Review by ORCA782

Reviewed: 08/08/03

Not Quite Up to Par

As a huge Silent Hill fan, I was a bit disappointed with their latest endeavor, Silent Hill 3. Of course I had been following it in gaming news since its announcement about a year back. As I got more and more news, I became more and more apprehensive. As it turns out, I was apprehensive about the wrong things, but the game still has a few issues. It is however the most solid horror game series you will find today, (for good reason, it has almost no competition).

Plot: 7/10
I think plot is probably the most important aspect of the Silent Hill series. The games don\'t really pride themselves on super handling, or lots of replay value. Mainly the games are a sort of play along movie with you thrown right in the middle of this horror script. I may be the only one, (since people I talk to about it don\'t seem to remember nowadays) but back during the period when everyone was waiting for Silent Hill 2, there were a few interviews with the writer of the games, Akihiro Immamura. He specifically stated that a large reason why Silent Hill is so scary is that you don\'t know what\'s going on. Therefore he liked to cause ignorance on two levels. First, the in game shallow level, where you don\'t know why a door is locked, etc. But much more importantly, he liked to put big holes in the plot just so that you were left on edge, wondering what happened to so and so, or where that one place ever got to. He wanted the games to be independent, so that when a game was done and you were sitting there thinking \'wow, what happened there?\' you would be left to come to your own conclusions. In my opinion, this was one of the best features of Silent Hill. Now of course there will be kids playing the game who will want the plot layed out before them at the end of the game, but that\'s not the kind of series this is. Unfortunately, something happened for the third game, and apparently now they\'ve gone back on that theory. Silent Hill 3 is really just a follow up closing to Silent Hill (1). Silent Hill one, if you ask me, was great left alone. The game was the peak of Silent Hill mystery, and it flowed very well. Now Silent Hill 3 comes along, and just hits all those people that had drawn their own conclusions in the head with a steel pipe. It ties together all the lose ends from Silent Hill (1). Besides this being annoying for people like me who appreciated the mystery, it also means that the game itself has very little plot of its own. Your main character, Heather, will find a few things out about herself, but the game is fundamentally just a follow up. If they were every to remake Silent Hill as Capcom did with Resident Evil, they could probably throw Silent Hill 3 on the end just as a bonus stage to clear things up. All in all this game isn\'t deserving of its own title. I can\'t say much more about the plot without spoiling it, so on to the next topic.

Gameplay: 8/10
Most people consider this the most important aspect of a game. I do too, generally, however as I said Silent Hill is an exception where the story is more important. Now that I\'ve mentioned this as being a follow up game, I\'d like to note that the game is very short, even for todays standards. I\'ve nearly beaten the game and my clock reads 2 hours 33 minutes. Granted I rushed through it, and I\'ve played these sort of games before, but I\'d say for the average gamer this game will take 5 hours to beat, max, which makes it the shortest game in the Silent Hill series to date. The in game handling is much the same as before. You have the 2d/3d control scheme choice which was implemented in Silent Hill 2 for those gamers who couldn\'t handle the Resident Evil control scheme. I will say that it\'s a bit clumsy at first, but the learning curve is pretty standard, and it shouldn\'t take more than a half an hour to get good with it. As usual, Silent Hill features a run of the mill human being, like you or me, so Heather doesn\'t have any \'super moves\' you\'ll find in most every other game. She can clumsily swing weapons, and fire guns without much accuracy I might add. A few minor changes from Silent Hill 2: rather than swinging the weapon once or twice from side to side if you tap the button, Heather swings melee weapons in sort of a diagonal arc 3 times. The drawback from what I can tell is that they do less damage then James inflicted. The overhead smash is still the same, but heather has much shorter weapons, so most enemies on the ground are a real hassle and must be shot. As usual, the favored stomping ability is in this game, but it seems to get downgraded each successive game. In Silent Hill (1) when you stomped on an enemy, it was like the thumb of God squashing the life out of something. You stomped on it, and it was dead. In Silent Hill 2, it usually required one or two stomps, but they weren\'t nearly as powerful, and sometimes enemies would get back up, or you would stomp the wrong way and not even damage them. In Silent Hill 3, you could tap dance on these monsters heads and from what I\'ve seen 75% of them will just get angry and get back up again. Stomping is almost useless. You have to stomp a monster until you hear a bonechilling snap which I take to be their mutated spinal cord being snapped. On ranged weapons; the pistol is the same as ever, 10 round clip. The shotgun sprays a lot more than Silent Hill 2, as denoted by the little flashes on walls you can see when you fire it. And I think Silent Hill is taking a bite out of Resident Evil, for there is far less ammunition in this game, and there is a new feature where you drop dried meat for monsters to lure them. I\'ve gotten more dried meat then all types of ammo combined thus far, and it\'s not a bad feature. You drop it, and most monsters will instantly run over and feast on it, leaving you free to do whatever you want. This is great for super crowded areas that you couldn\'t run through otherwise. Lastly, Heather seems to be the least fit of the three games protagonists, as she will start running very slowly the instant a darker location is upon her. If you stop, she won\'t regain her breath as James did, so I just take this to mean that she\'s an incredibly slow runner. Holding square to run is almost pointless, as walking is so marginally less fast. Also important to Silent Hill gameplay is the addition of the moving head, as seen in Silent Hill 2. In the dark, swampy areas you\'ll trudge through, items don\'t gleam as shinily as they do in Resident Evil. Instead, Heather\'s head will turn towards anything of interest, so it\'s important to be aware of what she\'s looking at. I think they added a feature so that she now looks at open doors, which is annoying sometimes because you think it\'s an item and end up just leaving the room trying to examine it. The reason I give this 8/10 is that most people will complain (and I\'ll agree with them) that this games handling is a bit sloppy, and hard at first. However, I find that for controlling a run of the mill person, it reflects them perfectly. So if you want to put gameplay compared to how it should be, it\'s a 10/10. But as a game in general, it\'s just an 8.

Controls: 8/10
Mostly I mentioned this above, but the run of the controller is the same as the last few games. D pad and left analogue stick move Heather. square runs if held down. R2 puts Heather in ready stance, so she can use a weapon. It also sometimes auto turns her towards monster, but now always. X activates, it will search and pick up things, and in ready stance it will fire/swing a weapon. L1 and R1 strafe, but you can no longer hold square to run strafe. R1+L1 will turn you around instantly, good for leaving rooms quickly after you enter. Triangle brings up your map, which is handy because I am over reliant on the map, as most of the in game levels are too dark to discern things fully. Circle cancels, and flips the flashlight switch. For hardened Silent Hill vets, this is useful because they will appreciate running through areas they\'ve memorized without the light on, so that monsters don\'t detect them. As I said above, for an adventure/action game today the controls are a bit sloppy, but for Silent Hill\'s situation, they are perfect.

Sound:
BGM: 7/10
SFX: 8/10
I must say that I\'m somewhat disappointed with the sound category in this game. First, the music; Silent Hill 1 and 2 brought to me some of my favorite musical tracks, which I adore and have the OST\'s of. However, Silent Hill 3 comes packaged with the OST, and consequently it\'s not really a bonus. The in game music is dark and usually hardly noticeable, until it reaches screeching crescendos of ringing clocktowers, etc. And of course the monotonous thudding music you hear earlier on. But the music for the intro, and what I gather is the finishing music, is average. A lot of the songs seem to be either remixes of Silent Hill (1) themes, or direct copies from Silent Hill 2. Either way, the music took a step down if you ask me.
The sound is standard. Nothing really new and exciting. Same ol\' doors squeaking open and slamming shut. Same old wet thud sounds as you hit a monster. Same old footsteps as you trudge down and empty hall. The voice acting is really good however, possibly better than Silent Hill 3. Sadly you never get to hear Harry\'s voice, but I suppose that fits in with the plot. There\'s one especially good part when you get a call in the dark world, and this person is singing to you. Anyway, besides a few annoying grunts and yells from Heather while she attacks/is attacked, voice acting is great.

Replay Value: 8/10
This game I\'ve heard has more replay value than the rest of the series. However, in comparison to some of the Resident Evil games, it\'s not even scratching the surface so it gets a solid 8. There are apparently different outfits for many different gaming companies (which I won\'t even go into) and then there are tons of bonus weapons. The infamous katana was sorely missed in Silent Hill 2, but makes an appearance as a standard weapon in Silent Hill 3, so you can well imagine that the bonus weapons must be spectacular. I won\'t ruin it for you with what I\'ve heard, but I\'ve heard there are a lot of them. However, what really adds to the replay value for a game is whether or not you want to play it again to hear the story. As I said in the plot section, I doubt anyone will play this game more than 2 times for plot, because it\'s so layed out for you. Woe is me; but maybe Konami will make Silent Hill 4 a stand alone game and all will be well again.

Buy/Rent
I\'d like to say \'Buy without a doubt!\' but I just can\'t bring myself to do it. You should probably rent this game either way, to see if you like it, or if you\'re new to the series. Unless you\'re a hardcore Silent Hill fan like I am, but then if you\'re one of those odds are you aren\'t reading this review because you\'ve already played the game for yourself. So unless you want the novelty of playing the game before video game rental places get it, I\'d advise renting this game.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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