Review by Innominatus

Reviewed: 08/09/03

A great addition to the series... but flawed.

I've been a fan of the Silent Hill series since the very beginning. To say that it blows the rest of the survival horror genre out of the water would be a vast understatement. Naturally, upon the news of Silent Hill 3, I was quite excited, and pre-ordered it as soon as such an option was available. My expectations for the title were great. So, were they met? Met, and far surpassed. But, that isn't to say the game isn't flawed. Read on, and I'll explain.

Graphics: 10/10
Absolutely no problems here. The graphics in Silent Hill 3 are nothing less than stunning. The textures are beautiful and extremely detailed. The characters look great, and the monsters terrifying. I can honestly find nothing to criticize in this department. Some players may find the grain filter to be slightly detracting, however I feel it adds to the gritty feeling of the game. There is an option to turn it off, for those who want it.

Sound: 8/10
Sound has always been an intricate and important part of the Silent Hill series. The first Silent Hill introduced an interesting feature, not seen before in a survival horror game. One of the items you had was a radio, that emitted strange, jarring static noises when monsters were around. This added to the suspense of the game, as often you would be walking down a hallway when your radio would start crackling, triggering a reaction of anticipation and fear for what horrors may lie ahead. The concept stuck, and the radio is a recurring item and important feature of gameplay in both Silent Hill 2 and 3. My gripe with this is that, in Silent Hill 3, the importance of the radio has been reduced a moderate amount. Now, on occasion, the static of the radio will blend in with the (very-well done) ambient background noise. Furthermore, the music often alerts you to monsters in the area before your radio. On the subject of music, it's worth mentioning how well put together and performed the overall score of the game is. The US release comes with a free soundtrack CD for the game, which is a definite plus. The music in the game does a great job of setting the atmosphere, as well as helping to bring across emotion in the cutscenes. The sound effects (excluding the radio) are also extremely well done. Almost everything you do will be accompanied by a freaky and disturbing sound- something as simple as walking or opening a door can effectively scare the hell out of you with the accompanying sound. If it weren't for the minor radio problem, this department would be a 10/10.

Story: 4/10
Here lies my largest problem with the game, and the reason it wasn't given a higher score. Story has always been a large part of the Silent Hill world. The stories of the previous two games have been both complex and largely unexplained, adding to the intrigue and mystery of the games. The story of Silent Hill 3 ties back to the first game, ignoring Silent Hill 2 for the most part. The problem with Silent Hill 3 is that it explains far too much. For years there have been internet discussions on what happened in Silent Hill 1. There's been plenty of theories, but no proof or confirmation of anything. Sadly, Silent Hill 3 kills all of the intrigue and mystery of the first game. While some may find the plot complicated, it does not hold a candle to either of the first two games in the series. If you've never played through Silent Hill 1 before, you may find yourself confused at the plot of the third game. If you have, on the other hand, played through the first game, the ''huge twist'' in SH3's story will likely come as no surprise to you. Unfortunately, it is easily guessed early in the game, and even further shock value is detracted from it by subtle hints leading up to it's revelation. I won't be more specific in fear of spoiling it for those who haven't guessed. The story aspect of the game is a huge disappointment, and sadly kills off all of the discussion and theories about the first Silent Hill.

Gameplay: 9/10
Ah. The part that can make or break a game. If you've ever played Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3 plays almost identically to it. As other reviews have already gone over it, I won't go into depth. You are Heather, an ordinary girl suddenly trapped in a world gone insane. You have a flashlight and a gun, and all you can do is try to survive in this twisted world. Two new additions to SH3 are that you can either distract enemies (with a new pickup), or guard against their attacks. While it's not a huge, game-altering difference, it's nice to have a new option. My only problem with the gameplay is that, on Normal mode, I found the game to be a little easy. The difficulty level of both the puzzles and the gameplay doesn't match up with the rest of the series. While a nice feature is that you can set the difficulty level of both the puzzles and the rest of the game independently, playing Silent Hill 3 on hard is like playing the second game on normal. Oh well. There's two methods of control, 2D and 3D. 2D mode should satisfy most gamers who have a probably with the standard control. Essentially, in 3D mode, pressing right on the stick will make Heather turn right; in 2D mode, it'll make her run in that direction.

Fun Aspect: 10/10
No complaints here. There's plenty to unlock in the game, and three endings adding to the replay value. On top of this, one thing I felt was worth mentioning is that fans will enjoy many subtle (and not-so-subtle) references and jokes to the first two games in the series. My favorite is a parody of a scene straight out of Silent Hill 2 that fans will recognize immediately (mall bathroom, anyone?). The game has a high replay value, and plenty of extra things to do. If you can find any fun in being scared, Silent Hill 3 should be very enjoyable.

Overall: 8/10
Silent Hill 3 is a nice addition to the series, albeit the flawed story. Fans of the series should enjoy it. If you've never played a Silent Hill title before, however, this isn't the place to start. Play through Silent Hill 1 first (which should be available to buy for about $10) as an introduction to the series.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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