Review by Cloud Gallen

Reviewed: 07/31/03 | Updated: 07/31/03

The Epitome in Survival Horror strikes back, in Style!

Warning: This game is not for the faint of heart. But nevertheless should (highly recommended) be played late at night, with all lights turned off, and headphones on with volume cranked up! It's guaranteed to scare the hell out of you, but I don't accept liability if you get too scared, because this game is extremely disturbing and grotesque.

When it comes to the Survival Horror genre in the gaming industry, two immediate franchises pops to everyone's minds;Resident Evil and Silent Hill. However, when it comes to true and sheer terror (& horror), Silent Hill has always been regarded to be the pinnacle in the Survival Horror genre with its disturbing, disgusting and mature themes. Resident Evil is known for its sudden shocks here and there (boo!), it relies rather heavily on this as RE is considered to be of an action/adventure type of Survival Horror, compared to Silent Hill's psychological as well as metaphysical nature which separates reality from imagination.

At the time of writing this review, I have just finished Silent Hill 3. Although it took me just 5 hours to complete (first time), it actually took me a fortnight to finish. This is so, because of the absolute terror and fright this game induces. When a game is so scary that you don't want to be turning on your PS2 at night, you know its a heck of a scary game, Konami has succeeded in this department. But it isn’t just graphics that do the jobs, many other imperative factors, such as Sound, Music, Story/Plot and Gameplay are meticulously derived and implemented to a
certain extent that many gamers so far, agree that Silent Hill 3 is not just the scariest game of the year, but arguably the scariest game ever (so far), who knows, Silent Hill 4 might improve a step better.

Silent Hill 3 is unique, compared to SH1 and SH2 in that it is a true sequel to SH1. Unlike in SH2, where it had little to no relation to SH1, SH3 is directly related to SH1, so for many SH1 fans, this is what you have been waiting for! I wont spoil anything for you, but just to say that SH3 is a true sequel to SH1, as it takes place 17 years after the events that took place in SH1. There are many links to SH1 and some unanswered theories/questions are explained and loose ends are tied together. In terms of Plot and Storyline, you will not be disappointed, though it may not be as deep, intricate and involving as Silent Hill 2.

Graphics - 10/10

Let me tell you how astounded I was when I first played this game. I hadn't played my PS2 for a couple of months, and when I did, I played this game, arguably the newest PS2 hit title to be released, and I honestly thought I was playing a real movie, ala, I thought the gameplay was an actual FMV from previous Silent Hill's! I didn't realise it wasn't an FMV until my character paused and didn't move until I started controlling her!

Otherwise, I have no doubts, Silent Hill 3's graphics can more than match the Nintendo GameCube's REmake (though, it is slightly inferior to REØ). It wont surpass it, but due to SH3's realism, and the different path Konami have taken with its gruesome, grotesque and disturbing imagery, it does a great job in excelling Silent Hill 2's graphics. One aspect of the graphics engine that many fans will appreciate is that SH3's background is in real-time 3D, whereas all the RE series (except RE:CVX) have had pre-rendered (static) backgrounds, a feature that Survival Horror fans have long despised (though I don't really have any big complaints there).

Another feature Konami has worked on to improve this time around is the grain filter. Unlike in Silent Hill 2, where you had to finish the game at least once to have the grain filter turned on/off, you have the option now in SH3 to turn it off the first time you play, a definite plus for those that prefer the grain filter turned on/off. The opening piece of FMV is gorgeously stunning, all other cut scenes are implemented with the in-game engine. The attention to detail is awe-inspiring in SH3, especially with the shadows of the featured monsters depicted through out the game, moving ever so realistically in relation to Heather's movement and the lighting effects coming from her torch. It is rather ironic how adjectives such as beautiful, stunning, amazing etc have been associated with the graphics in Silent Hill 3, when really the graphics are of a disturbing, hideous and repulsive manner. Still, it is this, that creates the tension and fear factor in Silent Hill 3.

Facial features have been the biggest and most noticeable improvement for the PS2 thus far. Whereas in previous blockbuster games such on the PS2 such as FFX, DMC, RE:CVX, the mouth movements in characters did not correspond to the voice actors, i.e. a usually slight delay, in SH3, this has been amended, with the characters' speech looking very realistic and believable in the dialogues. Overall, a definite improvement over Silent Hill 2.

Sound - 10/10

Traditionally the dominant factor to Survival Horror games, especially in regards to Silent Hill and even Resident Evil.
I enjoyed the intro and end music, as the intro music was more up beat and cheery, giving the gamer a brief moment of a pleasant feel before venturing into the dark world of Silent Hill and the disturbing and haunting music and sound associated with it. The sound created by the team at Konami, lead by Yamaoka, are intricately designed to create disturbing sounds throughout the game to invoke fear out of the gamer, time and time again. Perturbing static sounds emanate from the Radio whenever monsters are nearby and the main background music in each of the different locations (including alternate) all contribute in providing the gamer occasional shocks, and frequent edge of the seat fear and tension throughout the game. Even minor sound effects such as door knocks and footsteps are enough to make you want to turn the lights back on! I honestly don't think there is a time when the music or sound does not provide any fear or tension throughout the game.

The voice actors, Heather especially, really fit the characters which makes them even more realistic and believable. What makes the voice overs a standout for SH3 compared to other recent games is that the emotion expressed by the voice actors are true to life, and the fact the facial expressions are fixed to provide a more fluid flow of the dialogue cut-scenes. The other supporting characters are also fairly decent, again Claudia is another standout.

Gameplay - 9/10

Minor bits and pieces often criticised and complained about have been fixed, while most of the gameplay features have remained intact.

The Controls for games in the Survival Horror have more often than not, been heavily criticised for its 3D approach. That is, Up moves the character forward in the direction they are facing, Down moves them backwards and Left/Right turns their facing directions. A lot of gamers, to this very day, still cannot get used to this. A lot of gamers have labelled the controls in REvil & SHill as ''either you love it or you hate it'', I agree to a certain extent, but if you love Survival Horror series you should be used to it by now. Plus, as thoughtful and caring to the gamers that Konami ever are, there is an option allowing you to turn control type from 3D to 2D, Metal Gear Solid style.

The major Improvement to the controls and the most welcomed one, is the ability to do a 180 degree turn, whilst tapping L1 & R1 simultaneously. The game mechanics (especially combat), have been vastly enhanced since Silent Hill 2, and as a result, the controls during combat feels more tight and complete when fighting legions of distressing monsters.

Unlike in SH1 & 2, where Ammo would either be in abundance or sufficient enough for you to shoot at most of the monsters you encounter, in Silent Hill 3, Ammo is rather scarce, especially towards the end of the game.

This lack of abundance in arsenal of powerful weapons and ammunition is another factor some gamers do not like, as they have little choice but to run on most occasions when confronted by monsters. However,I see this as a good point, one which I prefer, in that it creates an unsafe feeling. This makes you less dependent on your guns as you soon discover that they will not last you too long, especially in the hellish transition from reality to the diabolical world of Silent Hill. Instead, the ammo for your guns should be reserved for boss fights. Strategies such as these make you a better, thoughtful and more alert gamer, instead of just running into rooms and shooting every monster you see, you plan your way through the location.

The Map deserves mention in the gameplay section, though many reviews have left it out. I believe the Map is utterly imperative for most gamers in SH3 as it is your guide as to where to go and not to go, what I like most about theMap in Silent Hill 3 is that it tells you the more detailed aspects such as puzzles, locked doors, thorough passages and other details like that. This makes the Map in Silent Hill very unique.

However, a major annoyance that caused many gamers to become frustrated in Silent Hill 2 were the fact that many doors in the game were locked and could not be opened no matter what. This problem (if it is) has been slightly fixed, there are still a few doors here and there where the locks are broken, but definitely not as many as in Silent Hill 2.

On the topic of realism in the world of Silent Hill, again, you will find that a lot of people do have complaints in regards to the tedious and repetitive running around in many areas in Silent Hill. But again, gamers will be pleased to hear that there is a lot less running around in Silent Hill meaning no more boring and tedious leg work and holding onto the Square button. You will also notice that unlike other Silent Hill's where you would be safe from falling down when running on tight ledges, in Silent Hill 3, you can actually drop to your death if you are not careful.

One thing that sums up the above 2 points (Running and Aiming/Combat) well is that Heather is more agile and nimble compared to Harry (of SH1) and James (of SH2), due mainly to her smaller and lighter size, making her quicker and have more stamina at running.

The camera as with most Survival Horror games have always been a problem as sometimes, not focussing on the more vital areas around the character, thus causing the character to get surprise attacks or miss out on crucial items. 2 major points help ease the burden in Silent Hill 3. Firstly, because the backgrounds in SH3 are not pre-rendered (static) like in most RE titles, there is less camera change time-lags and slight distortions are not present anymore. Secondly, the L2 button (Search View) works wonders, especially for boss fights!

Replay Value - 7/10

On my first play through, it took me 5 hours to complete on Normal difficulties, though on average, I would say 5-8 hours depending on your familiarity towards the Silent Hill series! Silent Hill 3 is slightly shorter than Silent Hill 1 & 2. This is due mainly to the fact that it is a sequel to SH1 and hence, there isn't the need to spend a lot of time in explaining and introducing the main themes and aspects of Silent Hill, as you would have been exposed to that whilst playing SH1 and/or SH2. Also, there is less backtracking as I mentioned earlier compared to its
predecessors.

At the end of the day, it is Quality and NOT Quantity when judging a game. I think many people will agree with me here.
The extras included are over 20 unlockable costumes, though most are similar, but the transform costume is very hilarious! There are plenty of weapons to unlock as well, enhancing replay value.

So far, there are 3 confirmed endings in Silent Hill 3; the Normal ending, Possessed ending and the hilarious UFO ending! I reckon 3 endings is alright, but since SH1 and 2 had 5 endings, gamers would of expected the same treatment or maybe more but it doesn't hamper the gaming experience overall.

In terms of difficulty levels, there are 3 choices for both the Action and Riddle (Puzzle) difficulty levels; Easy, Normal or Hard. This is another distinct feature Silent Hill offers, allowing gamers the flexibility to choose between varying difficulty levels for Puzzles or Action. The different Puzzle difficulty also permits increased Replay Value.

OVERALL - 9/10

A definite nominee for game of the year.

There is little doubt the scare factor in Silent Hill 3 has been dramatically increased, making it the scariest title in the Silent Hill series to date, and possibly the scariest game in the survival horror genre so far. The physical appearance of the disgusting and grotesquely depicted monsters in Silent Hill 3 alone is enough to keep you awake into the early hours even after playing. But add to that, the mature, deep and intricate plot, locations and buildings transforming between reality and an alternate, nightmarish setting where walls bleed, breathe and changes
its forms manifesting your mind with psychological fear and terror in which Heather discovers, she is in a state representing the depths of Hell. This game is scary and disturbing enough to even frighten adults.

Those gamers (especially in the US) eagerly awaiting for this latest epic PS2 hit title with anticipation, you will not be disappointed by Konami's latest work of art. For those that haven't played or heard of Silent Hill before, and looking for a truly horrific, terrifying gaming experience with a deep, empathetic and emotional plot, this is the perfect time to experiment with, and what better time and title to try out, than Konami's latest masterpiece; Silent Hill 3.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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