Silent Hill 3

A girl, a town, fluffy bunny rabbits covered in blood, and the best recurring nightmare in gaming.

Gather ?round, all ye masochists, and hear tell of Silent Hill 3, the tale of a teenage girl who wanders into the mall one day and winds up vomiting out religion in the wake of coagulated, vibrating, lumpy dog-man cadavers. This game is sick, ultraviolent, blasphemous, nasty, and filled with things that people were too afraid to create words for. Just the way a horror game should be.

What the Hell Is That?
If you?re a gamer, you can get your horror in two ways: through the straight-up zombie scare tactics of Resident Evil or the far more subversive, much more masochistic nightmare that is Silent Hill. People who don?t really like to be scared too deeply seek out the former; dark minds tend to seek out the latter.

Seeing as this is the second Silent Hill game to appear on the PlayStation 2, you can?t help but compare it to its predecessor. While the engine is almost identical (read: best shadows ever, lots of narrow hallways, and clunky fighting), the game finds ways to improve on just about everything. The darkly beautiful visuals are sharper, the character models are more convincing, and when the walls start to bleed into fuzzy intestinal fluff, that?s the kind of inventive stuff that leaves a mark. The game wisely offers up more varied locations and doesn?t keep you cooped up in any one for too long, and the usual illogical survival/horror puzzles kind of make sense this time around. The control is still clumsy (and still too reliant on lethargic melee weapons), but the combat is more varied thanks to new weapons like the katana and submachine gun.

No Really, What the Hell Is That?
Even the story stands on its own legs: It?s a satisfying, coherent sequel to the first game (though you needn?t have played that to enjoy this) and not just another ?weird nightmare? like the second. Some of the sickest of the sickos will be a bit disappointed to know that nothing here tops the second game?s scenes of outrageous mutual necrophilia; the enemies here aren?t quite as distressing or nauseating as a pair of female legs sewn to another pair of female legs. The psychology doesn?t run as deep, and the parade of repellent nonsense isn?t sold as convincingly; the ending of SH2 was a bit more satisfying, too. And for all its twisted imagination, some will wish the game didn?t leave so much to your own twisted imagination. But it?s still nuttier than anything else you?ll find on the PS2.

Are there better games out there in terms of just sheer gameplay? Most certainly. But Silent Hill is still the Dark Emperor of Atmosphere, the layout of a single room can tell six horror stories, and the heroine has more darkness in her pinky than Lara ?Angel of Darkness? Croft has in her whole bulbous body. Memorable games are hard to come by. Here?s to the ones that leave abscessed stains.

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