READ FIRST: The comparison chart below notes key differences in how Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition (PC modded) and the PCSX2 (PS2 emulated) version of Silent Hill 2 perform tasks that will directly impact gameplay and immersion. Several of the comparison tables below take into account playing in a standard widescreen aspect ratio (16:9), as this is a primary motivator and attractive feature for why users would play the game on either of these platforms using modern displays/hardware.
It is important to note that every version of Silent Hill 2 has limitations and bugs, and each version will have some degree of variation due to different hardware/software running the game. There is no such thing as a singular best platform to experience the game on. And while there are versions of Silent Hill 2 you should avoid altogether, Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition and the PCSX2 version are both exceptional ways to properly experience the game on modern systems and/or widescreen displays.
Lastly, in regards to the PCSX2 version: Most limitations of this version are due to the actual PS2 game itself and not the fault of the PCSX2 software. Regardless of whether a limitation is due to the game or emulator, the people who work on PCSX2 are an extraordinarily talented and passionate group of programmers who deserve nothing but our respect and admiration. Please do not mistake noted issues/limitations for either platform as malicious intent towards any persons or projects.
ENHANCED EDITION (PC)
Visual: Display Resolution & Optimization
In reference to how each platform renders and displays the game in varying aspect ratios.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition can display the game at a theoretical limitless amount of resolutions/aspect ratios, so long as the display can support the desired resolution. Additionally, modified .cam (camera) files adjust the camera in certain areas to prevent it from clipping into walls when using a 16:9 aspect ratio. Note that Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition is best experienced in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The PCSX2 version can display the game at a theoretical limitless amount of resolutions/aspect ratios, but "chunks" of the environment geometry will dynamically disappear when near the edge of a camera projection while using wider aspect ratios. Additionally, the camera will clip into certain walls when using widescreen aspect ratios.
Visual: Fog Rendering
In reference to how each platform renders fog (amount, complexity, locomotion).
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition allows you to adjust the amount and opacity of fog to your liking. Using the preset values, the fog in Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition resembles the same thickness/amount as the PS2 version in almost all areas. The alpha blending and speed/movement is visually different than the PS2 version.
The fog in the PlayStation 2 version is the most visually pleasing; through the amount of fog on-screen at any given time, its alpha blending, and overall speed/movement, which generally moves slower/more natrually than the PC version.
Visual: Flashlight Rendering
In reference to how each platform renders the lighting effects of the flashlight against the environment.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition uses per-pixel lighting for the flashlight to achieve perfectly curved and smoothed lighting effects.
The PlayStation 2 version uses per-vertex lighting for the flashlight, which creates blocky, unevenly-lit lighting effects.
Visual: Soft Shadow Rendering
In reference to how each platform renders dynamic shadows in the game.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition has soft shadows, and maintains softer shadows at higher rendering resolutions.
The PlayStation 2 version has soft shadows. However, depending on which video renderer (GDsx) you use in PCSX2, soft shadows may be affected. Direct3D 9 (software), Direct3D 11 (software), and OpenGL (software) mode have console-accurate soft shadows but the game will only render at a 480 resolution. OpenGL (hardware) and Direct3D 11 (hardware) mode renders soft shadows, but the shadows will become sharper the higher the rendering resolution you use. Direct3D 9 (hardware) mode renders no shadows at all.
Visual: Self Shadow Rendering
In reference to how each platform renders shadow casting upon dynamic (movable) objects.
Dynamic (movable) objects such as enemies, NPCs, and items receive shadows upon themselves in Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition.
Dynamic (movable) objects such as enemies, NPCs, and items receive shadows upon themselves in the PlayStation 2 version.
Visual: FMV Playback
In reference to how each platform generally plays back the full motion videos (quality, stretching, cropping) in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition provides high quality versions of the full motion videos (FMVs). Using the PlayStation 2 FMVs as a base, the videos are then deinterlaced, de-haloed, noise reduced, and anti-aliased before being upscaled to a higher resolution of 1280x720. The videos are cropped to fill a 16:9 presentation without stretching/distorting. Video files are 29.97p (progressive) and played back at 29.97 full frames per second.
The PCSX2 version can scale/crop the FMVs to fill a 16:9 presentation without stretching/distorting. Certain FMVs may completely freeze for several seconds before playback begins, depending on your speedhacks configuration for PCSX2. FMVs may appear pixelated due to their native 512x384 size and "jittery" due to the videos being interlaced, or depending on which type of deinterlacer you use for PCSX2. Video files are 29.97i (interlaced) and played back at 59.94 half frames per second. PCSX2's "blend" deinterlacing method produces the most desirable results for deinterlacing the videos, and is achieved by turning the half frames of the videos into full frames, which outputs the videos at 29.97 full frames per second.
Visual: In-game Cutscenes
In reference to how each platform displays in-game cutscenes in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition scales in-game cutscenes to hide visual elements you were never meant to see when playing in a 16:9 aspect ratio. This will hide visual anomolies such as characters who would otherwise appear "frozen in place" before they are supposed to step into the scene. This is achieved by automatically zooming in during cutscenes to make their horizontal compositions match the original 4:3 aspect ratio versions.
The PCSX2 version cannot automatically scale in-game cutscenes when played in a widescreen aspect ratio, which means you will see visual elements that were never intended to be seen while the cutscenes play. PCSX2 has the ability to manually zoom game visuals in and out, but you would be required to adjust this zoom setting before, during, and after every cutscene while you play.
Visual: Full Screen Images
In reference to how each platform displays full screen images (images that fill the whole screen such as memos, riddles, maps, etc) in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition preserves the original aspect ratios of full screen, 2D images (such as the main menu, inventory screen, riddle images, and subtitles), when played in a 16:9 aspect ratio. The letterboxing is also removed for these images. Future plans to create an "Enhanced Full Screen Image Pack," which will use neural networking to produce upscaled images, will provide the highest resolution of these images to date.
With the PCSX2 version, full screen, 2D images will be stretched/distorted when using a widescreen aspect ratio. The image's letterboxing will also still be present, even if the images are stretched. There is no way to fix the stretching unless you play the game in its original 4:3 aspect ratio on PCSX2, and letterboxing will still be present at that aspect ratio.
Visual: Post-processing Effects
In reference to how each platform renders post-processing effects such as motion blur, depth-of-field, and pseudo (fake) bloom effects.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition renders post-processing effects, such as the depth-of-field blur, motion blur, and pseudo bloom effects.
The PCSX2 version renders post-processing effects, such as the depth-of-field blur, motion blur, and pseudo bloom effects.
In reference to how each platform displays text/fonts.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition version uses high resolution text within the game.
The PS2 version uses low resolution text with no anti-aliasing.
Audio: Sound Quality and Playback
In reference to the overall quality (bitrate, channels, compression) of audio files and how the platform plays back the files.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition uses the PlayStation 2 audio files (with reverb intact) for optimal clarity and presentation. All audio is saved as pre-recorded files. Dialog and background music are played as stereo. Sound effects are played as mono. Background music is stored as multiplexed tracks. Emulated hardware accelerated 3D drivers (IndirectSound mod) allow for surround sound while playing.
The PlayStation 2 version has the best quality audio files. The PS2 version plays all sounds as stereo. With the exception of dialog, sound files are not pre-recorded, but instead samples that are dynamically called, pitch-shifted, and arranged in real-time; a feature exclusive for this game on the PlayStation 2. S-FORCE technology simulates surround sound, but is only utilized for a small amount of sound effects.
Gameplay: Load Times
In reference to how quick each platform will load new areas and transition between screens.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition can load new areas instantly or near-instantly, along with faster screen transition times (quicker fade times between navigating menus or going to new areas).
Since PCSX2 emulates original PlayStation 2 hardware, this version loads new areas as fast as the original PlayStation 2 version, which is slow. Screen transition speeds are slower in this version and also cannot be changed.
In reference to how accessible and easy it is to save game progress on each platform.
With Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition, you can save your game nearly any where and at any time, with a theoretical limitless amount of save files. There is also a "Quick Save" and "Quick Load" feature to allow for uninterrupted saving and loading, so you never have to pause gameplay.
With the PlayStation 2 version, you can only save in designated areas found throughout the game. Playing on PCSX2, you can use save states to save any where and at any time. However, there are only 10 save state slots that can be used per game on PCSX2.
Gameplay: Gamepad (Controller) Support
In reference to how each platform supports the use of gamepads and their capabilities.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition supports keyboard and XInput/DirectInput controllers. Vibration/rumble with controllers and the use of the D-pad as an additional movement pad are also supported. Character movement is bound to the left joystick and D-pad, and search camera movement is bound to the right joystick. The PC version does not support pressure sensitive buttons, but instead uses quick-tap and long-hold button presses to initiate different melee attack patterns.
The PCSX2 version supports keyboard and XInput/DirectInput controllers. Vibration/rumble with controllers and the use of the D-pad as an additional movement pad are also supported. Character movement is bound to the left joystick and D-pad, and search camera movement is bound to the right joystick. The PCSX2 version does not support pressure sensitive buttons, therefore it cannot differentiate between light or heavy melee attacks, so it will only perform heavy melee attacks.
Gameplay: Input Reassignments
In reference to how each platform supports input remapping for game functions/actions.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition allows you to remap inputs for almost all game functions, on a per-function basis. This includes setting inputs for advanced actions that you would be unable to assign on console versions, such as being able to instantly change between weapons, reload, quick save, and quick load. These advanced actions can also be mapped to a controller.
The PlayStation 2 version allows input remapping of basic functions, through predefined selections only. You cannot assign input mappings for advanced actions, such as weapon swapping or reloading.
Performance: Processor Optimization
In reference to PC hardware requirements and how each platform utilizes a computer's processors to run the game.
The hardware requirements to run Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition are less demanding than the PCSX2 version. However, in order to fix the sound looping bug in the PC version, the processor affinity for the game must be set to run on a single core, which limits how many processors can be used for performance. If using a relatively-new PC, the game should run smoothly and without issue even on a single core.
PCSX2 can utilize all processors of a computer to run the game. However, the hardware requirements to run the PCSX2 version are more demanding than Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition. If you have a gaming-centric PC, the PCSX2 version should run smoothly and without issue. As time goes on and better hardware is included standard for consumer-grade PCs, the PCSX2 version will have broader compatibility for users.
In reference to each platform's bugs and oversights.
Silent Hill 2: Enhanced Edition is continually fixing issues—both those inherent to the PC version and issues that are found within all versions of the game—with each update release. Additionally, features are continually be introduced to restore/match visual elements to that of the PlayStation 2 version, and beyond.
PCSX2 is continually being developed and improved upon, but game-specific issues within the PlayStation 2 version of Silent Hill 2 may never be addressed. The PlayStation 2 version experiences issues such as the rowboat animation glitch sometimes happening; Pyramid Head's stabbing animation always being out of sync at the end of the Hospital elevator chase; incorrect environment visuals sometimes happening during the first part of the "Maria" ending; etc.