Review by mrcaliche

Reviewed: 08/22/03

I was sceptical. Never expected it to be THIS good.

Waiting for Silent Hill 3 has been quite an ordeal for me. I have been expecting this game since the day I bought Silent Hill 2. I have gone to message boards, forums and every known internet site looking for information regarding Silent Hill 3 ever since. And my one concern all along was this: Every single time in my life I have waited for something this much, it has turned out to be CRAP.
To further support my concern, my biggest fear regarding Silent Hill 3 was confirmed: It was, indeed, related to Silent Hill 1 by a VERY predictable so-called plot-twist, which had been my initial guess ever since I saw Heather, the main character; and I had been of the adamant opinion that such a twist would be a TERRIBLE idea to begin with.
There were also a lot of reviews that, despite insisting on the game being one of the best games of this year, they also said: The plot isn't as deep as the previous ones, the characters aren't as interesting, the monsters are laughable, the sounds are recycled from the previous game, the game's not as scary, the game is way too linear, and, last but not least: The game is too short.
Okay, with all these things in mind, I went to get Silent Hill 3, after almost a year and a half of waiting for it; with very low expectations, expecting to just ''have a good time'' with it.

How wrong I had been all along...

Silent Hill 3 is, without a doubt, the best survival horror game in the history of the genre, this might be used loosely to refer to certain games, but I don't like speaking loosely about anything. It does have a couple of flaws, but even dwelling on them would be nitpicky. This is the scariest game I have ever played, and even though I've been a fan of the series ever since the first game, which to me is the very definition of a classic; Silent Hill 1, and certainly not Silent Hill 2, are nowhere as scary or disturbing as Silent Hill 3. This game is sick, and I mean truly, truly sick. So much, in fact, that right now Silent Hill 1 will remain a classic and a favorite because it first introduced us to Silent Hill and it was just too original in its approach to survival horror; and Silent Hill 2 will remain a fond memory because of its incredibly human characters and its excellent story; but they both won't come close to the sheer horror of Silent Hill 3. Ever.

Now, on to the score.

Graphics - 10
It doesn't get better in the Playstation 2. The scenery is beautifully detailed. From the slick and detailed look of the Shopping Center hallways, in which you can read posters, door plates, store signs, ''No Smoking'' signs, see magazine and book covers, and even some tasty pastry; to the downright demented, sick environment of the alternate world, in which everything is caked in blood, rust, decay and dilapidation; where you can see dead bodies hanging over black pits, and blood starts streaking down the walls and infecting the environment, until even the walls are completely dripping and pulsating with blood, as if they were alive. This is a remarkable effect, the way you see the whole environment become blurred and out of focus with a distinct red hue over it; then red lines start coming out of nowhere, creeping up the walls and floor and dots of blood will appear and spread around; you'll have to see it to believe it. The color palette used in Silent Hill 3 is pretty much the same one used for the previous games, which means Konami knows it has chosen the right colors to give you a drab, lonely and desperate feeling when playing; it's just a lot more red than it used to be. The light and shadow effects are used masterfully, they can show you a completely dark area and just put one light at the end of it, which somehow generates a strange feeling of abandonment. The character designs are literally perfect and their facial expressions are done with a lot of attention to detail, and the most impressive of all: they're done in real-time polygons; there are no CG cut-scenes in SH3, and does it matter? Not one bit, in fact, the fact that there's no changes between real-time and CG makes the experience fluent and without the awkward feeling that your character looks different. Plus, since they're real-time polygons, after you play the game, you will get new costumes for your character, and you'll be able to see Heather with the new clothes even in the cut-scenes; which might seem like a small thing, but few games actually do this. You usually play with the character with the changed clothes and when a cut-scene comes there's your character with the original clothes; it's awkward and makes no sense; no such thing in Silent Hill 3. The monsters are superbly designed, a definite improvement over the previous games; they're disturbing and their movements are un-human-like. The graphics are beyond amazing, Konami pushed the PS2 to its limits.

Sound - 9
It's the Silent Hill series, so you know the sound is one of the things the development team put special emphasis on. The sound is superb. It's haunting when it needs to be, and insane and adrenaline-inducing when it's necessary. The sound is not so much music when you're walking around, it's more atmospheric, brooding and foreboding, when monsters approach it starts becoming louder and louder, until it becomes a deafening blend of crashes and bangs and screeches, accentuating the desperate situation Heather finds herself in. Picture yourself walking around a dark and bloodied mall, hearing nothing but deep breathing and a baby crying...spoooooky! Sometimes there'll be silence for a very long time and it will suddenly be interrupted by footsteps coming out of nowhere, or a monster's roar, or unintelligible whispers. There's also the infamous Silent Hill radio, which will emit white noise whenever a monster's nearby; though this feature's usefulness has been somewhat reduced in SH3, it still serves as a warning of monsters approaching and as a source of tension. When you walk into a room and you hear the radio, you already know what it means, and you're just praying to sweet baby Jesus that it doesn't start increasing in volume, meaning the monster is coming closer. The monster noises are very disturbing and they fit their owners quite well; when you hear a nurse's uneven footsteps, you just know you're in trouble, and when you hear the same nurse moaning breathlessly as you hit her with a steel pipe, you know you're in a pretty sick game. The voice acting is good; but in my personal opinion, Silent Hill 2 had much better voice acting, the actors sounded a lot more natural and delivered the lines hitting the desired feeling most of the time, and it actually helped feel sympathetic toward the characters; in Silent Hill 3, even though the voice acting is pretty good, especially Heather and the main villain, Claudia; there's characters like Douglas who mostly sound like they're reading everything off a piece of paper, but still it's a slight complaint, when everything else in the sound aspect is that good. A thing people complain about is the fact that some sounds, like the sound of a door opening and closing, are recycled from Silent Hill 2; to those people I say: don't you have anything better to do than complain about stupid things? I mean, how else do you want a door to sound?! Besides that, every sound is original. The songs in the game that have vocals are excellent and fit each moment perfectly; I guess the only one I don’t like is the one that is sung by a man in the ending (You’ll hear it, don’t worry) it just sounds too cheesy, and somewhat laughable. Well, there's nothing wrong with the sound, if I deducted one point it was because of the voice acting, which isn't that bad either.

Gameplay - 10
This is probably the area that has had the biggest improvements. The action level has be raised a little, not so much so the game might turn into Resident Evil, but enough for there to be some challenge in the game, there are still those long times of nothing happening that just kill you with expectation. They've added more weapons, like the Katana and the SMG, which caused some complaints early in the stages of development, but the game pulled it off nicely, given that the SMG's aim is terrible, the ammo gets spent in no time, and there's very little extra ammo to be found; so don't be expecting a trigger-happy gun fest. On the subject of ammo, it is SCARCE in this game, you'll be counting each bullet you spend, because the monsters take quite a lot of bullets to be done in and there's not much available to do so, and believe me, you don't want to reach the final boss with no ammo. The atmosphere is mysterious as ever, the air of expectation that fills the air in the normal world is very present; and the sense of urgency, confusion and absolute disorientation that attacks you when you're in the alternate world is INCREASED quite a lot for this sequel, I mean, this game has some truly sick and downright wrong imagery, besides some of the concepts and images it gives you are so abstract, you’ll be scratching your head, going “what the hell is that?”. Though the game sports more ''BOO!'' scares than the previous two, they're cleverly made, and never feel cheap, you can see they thought them through quite a bit. Some sequences included in the game are just there to creep you out, the mirror room scene, which I won't spoil for you, is officially the scariest scene ever in a video game, you'll gawk at the screen, I promise you. Unlike in SH1, in which, if you reached the edge of a chasm Harry would just not run any further, in SH3, they’ve added a GREAT idea which will make you tense as hell; in SH3, if you walk off the edge, Heather will go into her “Help, I’m about to fall” pose, and if you press any button, other than back, Heather will fall and you WILL die. Just imagine yourself walking in the dark or worse yet, running from a monster, then whoops! Heather looses her balance, the monster is coming closer and you have to think fast, otherwise, she’ll fall. This takes me to the fact that Heather is a regular person; she can be shallow, at points uneducated, and sometimes clumsy, but still has her moments of thoughtfulness; this is reflected in the fact that fighting is as clunky as in the previous games, because Heather is no trained fighter. Another thing I loved is that it once again accomplished something SH1 did, but SH2 failed to deliver: In SH1, after you finish your first lengthy visit to the alternate world, in the school, and everything goes back to normal, you’ll be taken over by an overwhelming feeling of peace and temporary safety, there won’t be monster encounters for a while, which makes the moment the demon world strikes again the more horrifying; in SH3, they accomplish this again, because the mall part is lengthy and disturbing, but once it’s over, everything will feel so normal you’ll just go “Ahhhh! Peace”, Konami listened to our prayers. People complain the game is not too long and that you spent too little time in Silent Hill, also too little time wandering the streets; this is partially right, because most of the action takes place indoors, and you don't reach Silent Hill until the third quarter of the game. The area you explore is part of the one you explore in SH2, but it doesn't matter to me; there's many locales you visit, WAY more than in SH2, each distinctly disturbing; and I actually spent more time beating this one than Silent Hill 2; so I'll say I DO miss the street exploring moments, but what is there more than makes up for it. When you finish the game, there are tons of extras, including weapons, costumes, three endings (okay, that’s less than we’re used to, but it’s still very good) and if you have a SH2 save file in your memory card there are extra references to that game on your second play through. This game is a nice little package.

Story - 8
This is where I had my doubts mostly. You see, Silent Hill 3 is a direct sequel to Silent Hill 1. I always said that would ruin the series, I would’ve preferred to have a whole new story in each game, not to just have one game to explain and justify the story of the first one. But, hey, what do you know, I was completely wrong. There are many people out there, including myself, who still have big questions about the plot in Silent Hill 1. And while it would be better and more mysterious to keep those questions unanswered, the way Silent Hill 3 delivers those answers (not necessarily all of them, mind you, it still leaves some things for you to go crazy and figure them out) is very stylish and very respectful of our beloved Silent Hill 1. There’s always that sense of ambiguity that the game gives you about every character, even the main villain, who has “evil” intentions, but based on what she believes is for humanity’s own good. Just like that is every character, they have things that strike you as wrong, but things that might justify them. And even though the characters aren’t quite as sympathetic and possible to relate to as in Silent Hill 2, and the story couldn’t even compare to the one in Silent Hill 2 (the best story ever) it is still excellent. It threads the fields of religion, choices, destiny and reasons why people are the way they are. It will give you three characters with one thing in common, but who have completely different views about it. In other words, the story is excellent, and in my opinion, slightly better than the one in Silent Hill 1. The endings are sort of a gray area, because they’re rather simple and short, but the game itself is so good and the story itself is so enthralling that it won’t matter one bit. There’s that air of nostalgia hanging in the air as references to both of the previous games appear, and sometimes you’ll see something familiar and say “Oh, so that’s why…” so, in all, the game is a very rewarding experience. Granted, all of us fan boys who loved discussing the story and making up things for ourselves to fill in the gaps, will have that a little bit reduced with SH3, but to me, there’s nothing wrong with that. The game raises some questions of its own, and the story has a lot of value to it.

Overall - 10
This is not an average, this is just what I feel for this game. If you ask me to Buy or Rent I would say “What are you, kidding me?” Anybody who doesn’t own this game is missing out on the greatest video game experience of the year. Okay, I won’t be that pretentious, I’ll say ONE of the greatest video game experiences of the year. This game is worth gold.

Well, my review was lengthy, but I thought the game called for it. Consider this an homage to the Silent Hill series, especially its latest installment, which managed to bring back that old feeling that both of the previous games brought out in me.

I love this game! So get it now, you will not regret it.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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