Review by Eptiger

Reviewed: 11/25/03

Silent Hill 3 - The most disturbing one yet...

INTRODUCTION

Welcome back to Silent Hill, the most dysfunctional little town in America. If you're tired of the run-and-gun style survival horror games and you want more than a 'boo', you've come to the right place. I played Silent Hill 2 and while it was described as a psychologically scary game, it only got to me a certain degree. Let me assure you though, that this game thoroughly scared the heck out of me. I walked away from this game with a 'whoa' reaction and all the little details just creep into your mind.

A few notes though before I begin. I played this game at night, in the dark (sometimes I had my computer monitor on though), and alone. The only way to get the full effect of the game is to play as such, because having a sun outside or someone there with you defeats the purpose of the game being ''survival horror''. It's just you, on your own, and in this darkness the entire time. Having a light would be weird because of the dark palette used in the game. Do you need to have played Silent Hill 1 to play this one? I didn't, but this game is a more direct sequel off of that game. Silent Hill 2 was more of a background kind of thing on the town of Silent Hill itself, but this installment directly follows the original storyline. The game will reveal to you many of these details, but they may be confusing without knowledge of exactly what happened in the first one. My recomendation to those who have not played Silent Hill 1 is to read President Evil's or The Hellbound Heart's plot guide (at gamefaqs) if you're unwilling to play the original Silent Hill.

STORY - 9/10

The events of this game take place seventeen years after Silent Hill. You are Heather Mason, and you wake up in a shopping mall diner only to be accosted by a detective named Douglas Cartland. He is supposed to bring you to meet someone, but your spunky character doesn't trust him and runs off to a bathroom. From there, you escape him and enter an empty mall. Of course the game would be too easy if that was the end of it. You start to encounter strange monsters before meeting Claudia Wolf, a strange woman who claims that Heather ''will lead us to Paradise with blood stained hands.'' In the immortal words of Cypher (The Matrix), ''what a mind job''.

Those of you who played Silent Hill 1 can probably infer what all this means, but I don't want to spoil any of the story for everyone else. What I said above is what you get through relatively quickly. This is an immediate hook for Silent Hill veterans, but it may be harder for newcomers to get into. Once you're plunged in the alternate reality though, I believe that your interest will take off.

Similar to previous installments, this game focuses on a few important characters, but I won't go into much details so as not to spoil anything. I think the characters present themselves rather well, and the development is interesting. The interactions are really solid and clearly present to you what their inner workings are really like. Unfortunately, I think the game takes a little too long to really get you into the story. Once you find yourself, as the commercials have hinted at, it gets increasingly scary. From there, the storyline pulls you in deeper and deeper. And even though more is made clear in this game than the previous games bothered with, the plot leaves much to question. I like that about the game and that there's no true answer to it all. Essentially, the story itself is a puzzle. When you read notes, you're able to infer much about the characters and the storyline. In the end, it was all very enjoyable and handled very well. The buildup was nice and they really delivered on giving you something freaky.

GRAPHICS - 10/10

I thought about it and thought about it, yet I couldn't really find any problems with the graphics. I didn't notice any slowdowns or glitches, the graphics were smooth throughout. Even the load screens looked cool, because they resembled pulsating blood. There is no real CG in this game, the graphics were done so well that all the cutscenes are in-game. The textures, especially on the characters, are truly amazing. It may not be easy to tell just because this game uses such a dark palette, but it truly is beautiful and even comparable to games like Final Fantasy X. Character designs are nearly flawless with no jaggies in sight. I was really impressed with the level of detail they went through to get the movements to be fluid, from the legs to the hair.

The environments are mind boggling. These guys have some messed up heads to come up with this stuff. Bloody floors, pulsating walls, and bleeding environments are just some of the settings you'll encounter. From the hospital to the amusement park, the developers really deliver on giving you frightening environments. There's something very odd about seeing bunny outfits lying around and stained with blood. There's something even worse about seeing corpses on tables covered in blood stained, white sheets. Everything is very unsettling, and they stop at nothing to make you feel uncomfortable wherever you are. Afraid of deformed mannequins? You'll have some trouble sleeping after certain parts of this game then.

The monster design is very nice. There are probably at least seven or eight distinct monster types, and all of them weird me out. The worst to me though was the split face dog, which is wrapped in some kind of cast around its body and loves chewing on human flesh. It barks very loudly and runs and jumps very quickly, not to mention that it looks like it has three lips lined with sharp teeth. That's only one monster though; there are plenty more for you to discover on your own. The bosses are quite strange too, and they all give you that feeling of: ''Crud, I can't believe I have to beat this thing, there's no way in Hell...'' Yet ironically, you feel like you're in a Hell! I must applaud Konami for their creativity in this game.

SOUND - 9/10

There's not a whole lot to say about sound except that I loved it. The soundtrack was very interesting and some of the rock ballads really fit. Of course most of the game is filled with strange sounds, from a screaming woman to a moaning nurse. You'll think you heard something you really didn't hear, or you may not trust your ears like me at some points and get mauled by a twisted creature. If the environments don't keep you on your feet, the sounds definitely will. It's hard to describe how crazy the sounds are, but they really do start to get to you after a while. The only real gripe I have when it comes to the audio is that at a few parts the quality of the voices in the dialogue is diminished. The voice acting overall though has taken a pretty big leap since Silent Hill 2, especially the main character. You really believe their emotions, and I think that's important to truly understand the main points of this game.

GAMEPLAY - 9/10

And now for the all-important gameplay. I want to first make it clear that I really had fun playing this game. A combination of the eye candy and the sheer fear of it kept me interested in it. This is NOT an action game. You're not meant to go in with guns blazing. Even more so than Silent Hill 2, Konami has emphasized the survival aspect of this game. There are certain monsters you'll have to kill in addition to the bosses, but there are others that you can just let alone. The key to the game is conserving ammo and health supplies. This means you'll use your melee weapons quite a bit and try to run a lot also. I really thought that this was all fun though. It required some actual strategy to get past certain monsters and surviving was really a challenge. This was meant to be an adventure game, and it really did accomplish this.

There are plenty of puzzles to boot. And almost all of these puzzles make total sense. It really isn't hard in most places to put two and two together and figure out a solution. In other parts you'll have to take clues into consideration when trying to figure out something, and they may not always be crystal clear. You should be able to beat the whole game without having to refer to a strategy guide though, unless you're playing on the hard riddle level, which is really really hard. Normal riddle level is pretty good though for most people on their first time through the game.

I do have one gripe about gameplay though, and that would be the camera. There were a few parts where a monster hit me merely because it was hard for me to maneuver with the angle the camera was in. You can use L2 to control the camera view, but you don't always have time for this. The problem wasn't very extensive though, and was mainly a problem in the hospital. The controls were good for the most part, but the main character was purposefully rather clunky. You're not controlling a spry action hero, you're controlling a confused teenage girl. She can only move so fast, and the game really strives for this kind of realism.

The arsenal you have at your disposal includes a knife, a steel pipe, a maul, a kitana (very very cool), a stun gun, a shotgun, a handgun, and a submachine gun. So while action isn't really emphasized, you have some great ways to get the job done. Don't fret though, when you unlock some of the secret weapons by beating the game, you will have much fun taking revenge on these monsters. I, for one, have begun replaying the game for the sheer joy of slaughtering these monsters who I had to previously run away from. The hidden weapons are very cool and worthwhile.

LASTING APPEAL - 8/10

This was a tough thing to judge. My final time was something like 5 hours and 40 minutes, but I believe I've spent 10 hours or more playing this game. Why the discrepancy? It's not hard to die in this game, and the bosses can be tricky. Luckily, you have a continue option that will take you back to certain points, and this may even be closer than your last save point. For example, if you die fighting a boss the continue option will take you directly back to fighting him. The save points are aplenty, and as such I replayed certain parts. Why? Because I was really trying to conserve my rations, and sometimes I got hurt my monsters for stupid reasons or I fought large monsters who I really didn't need to go up against. When I replayed these parts, it took much less time, especially if there was a puzzle I had had to think about for a while. While some people may regard it as short, I believe it was a great length.

There are definitely incentives to replay the game. You can see the other two endings and unlock secret weapons while you're at it. The secret weapons are pretty fun, so I'm really looking forward to bringing some pain with them. Also, you can try out new costumes, some of which are rather comical. They have costumes for most of the major gaming magazines, including IGN. Of course the later playthroughs will take less time, but it's fun nonetheless.

OVERALL - 9/10 (not an average)

This game is a classic example of every a survival horror game should be. Despite some of its shortcomings, this is definitely a game to keep in your collection and play multiple times and even show your friends. It really is a lot of fun and I don't think you'll be disappointed in buying it. If you're not really into the Silent Hill series though or you don't like survival horror, maybe consider renting or borrowing it. If you like getting scared though and it doesn't bother you that the game isn't a Rambo-like action game, then I highly recommend picking up this one. Konami really did a great job on it.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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