READ FIRST: The comparison chart below notes key differences in how the Enhanced Edition (PC modded) and PCSX2 (PS2 emulated) versions of Silent Hill 2 perform tasks that will directly impact gameplay and immersion. Several of the comparison tables below take into account playing on modern displays (16:9 aspect ratios), as this is a primary motivator and attractive feature for why users would play the game on either of these platforms.
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, the Enhanced Edition and PCSX2 versions 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 at varying aspect ratios.
The 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, without negatively affecting the environment visuals. Additionally, modified .cam (camera) files adjust the camera in certain areas to prevent it from clipping into walls when using a standard widescreen 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).
With the Fog Fix mod, the Enhanced Edition version allows you to adjust the amount and opacity of fog to your liking. Using the preset values, the fog in the 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 PlayStation 2 version of the fog 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.
The Enhanced Edition version uses per-pixel lighting for the flashlight to achieve perfectly curved and smoothed lighting effects.
The PCSX2 version uses per-vertex lighting for the flashlight which creates blocky, unevenly-lit lighting effects.
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 will have shadows cast upon them for the Enhanced Edition version in the future. We have figured out how to re-enable this feature, but more research and development is needed before we release this improvement.
Dynamic (movable) objects such as enemies, NPCs, and items can have shadows cast upon them in the PS2 version.
Visual: Soft Shadow Rendering
In reference to how each platform renders dynamic shadows in the game.
Currently, hard-edge volume dynamic shadows are the only shadow type available for the PC version. Implementation of soft shadows for the Enhanced Edition is hopefully planned in the future.
Dynamic shadows have soft edges in the PS2 version. However, depending on which video renderer (GDsx) you use in PCSX2, soft shadows may or may not be present. OpenGL (software) and Direct3D 9 (software) mode have console-accurate soft shadows but the game only runs at 480 internal resolution. OpenGL (hardware) mode renders more sharp-looking shadows. Direct3D 9 (hardware) mode renders no shadows at all.
Visual: FMV Playback
In reference to how each platform generally plays back the full motion videos (quality, bitrate, stretching, cropping) and on varying aspect ratios.
With the Enhanced Edition version, using the FMV Enhancement Pack brings the quality of the game's full motion videos to that of the PlayStation 2's version, which are considered the best. The FMVWidescreenMode mod will display the FMVs in a correct aspect ratio if playing in widescreen. However, playback is at 30 frames per second.
The PCSX2 version will not properly play back the FMVs without enabling the gamefix to switch to GDsx software rendering before the FMV plays. Even when enabling this fix, there will be a momentary visual bug before any FMV plays with this fix enabled. Depending on which video renderer (GDsx) you use, FMV quality may have "jaggies" with a jittery motion effect. However, playback is at 60 frames per second.
Visual: In-game Cutscenes
In reference to how each platform displays in-game cutscenes on varying aspect ratios.
With the Enhanced Edition version, you can enable the ReduceCutsceneFOV mod to hide visual elements you were never meant to see during in-game cutscenes when playing in a widescreen aspect ratio. Namely, this will hide 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 the horizontal composition the same as the original 4:3 aspect ratio version.
The PCSX2 version cannot automatically zoom in during in-game cutscenes when played on 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: Fullscreen Images
In reference to how each platform displays fullscreen images (images that fill the whole screen such as memos, riddles, maps, etc) on varying aspect ratios.
With the Enhanced Edition version, you can enable the Fix2D mod to prevent the fullscreen images from stretching/distorting when using widescreen aspect ratios. The FullscreenImages mod can then zoom in on the images to remove their letterboxing. However, markings on the map and the floating save screen text will go beyond the non-stretched boundaries. These issues are planned to be fixed at a later date. Additionally, plans to create an "Enhanced Fullscreen Image Pack," which will use neural networking to produce AI-generated, upscaled images, will provide the highest resolution of these images to date.
With the PCSX2 version, fullscreen 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.
While the PC version has post-processing effects, the intensities of these effects are severely toned down (to compensate for weak GPUs during 2003). Some of these effects are toned down so much that they may mistakingly be considered not active. We hope to restore these effects to their proper glory in the future.
The PS2/PCSX2 version renders all post-processing effects at their correct levels/intensities.
In reference to how each platform displays text/fonts.
The Enhanced Edition version uses high resolution fonts for text within the game.
The PS2 version uses low resolution fonts 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.
The 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 are instead samples that are dynamically called, pitch-shifted, and arranged in real-time; a feature exclusive for this game on the PS2. S-FORCE technology simulates surround sound only for a small amount of sound effects while playing.
Gameplay: Load Times
In reference to how quick each platform will load new areas and transition between screens.
The PC/Enhanced Edition version can load new areas instantly or near-instantly. Using the FastTransitions mod (which quickens fade-in/fade-out times) makes screen transitions fast and fluid.
Since PCSX2 emulates original PS2 hardware, this version loads new areas as fast as the original PS2 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 the PC/Enhanced Edition version, you can save your game nearly anywhere 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 PS2 version you can only save in designated areas found throughout the game. Playing on PCSX2, you can use save states to save anywhere and at any time. However, there are only 10 save state slots that can be used per game.
Gameplay: Gamepad (Controller) Support
In reference to how each platform supports the use of gamepads and their capabilities.
The PC version inherently supports keyboards and DirectInput (DInput) controllers. With the Xinput Plus mod, the PC version also supports XInput controllers. With the DPadMovementFix, D-pad functionality is restored. With the XInputVibration fix, force feedback (controller vibration) works. The PC version uses quick-tap and long-hold button presses to initiate different melee attack patterns.
The PCSX2 version supports DirectInput (DInput) controllers, XInput controllers, and keyboards. All controller inputs (including the D-pad) work. Force feedback (controller vibration) works. The PS2 version uses pressure-sensitive button presses to initiate different melee attack patterns.
Gameplay: Input Reassignments
In reference to how each platform supports input remapping for game functions/actions.
The PC version allows you to remap all inputs, in addition to setting inputs for advanced actions that you would be unable to assign on console versions, such as assigning an input to instantly swap between weapons, use health kits, reload, and more. These advanced actions can also be mapped to gamepads (controllers).
The PS2 version only allows input remapping for basic functions. This is due to the limitation of the PS2 game itself; you cannot assign input mappings for advanced actions such as weapon swapping or healing.
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 the PC version 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 the PC version. 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 in general consumer-grade PCs, the PCSX2 version will have a broader compatibility for most users.
In reference to each platform's bugs and oversights.
The Enhanced Edition version is constantly fixing bugs--both those inherent to the PC version and bugs found within all versions of the game--with each update release. Additionally, features are continually be introduced to the Enhanced Edition version that restore visuals elements back to that of the PS2 version.
Any bugs within the PS2 version are not addressed. The PS2 version experiences bugs such as the rowboat animation glitch; Pyramid Head's stabbing animation getting "stuck" at the end of the Hospital elevator chase; the piston and piston shaft being exposed when Angela opens the door in the Flesh Room; and music sometimes starting at incorrect times when played through PCSX2.