N Amer - 11/21/2003
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Silent Hill 3 Review
I was a big fan of Resident Evil from the get go when I first bought my PSX back in the day. I fell in love with survival horror, as it came to be known, from the first time that I rounded the corner in the mansion only to see a zombie snacking on a fallen comrade, which in those days just hadn’t been done like that before. While I thought that RE was it and that was that, I decided to try out some little Konami survival horror title that had hit the store shelves known as Silent Hill. At first I didn’t see much difference in the two, until Silent Hill suddenly took a sharp turn from tense to scary as heck when they used some extremely dark and disturbing environments, cool flashlight effects, and mixed them with sounds to make you jump and a grating soundtrack that made your hairs stand on end. Basically, it did everything that I always felt that RE should have done but didn’t, and quickly became my favorite title in the horror genre. The second installment just added to the nightmare effect with some new environments, better graphics, and some new tricks … and now the wait for the third installment is over. Silent Hill 3 has finally hit the shelves and does so in a familiar but “oh so effective” way.
In Silent Hill 3, you take the role of Heather Morris who is sort of a carefree spirit. While sitting in the town of Silent Hill one afternoon, she falls asleep and has a horrendous nightmare featuring her and a host of demonic nasties that you would come to expect from the series. She awakens somewhat confused, then things get even stranger when a detective approaches her from out of nowhere saying that he has information about her birth. After climbing out of a bathroom window to get away from the guy, she soon finds herself alone in the abandoned town of Silent Hill, going through a twisted story (with a shocking little ending) to uncover secrets about the ties between her past and her darkest fears. Following the successful formula of past games, be prepared for yet another installment of a series that offers a bucketful of darkness, death, and some of the most gruesome and disturbing scenarios and monsters ever created.
Gamers who are fans of the series will have no problems hopping right back into the town of Silent Hill once more, since it’s pretty much the same thing that we have seen in past SH titles. Basically, Heather uses her flashlight and goes through dark areas littered with doors whose locks are always jammed or broken, trying to find the one of two open doorways to get out and into the next part of the game. Puzzles consist of the usual “Room A needs a key to open the door, Room B has the key but it’s under a grate in the floor, Room C has tongs to pick up the key” kind of stuff or the “decipher the entry code from weird writings scattered throughout 5 different areas” brain twisters that we’ve grown to know and love in the series. You can also set these puzzles, as well as the action level, to three different settings based on what works best for you.
One little change to the game series that I seemed to pick up on is the overall difficulty of the game if you try to play it in an action shooter kind of format. Monsters seem to take a lot more to kill this time around, and in addition often like to show up in numbers meaning that you can zip through a clip rather quickly if you’re not careful. On the other hand, if you don’t mind playing in more of a “run for your life” kind of fashion, which I did a lot more than I ever have in the other two, it makes the game a lot more intense since you have to avoid getting grabbed … but also helps to conserve ammo for when it’s needed during boss battles and such. Oh yes, there are bosses once more in SH3.
Another little thing that I picked up on is that it seemed to me that the camera worked a little better this time around as well. While it is far from perfect and still causes the occasional issue now and then, it seems to be a little more deliberately messed up this time around. In certain areas, you have to use the FPS (or zooming as they call it) view to see what that noise was around the corner and whatnot which makes it a lot more creepy, especially since you never know what it is (although if you’ve played past versions of the game, you’ll know chances are it’s not going to be anything nice).
The graphics to SH3 once again do the game a lot of justice and just add to the shock value and fear of the game. The monsters are bizarre creations that only hell itself could probably duplicate, and range from things like gargantuan, meaty walking humanoids with rotating heads and club hands to things that look like humans covered in a tight fitting blanket of grimy, dirty skin with no arms … you know, the typical SH nightmare inducing creepies that you’d probably die of fright over if you saw one in real life. In addition, the environments and cutscenes add to the overall atmosphere by bringing you such happy places as a subway, an amusement park, and a shopping mall all decked out in dirt, blood, grime, and enough filth to make you feel like you need to wash your eyes after you play for a while.
The sound to the third terrifying visit back to Silent Hill also works really well, with moaning and screeching noises emitting from monsters that will make you cringe to a grinding, clanging, industrial soundtrack that is targeted to set your nerves on end and make every muscle in your body tense up, just bracing for that thing to jump out of the darkness and drag you off to who knows where.
Overall, SH3 doesn’t really add anything in the series that would be considered revolutionary or new, but since we all remember the potential rioting after Coke went to it’s new formula back in the 80’s, it just goes to prove that sticking with the original can be your better idea and can cause less issues (and bad review scores for that matter). If you’re a fan of the series and looking for a new terrifying installment, then look no further. Great story, cool new character, and all the dark, evil, and grotesque monsters and environments that you’ve come to know and love all together again for your PC gaming enjoyment. Happy gaming … and pleasant dreams.
The gameplay in SH3 is what we’ve seen in past titles so gamers who have played the original installments should have no problems hopping right back in and scaring themselves to death. The camera still provides some weird and unfriendly shots (although it seems to be more deliberate this time around). Also, one piece of advice I can offer this time around is that a good run is better than a bad stand any day, and there is potential for a lot of bad stands due to the amount of ammo you can breeze through trying to take these things out.
The environments are dark and grimy, as they should be, and there is good use of the flashlight once more to help look for things and provide some great cover for the hideously deformed and disturbing monsters that litter the hallways and rooms. The characters were also well done, and the cutscenes blended nicely to help move the story along.
Good voiceovers, and the moaning / crying / screeching / whining noises that the monsters make blended and mixed with driving, throbbing industrial style noises will no doubt have you completely tensed up and looking for a quick way to climb under the computer desk if needed.
While the puzzle and action difficulty can be switched to make it easier or harder depending on your personal preference, the game still remains more challenging than previous titles in the series due to tougher monsters and some bigger areas to explore.
The original formula of the SH series once again works really well in SH3, but it would be nice to see something new added in if they decide to do a fourth game. The constant locked or broken doors over and over and over again is getting a tad repetitive to me personally, but the game remains enjoyable.
As I’ve stated a couple of times before, there’s nothing that gamers will see that will probably cause them to leap out of their seat going “wow, that’s awesome that they added that change in”, but that can also be good news. The overall combination of simple search and find puzzles, great and horribly disturbing story and some of the most disgusting and scary monsters ever imagined just works yet a third time and fans of the series should be pleased overall. OK … now all I need is an “I Survived a Third Installment in Silent Hill and all I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt” t-shirt and I should be good to go.
GameZone Review Detail
“It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there”.
Reviewer: Tha Wiz
Review Date: 12/18/2003