; presumably with James carrying out out Mary's wish of adopting her.  

I can't really do justice to the letter reading scene by just copying and pasting the transcript so here it is as a video:

If that doesn't pull on your heartstrings then nothing will. Apparently the voice actress broke down and cried shortly after acting this scene out. Don't blame her. 

The letter itself is actually a finished version of the one that summons James to the town in the first place. It was written by Mary when she knew she was going to die and she talks about how she always took out her anger on James (thus, the hallway conversation) because she couldn't come to terms with what she was going through. In the original letter when she said that she was 'waiting for you', it in fact meant that she was waiting for him to come and see her in the hospital. James would rarely go to visit because he found it too painful to see a woman he loved in such a weak, ill state.

The other two main endings are the In Water and Maria ones. Although the In Water one may be more dramatically satisfying, I like to think (or hope) that the Leave ending is canon:

In Water: James doesn't get over what he has done to Mary, saying that without her he has nothing to live for. James commits suicide by driving his car into Toluca lake so that he can be with her forever in the afterlife. This ending is achieved by playing with little regard for James own life, if you wait to heal yourself as well as regularly examine Angela's knife in your inventory you'll most likely get this ending. 

Maria: If you limit your examination of Mary's letter and photo in you inventory, as well as regularly check on Maria in the hospital - you'll get this ending. Essentially you have to go about the game paying great attention to Maria & disregarding your search for Mary in different ways, e.g. ignoring the hallway conversation after the fight with Pyramid Head. James will instead battle Mary in the final boss fight and will leave Silent Hill with Maria who has again been resurrected. Maria will be seen coughing just before the end, which presumably means James is doomed to go through the whole process again. 

There you have it, the plot of Silent Hill 2. This was intended to provide those who haven't played the game with an outline of the important moments so that the analysis made more sense, I didn't mean for it to be half the length of a dissertation but there's alot going on and everything in SH2 has been crafted with an important meaning that adds to the story. Specifically it's for those who don't really play video games and are wondering what the fuss is all about! Games are capable of lots more than film and TV because they're interactive and your focus in progressing draws you into the atmosphere like nothing else. This really isn't a experience for the faint hearted, SH2 leaves you feeling pretty emotionally drained & you'll never want to go out in the fog again. 

The analysis of the plot, enemies and characters can be found here:

Characters and Monsters
Environment and Level Design

Silent Hill 2. 2001
Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo.