Review by BlackFurredBeast

Reviewed: 05/26/03 | Updated: 05/26/03

Just ... stunning

Silent Hill 3 is the third installment in Konamis spectacular survival horror series. There are a bunch of other survival horror games out there, but nothing rivals the sheer intensity of the Silent Hill franchise which relies much more on psychological horror than on sparying gore. SH3 is no exception to this.

In SH3, you play the role of Heather, a 17 year old girl who finds herself in a nightmarish scenario in the beginning of the game only to realize that the nightmare she had was only the beginning of a horror trip without compare. I don't want to tell more, since a HUGE portion of SH3's appeal comes from the story, so you either read the gamefaqs boards or check it yourself.

Graphics: 10/10
Considering that this is a PS2 game, the graphics are simply amazing. The textures are sharp, jagged edges are really no issue in this game, lighting and shadows are ... well, beautiful, and you have some breathtaking camera sweeps to boot. A welcome feature is the 50/60 Hz selector, not something taken for granted in games released in europe.

Sound: 10/10
To me, sound in a game is nearly equally important than the graphics department, and I'm damn happy that SH3 doesn't disappoint. Music, ambient sounds, speech and monster noises blend together to form an always fitting audio landscape that actually enhances the gaming experience. Imagine you walk through a dark corridor, only your echoing footsteps accompanying you, then suddenly, a hellish monster roar. Even if there is no monster, your heart starts racing again and again.
Just one minor gripe is that the importance of the trademark radio has diminished, since as soon as there are monsters in the area the music beats up and you know... aha, monsters ahead.

Gameplay: 9/10
The ingredients are nearly the same as in other Silent Hill games.
Basically you have your ''explore the area, shoot the monsters, solve some riddles'' fare, but in Silent Hill 3, this formula is raised to an art form.
Most of the areas you explore exist in two alternate realities, either the ''normal'' world or the ''evil'' world, complete with changes in room layout and ... decoration. But contrary to the earlier SH games, the borders are fleeting, not fully defined. You may enter a room you visited before, knowing full well that you are in the ''real world'', but suddenly the walls start seeping reddish-brown liquids and you are attacked by horrible creatures.
While on the topic of areas: The designers have cut down on the time you spend running around looking for your next objective. On the one hand it's an improvement, since it saves you some long walking distances, on the other hand it makes the game a lot more linear, but here I can live easily with that.

You have two control methods at hand, one is more like resident evil (push analog stick left, turn left) and another, called ''2D movement'' (you instantly move in the direction you push the stick). The controls are responsive and minor tweaks (move AND shoot is now possible and rather easy to do) add to the enjoyment of frequent battles.
But this time you have to watch your bullet count, since SH3 is much less generous than its predecessors in terms of ammo frequency. It gets partially balanced through the inclusion of diversions (throw meat to distract enemies), but all in all you're better off conserving what little ammo you have.
As in earlier games, you can customize the difficulty levels for riddles and action parts seperately. This makes the game enjoyable for beginners and pros alike.
The only little annoying thing that keeps me from giving this a 10 are some of the puzzles that are overly... constructed. But that's nothing a little hard thinking or trial and error couldn't fix.

Suspense/Horror: 10/10
Silent Hill games always were the more mature brethren to the Resident Evil games by Capcom. Where Resident Evil offers cheesy dialogue and hordes of zombies to mutilate, Silent Hill affects you at a deeper, more psychological level. From the moment you start the game, you're put into a claustrophobic microcosm of confined corridors, first without a single clue of what to do, and it gets darker and much more disturbing from there on. The empty buildings, deserted subway stations, the seamless transitions from one nightmare into another, the cleverly set shock moments, its just unbelievable. Add to this the simply grotesque and outlandish monsters, ranging from two-headed, mummified dogs to giants with utterly malformed extremities to itching, crawling dwarf things...

Were it not for the basic needs like eating and sleeping, I'd have played the game through in one sitting, all the while clinging to a white fluffy stuffed rabbit animal for comfort.
The characters add to the experience. There are just a handful, but each one is deep, rounded, with an agenda of his own. And not to forget: There is a very, VERY big plot twist in there that will send you back in time.

Lifespan: 8/10
Even though the game is rather short (I went through my first run in about 7:21 hours) this game will stay close to your PS2 for many days to come. First, you won't forget it so easily. Second, there are at least three endings and a bucketful of extras (costumes and secret weapons for starters) to find and unlock. Although I doubt that you will finish the game and immediately return to it. I just need a break from the utter darkness that is SH3 and play some nice, bright sunshine game... perhaps a Super Mario title or something, to brighten me up :)

Buy/Rent: Buy, by all means!
There is NO game that could match the sheer ''edge of seat'' intensity of SH3. But be warned. This game does NOT belong into children's hands - or people with unstable psyches. It contains enough disturbed imagery to keep you awake for nights on end. Trust me, I speak from experience.

Pros/Cons

+ Graphics-wise the best the PS2 has to offer
+ intense soundtrack
+ Characters well done
+ disturbing atmosphere
+ easy control method
+ less ''useless'' walking

- some riddles are rather constructed
- too many doors with broken locks
- a tad too linear

All in all, one of the best titles in the PS2 lineup and definitely the most disturbing game so far.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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