Review by tollbooth

Reviewed: 10/29/04

Too much frustration, too little scares.



The internet is a chasm- an abyss of electronic space, and at times it can be very dark. Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. Ask a dark question, be afraid of the answer. I asked what was the most horrific survival horror game ever was, and the Darklings online answered in unison- Silent Hill 3. Well, it wasn’t in complete unison, there were a lot of chimes for various Resident Evil and Clock Tower titles, and frankly- I just wasn’t interested. See, it’s about play control for me- and that wacky stone-aged 3D control that the Survival Horror genre is so inexplicably found of, just does not float my boat. They said that Silent Hill 3 was different, you could choose your play control- moreover, it was rumored, to be scary as hell. It was true, you could pick a more suited play control, but the scary as hell part, well... not so much.

STORY $$ 7/10 $$

Fans of the series melt all over the place concerning this story. Those of us that never played the original Silent Hill feel a little more left in the dark. You’re bombarded with vague hints as to who’s who, and what’s what all throughout the story, but it never really feels like anything is coming together. Frankly, it seemed awful jumbled up and confusing. I had to go read up on the original game to get the back story- and after that, things started to mesh a little bit. Even with the back story fleshed out, there were aspects of Silent Hill 3 that just did not make sense. I will spare you the details and further spoilers, but be warned- if you have no idea what the Silent Hill series is about, be prepared to be baffled.

Consequently, the story has sparks of originality, but it is just not scary. It was overly complicated at times, and empty at others. The problem was, there was no middle ground. It was a case of extremes, where insanity was on one end and boredom, the other. I was interested to learn more, but unfortunately, my thirst for knowledge was quenched under my own volition online. It had nothing to do with any revealing information from the game. And that Folks, is a downright, dirty shame.

GAMEPLAY $$ 6/10 $$

((Play-Control))

It would be futile to compare Silent Hill 3's play controls to other leaders in the action genre like Devil May Cry or Legacy of Kain: Defiance so I won’t. I’ve found most Survival Horror games to have controls that were cumbersome at best. Not exactly the elegant set up and deft maneuvering that so many other action games can boast. Why has the Survival Horror genre embraced such clumsy controls- I may never know. Perhaps it has something to do with the supreme graphics- or the scare factor of not being able to adequately get away from your foes. In Survival Horror, you have become the hunted.

What the fans said was true: the controls are different than others in the genre. It ain’t no lie, Folks. If you like the old way of doing things, there is still the option. They call it 3D- and this means that your joystick moves our hero, Heather a.k.a. The Mother of God, from the perspective of her head. That is, if she is facing north and you press forward on your joystick- she’ll go north. If the camera angle changes, you better change with it or you’ll be confused as a jackrabbit in winter. The great thing about SH3 is that it gives you the option to pick what they call a 2D control scheme. While the 2D takes away certain advantages the 3D has, like the strafe for instance, it gives you control that is much more in-tune with familiar action titles. That is, Heather will respond in respect to the camera angle. It becomes much easier to move her around, and the strafe is not really missed all that much. Fighting becomes more of a breeze this way, and alluding demons is lightened up a little too.

Survival Horror purists often scoff at the very idea of employing 2D controls, but those of us who have had our hands in other cookie jars will appreciate the set-up. The game is frustrating enough for the skilled player without having to deal with inapt character movement.

((Combat))

There are two types of combat that you’ll get familiar with. One, of course, is melee. However, Heather is no Bruce Lee, but she does pack a punch. You get an assortment of weapons, from my favorite- the samurai sword, to a good ole rusty pipe. The problem is, most of the weapons are sluggish, but they do provide a block, so after some good practice, you become pretty good at pounding the bad guys into pulp. My complaint was that the weapons were often so slow (which makes them realistic) that you’re often the recipient of the good ole cheap shot. I think the majority of the time you get hit in this game will be from cheap shots. It’s the name of the game. You’ll find yourself surrounded by more ghouls then Paris Hilton with the Paparazzi- and there is hardly and end in sight. Luckily you can push your way through big crowds and run to safety. Relative safety, that is.

Not to mention there are unlockable weapons, but I won’t spoil it for you.

The other type of combat I will call distance kills. These come in the form of a variety of guns. A pistol, machine gun and others. However, ammo is few and far between, like trying to find a poor kid at an Ivy League school. So, my suggestion to you is to conserve. It didn’t suit my taste to be on the run so often, it goes against all my better judgement, but this is Survival Horror and that is the name of the game.

((Enemies))

My main gripe with this game was that it simply did not have scary enemies. Sure, they were pretty dastardly, and awful disgusting, but there were only like 6 different varieties. I was extremely disappointed to see the same old disgusting dead thing after disgusting dead thing. After a while, they cease to be disgusting and just become commonplace. Their attacks are more often then not annoying- and a gang-up can be devastating. The boss battles were uninspired and hardly any fun at all. This was a sore disappointment for me.

((Puzzles))

The Puzzles come in three varieties. Easy, normal and hard. They let you pick your flavor in the start menu. I played mine on normal, and while a few of the mysteries had me on edge, you’ll get the basic gist of it after a couple of trial shots. I have to admit though, sometimes I was just downright confused.

(( Extras ))

The menu in this game was deplorable. It took forever to load and it was not easy to navigate through at all. Most games these days provide some type of fast menu where you can easily access various objects of desire, but Silent Hill 3 makes you access the main menu for everything- including the map which you must check frequently. I got sick and tired of waiting for the map to pop up. And it is a wait folks. I can understand some of the load times you get tromping through different areas, but the menu should pop up instantaneously. Poorly designed and executed; the menu had me frustraited the entire game.

GRAPHICS $$ 10/10 $$

The graphics department is the shining star of Silent Hill 3. In short, they were amazing. The enemies were not exactly sparkling with brilliance, but the environment was teaming with sick-grizzly detail. I was greatly impressed and would venture to say that these are some of the best graphics I’ve seen the PS2 produce to date. The faces had an eerie real-time feel to the display of emotion. And the characters weren’t these fantastical-beautiful types you get in games these days. They were ugly. Everything was ugly, it was supposed to be- but the graphics portraying them were beautiful. Most of the environment is fully interactive and there is such a rich a lushes detail to everything it makes you wish the game wasn’t so darn dark so that you could gaze at its beauty some more. I do not often give out a full 10 for anything, unless it is completely over the top well done- and these graphics were.

SOUND $$ 7/10 $$

(( Music))

For those of us in North America that bought this game, it included a bonus soundtrack disc. Why anyone would want to listen to it is beyond me. The game starts with such promise in the music department, but soon it fizzles out to nothing. They seemed to produce rock songs and sappy ballads for a few cut scenes, and they fit well, but some of the cut scenes strayed from the theme and busted out this weird techno-beat type stuff. Not very good. Just average.

(( Voice-Acting ))

The Gal that played Heather did a terrific job, but as far as everyone else was concerned, I found myself a bit shocked at how slow and deliberate they sounded. There was nothing natural about their delivery- it was all to obviously contrived.

(( Effects ))

The effects were great. They really came up with some great noises for what was going on. Not to mention scary background noises and screams that made your blood curdle. Most of the shivers and jumps I got were from the background effects: little girls crying, dogs howling, shelves falling over inexplicably- glass breaking, the list goes on and on.

PLAY-TIME $$ 4/10 $$

My first time through it took me approximately 8 hours to beat fully. A shame honestly. I’m so glad I did not pay full price for this one. A Next-Gen game should never be under 12 hours long. There is simply no excuse.

REPLAYABILITY $$ 9/10 $$

Very high replayabilty. Especially if you feel a little confused after your first run. There are 3 possible endings that I know of- two of which you must beat the game at least twice to access. This alone makes it worth the while for another run. There are plenty of unlockable items too: new weapons, different outfits for Heather to wear, so on and so forth. Plenty of replay value for your buck on this one.

RENT OR BUY?

Well, considering the replay value, I might suggest you buy this one. I got my copy used for 12 dollars (American). You can’t hardly even rent a game for that cheap anymore. If you’re a fan of the series, you could buy the thing, but if you’re just looking for a way to kill some time, and you’re not interested in a replay, just rent it. You might even want to burn it after you get over your confusion.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION

Silent Hill 3, in its story and its puzzles confused the hell out of me. I just wish it did a little less confusing the hell out of me and more scaring the hell out of me.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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