Review by Exodist
A slight disappointment after Silent Hill 2.
I'm pretty late to the party but I recently played through Silent Hill 2 and really enjoyed it. Naturally, I played through Silent Hill 3 pretty much straight after. However I was fairly disappointed with this effort and whilst still enjoying the game, found it to be much weaker than 2. There are many reasons resulting to my opinion on the game, and whilst the core gameplay remains virtually unchanged and fine, the rest of the game wasn't up to scratch.
The story continues from the original game, or at least uses the same cult storyline. You play as Heather, a 17 year old girl who takes a trip to a mall. However upon exit nothing is quite right and finds herself trapped in the mall with no people about, rather just a few grotesque monsters. Essentially The Order from Silent Hill are after her, however interestingly enough the game isn't entirely set in Silent Hill. Rather, you visit the town in the latter half of the game, and I'll admit looking at the map when you first arrive pretty much brings 'memories' of the previous game since it is the same. At anyrate, Heather isn't an all too interesting character. She's a teen girl and seems to handle everything pretty well considering, whilst keeping a sort of sarcastic tone toward stuff throughout the game. The story isn't terrible but it feels a bit recycled from the first game in aspects, however the games are linked quite well too which was a nice touch. Simply put though, it isn't anywhere as interesting as the previous game.
The actual gameplay is unchanged. The menu has been categorised making item navigation a little easier, and the movement felt a little better, but apart from that I didn't really notice anything different. It's survival horror: you run around, explore, solve puzzles and fight (or avoid) enemies as you progress. However to me the game had a lot of design faults which made me enjoy it less. Firstly, I didn't particularly enjoy a lot of the areas in the game. The mall is a decent start, however the subway and sewers really confused and bugged me. Maybe I was just really blind but I didn't find a map for either of these areas, and whilst the subway isn't too complicated I missed some rooms in the sewers resulting in me running around for a while trying to find stuff (when I say sewers I basically mean anything from after the subway up to the office/construction place). The game is full of annoying enemies too and there isn't too much ammo, so you're basically forced to avoid them since melee fighting can be quite hard with them. Whilst I wouldn't say the game made a massive emphasis on combat, there were too many enemies in the game I felt and it was too tough to actually kill them in, resulting in a few areas of me just running around tapping X hoping to take note of places of interest or pick up items as I ran around avoiding enemies. The rest of the areas in the game weren't too bad. The office actually gave me a map, and the Silent Hill areas were pretty fun and the scariest parts of the game.
One other thing I didn't like though was instant death. They use this throughout the whole game and completely catch you off guard, annoying me more than anything. There's a door on the subway tracks, so I run to it, go a bit further and get ran over. I didn't see a hole in the floor so I run to it and fall off (naturally I pulled the analog stick the opposite way but apparently that is what makes you fall in) and die. There was a really random part too at the Amusement Park in the mansion. The atmosphere was tense to say the least so I was taking my time, walking around when I enter a corridor. So naturally I walk through it, then when I reach the corner the angle changes. Only then does a sort of red mist start chasing me, and when I see it, it's too late: I'm dead. On the actual enemy side of things though, whilst some are annoying in terms of attacks (those crawling things annoyed the hell out of me) it's not actually too bad surviving. Granted I only had my Ampoule's left for the final boss but there are a decent amount of healing items in the game to survive in that aspect.
The graphics were really good though and an improvement over the second. The character models were better animated and the environments were designed just as well. The Silent Hill areas were especially good because the environments themselves are manipulated, there is a particularly great 'mirror' room in the hospital that springs to mind. The voice acting, like the previous wasn't too bad, however I felt Douglas was poorly done, his voice sort of suited him, they just didn't put any effort into the voice acting itself. The music once again suits the game, keeping the atmosphere tense in certain situations and just providing you with a creepy theme in the background.
Whilst a lot of my problems appear to be with instant death, I personally just didn't enjoy the design as much. I found the starting areas of the game particularly frustrating and not enjoyable, nor very scary. The game picked up a bit when you arrive at Silent Hill however by then you've already completed most of the game. It was fairly short too with the in-game timer reading at 3 and a half hours, however I believe this only counts actual in game time (ie excluding menu, cut-scene etc) so I'd say it took me about 6 hours (of my actual time) to beat on normal difficulty. Overall the game wasn't particularly scary (although I'm sure some would beg to differ), the story didn't interest me as much and I found the game rather frustrating at moments. It has some good ideas and some great parts, and the gameplay is pretty much the same, but in some instances I just didn't really enjoy the game much.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Silent Hill 3 (EU, 05/23/03)
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