Review by Sarcasmo

Reviewed: 06/13/03 | Updated: 06/13/03

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Hell

Somewhere in the good ol' US of A, hidden away in a blanket of fog, is a small town (''Wow! A small town somewhere in America! I never woulda guessed!'' I hear you cry sarcastically). However, this place is not your average sleepy town. Unless, of course, most towns have bleeding walls, mummified dogs with their heads split in two, crazed occult sects and vile, odious, disgusting flesh beasts for it's inhabitants. Silent Hill does and has much more besides. Ladies and gentlemen, take my hand as we go on a tour guide to Hell...
The number three in the title subtly suggests that there have been previous visits to this cheery little hell-hole. Silent Hill on the PSOne was generally considered, on it's release in 1999, to be a more thoughtful and menacing take on the survival horror genre, in contrast to the more obvious and 'jump-out-your-seat' shocks of the Resident Evil series and went on to be a significant success. The game followed protagonist Harry Mason's descent into madness as he searched for his missing daughter while on holiday in the strangely deserted titular town and uncovering a sinister occult plot to raise an incarnation of God. Several factors caused this to be an highly unnerving experience, including the mind-bending plot, deformed monsters with strangely human shapes and a playing area that frequently shifted into a nightmarish alternate reality. However, the mood was spoilt somewhat by the clunky dialogue and atrocious voice acting.
Silent Hill 2, released on the PS2 in 2001, took the foundations the first game laid and built impressively upon them. Concerning itself with new guy, James Sunderland, players were treated to a highly emotional and intense storyline, consequently finding themselves drawn into his quest to solve the mystery behind a letter he received, which is apparently from his late wife, Mary. Along the way, he meets Maria, a dead ringer for his wife, right down to her voice.
SH2 managed to maintain the atmosphere throughout the game, not simply because of the massive graphical overhaul the superior PS2 offered (Although the game did look sweet back then and can still hold it's own today), not because of the monsters, but because of intrigue. Was Maria a reincarnation of Mary? Is Eddie responsible for a series of gruesome murders? And what the hell is that red pyramid headed thing really after? The game never offered conclusive answers to the questions it raised, allowing the player to reach their own conclusions. Genius.
Which brings us nicely onto the third installment. This time around, the main character is not a middle-aged man but an attractive, slightly moody 17 year old called Heather. Beginning the game with a surreal dream sequence, Heather wakes up and finds herself in a branch of Happy Burger in her local mall. Upon leaving the cafe, she is accosted by a suspicious detective called Douglas, claiming he has been hired to find her by someone who wants to discuss her birth. Disturbed, feisty young H heads into the nearest ladies toilet and it is from here that the story begins. To say much more would be to spoil an utterly compelling plotline, one that should be best experienced alone, in the dark, with the volume cranked up.
The first thing you notice whilst playing SH3 is how amazingly, jaw-droppingly, god-damn glorious the game looks. Everything in this game, from Heather's abundance of freckles to the paint on the walls, has been sculpted to provide a believable playing environment. This is due in no small part to the fantastic lighting effects, which are easily on par with XBox Splinter Cell's, unique particle effects, which lend the game a grimy, grainy effect, or downright demented monster design.
Ah, yes. The monsters.
Anyone who has played the previous games will think they know what to expect this time around. Hah, are you in for a surprise! Monsters range from the towering Closer monster, with arms the size of cellos, to the downright wrong Insane Cancer. This particular monster is quite possibly the most vile beast in any game, being twice the size of Rik Wellar and DEFLATING when killed. Ugghh.
Aurally, the game is reminiscent of the previous games in that the game's soundtrack usually consists of melodic soft rock in the amazing cut-scenes and a nerve-shredding, metallic rabble when encountering the monsters. When no flesh beasts are around to make Heather's life quite relaxing and easy, there isn't much of a soundtrack at all, instead relying on silence and vocal effects to crank up the tension to 'unbearable'. There's also some really good voice acting on display, particularly the gal who voices H.
The gameplay stumbles a touch. It's mainly a case of find A to unlock B to get cut-scene C, then go to D and repeat. Also, when trying to pick up an item, the game won't allow you to get at it unless you're positioned just right. And I won't even go into the amount of locked doors... While this won't bother many die-hard survival horror enthusiasts, myself included, it won't really do anything to persuade newbies to join the fold. Which is a shame, given the game's obvious high quality.
Perhaps I'm just grasping at straws because, in my eyes, there really are no major flaws with Silent Hill 3. The story is enthralling, from it's intriguing opening to it's emotive climax, the presentation is flawless, probably the best seen in a game and the game offers enough unlockable extras and alternate endings to justify repeat playings. Take another trip to Hell and back. You know you want to. Just don't expect me to hold your hand while doing it


+ Excellent Story
+ Best looking game to date
+ Good replay value
- ''The lock is broken and the door won't open''
- A tad formulaic

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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