Review by thegrid
Reviewed: 06/03/03 | Updated: 06/03/03
A disappointing addition to the series
Before playing this game, I considered Silent Hill 2 to be by far the best game in the survival horror genre, and indeed one of the best games I've played. Therefore, for me the only question was: will Silent Hill 3 stack up to its excellent predecessor?
SH3's graphics are a marginal improvement on SH2, which, for me, featured some of the most atmospheric game graphics ever. The lighting effects are great in SH3; the dark atmosphere enhanced by these and a few extra effects which were not present in SH2.
The environmental and enemy sounds are excellent, and play a vital role in the feel of the game. The voice-acting of Heather is also unusually good for a game; however the voice-acting of other characters is substandard, and detract greatly from the cut-scenes.
The combat system in SH3 is definitely better than SH2's, featuring the ability to parry, should you choose to take advantage of it. However, I found that where in SH2 it was only necessary to run from the zombies whilst outdoors, most of the enemies in SH3 will see you fleeing to the nearest exit as quickly as you can. Either that, or use a melee weapon on them, increasing the risk of receiving severe damage. Not that this is necessarily a negative change from SH2, though it is a significant one.
The general navigation around the world is much the same as SH2, which is fine, except for one scene in the game where the player must run from an instant death enemy. The cameras change constantly, making it extremely frustrating if the player is using ''2d controls''. More often than not, the player will end up suffering from geographical dyslexia and stumbling straight into the enemy.
In any case, I am prepared to accept that the gameplay element of combat plays a less important role in a survival horror game than it may in a game of another genre.
The atmosphere is just as tense as it was in SH2, if not more so due to the world being a tad more interactive. This, to me, is paramount in a horror game, and SH3 does not fail to disappoint on this score. The atmosphere is excellent; it is tense from start to finish, punctuated ever so briefly by a room or two that resembles normality, where Heather, and indeed the player, can snatch a moment's respite.
The bosses and enemies were a great source of disappointment to me in SH3. Given that the player encounters the enemies frequently through the game, I believe they need to be terrifying enough in their own right to induce a feeling of dread before opening each door in the game, and then a feeling of panic once the door is opened and the enemy is confronted. Unfortunately, in SH3, few enemies fulfill these criteria. There are some notable exceptions, but in most cases they are quite tame, and even, in the case of the marshmallow man, comical. The bosses were particularly anti-climactic in appearance and behaviour. Having identified perfectly why Pyramid Head is so perverse and grotesque in SH2, the designers of SH3 seem to have glossed over that astute observation and inexplicably concentrated on more humanistic monsters.
The puzzles involving items are incredibly easy (on any difficulty level), yet some of the riddles on hard riddle level are incredibly difficult. Personally, I would have preferred a better balance struck between these two extremes.
Unfortunately, the storyline in SH3 is a serious sticking point. Whilst SH2's storyline was engaging emotionally, dark, and mentally twisted, SH3's storyline is superficial and far-fetched. I found it extremely difficult to identify with Heather's plight, with all the talk about a god and the supernatural. It became increasingly difficult to remain engaged in the game as the plot wore on. SH3 represents a significant departure from the lofty heights of SH2's storyline. It almost seems to be a return to SH1's storyline - though it is beyond me as to why such a backward step would be taken with the series. Given the importance I place on storyline in a survival horror game, this fantastical plot has significantly affected my overall score for SH3. Certainly, I am prepared to accept that each person has their own ideas about what constitutes a satisfying story - so if you enjoy fanciful stories, this is for you. If, however, like me, James' descent into madness struck a chord with you, you will more than likely be disappointed by SH3.
Whilst the sound and graphics are excellent, and the gameplay is mostly solid, an engaging storyline is the difference between a good horror game and a great horror game. SH2 was a great horror game, and SH3 is a good horror game. SH2 for me retains its top spot in the horror genre, and SH3 slots in as second, by virtue of the competition being so awful.
It should also be noted that SH3 is an extremely short game, maybe 3 or 4 hours of actual gameplay (maximum); you can double that figure when you add the time taken to ponder the more obscure riddles (assuming you play on the hardest riddle level; otherwise, you'll cruise through the game).
Given Konami's obvious potential in the horror genre, illustrated in SH2, SH3 is a very disappointing result. Some soul-searching will need to be done at Konami if they decide to develop SH4.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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