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Silent Hill 3 (PlayStation 2) artwork

Silent Hill 3 (PlayStation 2) review

"Well, it looks as if Silent Hill 3 has finally hit the states, and wherever else it hit at that time, to boot. About time, after nearly five delays. Let me state this before you read the review: I am a huge fan of Silent Hill 2. I felt as if it were near perfection of the feeling that you get when you become too scared to continue playing. The game was grainy in the “light” version of the town, and petrifying in the “dark” version of the town. I was expecting Silent Hill 3 to succeed it in every..."

Well, it looks as if Silent Hill 3 has finally hit the states, and wherever else it hit at that time, to boot. About time, after nearly five delays. Let me state this before you read the review: I am a huge fan of Silent Hill 2. I felt as if it were near perfection of the feeling that you get when you become too scared to continue playing. The game was grainy in the “light” version of the town, and petrifying in the “dark” version of the town. I was expecting Silent Hill 3 to succeed it in every way possible, while Silent Hill 3 is a game of its own. While I may complain a lot in this review, I did enjoy this game thoroughly. I was simply expecting Silent Hill 3 to be a beefed up installment that conquered every aspect in comparison to the second. As they say, you cannot top perfection. So keep this as a disclaimer, dear reader, as this review does not bash the game at all; it is merely constructive criticism. Let the negatives flow...

One of the less appealing things in Silent Hill 3 is the fact that the introductory satisfaction is very low in comparison to that of Silent Hill 2. In Silent Hill 3, you are introduced to the game through a dream sequence, where you will meet up with several different types of creatures throughout the introduction. There is no real scare factor saved for later, unlike in Silent Hill 2, where the enemies were introduced progressively rather than all at once. This leaves your actual first monster encounter to be desired, and very uninspiring. I just don’t feel the emotion that Heather Morris “produces,” for a lack of a better word.

Another one of the elements that were added towards the introduction of the game is the fact that you will receive a Handgun before you receive a melee weapon, which will really screw up your priorities. Since you only have a stupid Knife starting out, you will grow quite partial of your Handgun rather than running around the enemies. This was a grave mistake on the developers part, as newbies to the series will go around blasting every Dog-thing that moves, while they run out of ammo by time they see their first boss. I know it seems as if I am complaining more than I should for actually enjoying the game, however, there are some things that simply need to be said.

The lighting is one of the better parts of the game, giving off the complete “spook” dimension with the scare tactics of atmosphere in place and ready to lock and load. With a pitch-black hallway lit to the max in one section while the lights fades off secures the placement of fear in lighting itself. While the halls are only lit in this one area, the image of a figure coming through the darkened hall and into the light is almost as frightening as the jittery, Jacob’s Ladder-esque movements that the monsters make. In fact, the lighting looks so real that you will look at well-lit objects in person and feel as if you are still playing the game. One of the best instances ever produced in gaming for graphics alone.

The enemies are completely uninspired with very few exceptions. Without spoiling too much, you have your basic “dog” enemy that looks like a mummy (which is not scary at all... Fact is, it acts too much like a casual dog), the Closer, which is a gigantic enemy that walks fairly fast (slightly disturbing compared to the dogs, which are not even funny, much less scary/disturbing), and then you have the odd things that go by the name of “Numb Bodies,” which look the most disturbing, but they GALLOP! They do not jerk or shake is a revolting manner, they GALLOP! Like PONIES! And HORSES! Or a SHORT DOG, LIKE A BASSET HOUND! How am I supposed to be petrified of SEABISCUIT!? One last thing: the Insane Cancer enemies look like Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas, only bugs do not spill from them once you destroy them, sadly. I feel as if the enemies are just too large to be scary, like the Patients in the second Silent Hill title.

One of the things that has bothered me the most throughout the game in comparison to the second installment of the series was the lack of character interaction; in Silent Hill 2, there were a few characters that you became emotionally attached to, and you look forward to seeing them in the next cut-scene. In Silent Hill 3, there are no characters whom you feel as if you could become emotionally attached to besides the lead character, as their stories are either predictable from the get-go, or too bland to even lose sleep over interest about. A huge let-down in character development, I must say.

You know, the more that I played through the game, the more it felt too... clean. What I am trying to say is that in the “light” universe of the town, you get the feeling as if there should be more random spewings of blood on the floor, walls, what have you. The game is practically clean for around 80% of the “light” universe of the town, yet there are monsters and the like rambling around the halls. The game feels as if the corridors are Resident Evil with a flashlight with Silent Hill monsters thrown in to please the crowd. Sure, the general grainy substance is there, and the buildings are absolutely beautiful in a VERY series-friendly way, but I feel as if the game should have been darker to complement the disturbing imagery that the title spouts out every now and then.

The game also has quite a few more of those classic “BOO!” moments that will hit you out of nowhere in comparison to the percentage of the usually disturbing atmosphere and jittery creatures that we are used to. But in all fairness, the several “BOO!” concepts that we do receive throughout the title’s length are VERY well thought out, and practically destroy the casual “dog-through-a-window” presentation that the Resident Evil series crafted into gaming. The moments are very witty, and resemble things from past Silent Hill titles, only taken to an extreme. Sometimes humorous, sometimes spooky, and sometimes down right frightening (without giving anything major away, check of the Mannequin Room in the Hilltop Center to see a perfect example), but NEVER cheap. Silent Hill 3 accomplishes something that the Resident Evil series has used as a cheap excuse of terror for years, and kudos to them for finally doing it right.

Something that I spotted early on when playing the mall area of the game (which is practically what you start out on, passing the Nightmare area that is experienced), as well as throughout the game on a general scale, is that the attacks that you attempt to dish out are somewhat inconsistent when it comes to landing them. You can swing a pipe about six times, and only two of the six swings will actually land on the enemy, providing the hit. This was something that should have definitely been tweak, especially considering the fact that you can swing at an Insane Cancer enemy (which is huge) and only land a couple of hits. Sort of pathetic.

One of my main complaints about the game is the lack of movie sequences and files that incorporate with the creepy storylines about the town, and what used to take place there. In the first two hours of playing time (at a normal pace, no speed through), you will encounter a grand total of three movie sequences, and four files. If I were a casual gamer, I would simply find it hard to stay in touch with the game as a whole without becoming too bored. Of course, a fan of the series will appreciate anything having to do with the town, but on a general scale, there should have been more to do with the town itself, or anything at all, for that matter. I just feel like the games pace was entirely too slow for how short it is in retrospective.

Okay, enough complaining in the past few paragraphs, I will now speak of one of my favorite things in this game, as well as the series in general: The Sound Effects. Whether you enjoy the Silent Hill series or not, you will have to admit that the sound effects are of top notch quality. The basic menu screen sound effects, as well as the “loading game” sound effect all remain in tact from Silent Hill 2, and let me tell you, they only add to the spook factor in the game. I cannot really describe it, but the lifeless melancholy of the menu sound effects adds to the despair that the game pushes oh-so frequently. Muffled white static will approach with a painful moan once you encounter the Closer enemies, and the Pendulums will screech like banshees when you get near them, to the point that you will panic in fear whilst running away.

Silent Hill 3 is the type of game that you must sit back, and absorb it all to get the full effect. Everything from the lush settings in the “dusk” Silent Hill of colorful shops, to the blood-rusted interiors and agonizing scrap-metal atmosphere in the “dark” version of the town, you will have to let it sink in to realize how creative, and beautiful this game is... if you can really call a demon with knives dug into their stretched skin beautiful, that is.

I will tell you one thing that Konami GREATLY improved over the past effort on the PlayStation 2, and that is the fact that they have tried to constructively remodel the countless halls throughout the game to make each one recognizable, if you happen to absorb it all instead of running through. Practically all of the corridors looked identical in Silent Hill 2. There was not much to distinguish them all, besides a random crate or two. Hell, it was like playing Halo, or something of the sort. I think it had more to do with the PlayStation 2 hardware, and the developers not screwing around with it like they should have. Regardless, the corridors are highly detailed for the most part, and throughout the game, there were only a few times that I got lost for a considerable amount of time, which is grand, considering I got lost constantly in the second installment. But still, nothing tops the original in terms of knowing where to go. A “B+” for the expansive effort, however, I feel as if the development slacked off to complete certain areas in the game.

One of the main reasons that myself, as well as countless others, play the Silent Hill series is due to the spook factor. While game series such as Resident Evil focus more on a dog crashing through a window, or the Tyrant busting down a wall to reach your character, the Silent Hill series has always focused on huge creature development, with little details such as the old scabs on the “Leatherface” theory (creatures looking as if they were made of cut-up dead bodies). Hell, this is the only series that could make a Mannequin terrifying. I am satisfied to tell you that the spook factor remains. Before opening a door, you will pause the game and listen for the white static to kick in, and convince yourself that the monsters can only hurt you in the game... yet if you die, you will have to encounter them all over again. Rather than going through shooting like a maniac, much like in most Resident Evil games, you will be, at times, too petrified to pull the trigger. I just wish that the enemies were a little smaller, and jerked more, much like the Patient Demons. After all, who wasn’t scared when those Patient Demons would get decked, and begin crawling disturbingly fast to get away from you. If Jacob’s Ladder was disturbing, this game is terrifying.

Still, I wish as if there were more to explore. In previous Silent Hill titles, we were given several outlets of creative surroundings, such as apartment buildings, outside areas (which the game definitely lacks), parks, and the like. Basically, the game feels as if it is simply too linear, and the freedom of roaming about the town after every “stage” is completed is absolutely ripped from the game, leaving a lot to be desired. The game still keeps up the pace in atmospheres, but there is not as many houses to search and the like. Disappointing in terms of creativity, but as stated, the atmospheres provided are memorable, yet not as “factory conducted” as that of the original, which is a problem that I also found with the second installment of the series. Not to mention that the Underground Channel just seems completely out of place in this game.

It feels as if Silent Hill 3 is lacking something that the second edition to the series had, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The initial overall sense of fear is missing from the get-go, and while I am all for female lead characters in any game, especially survival horror titles, I feel as if Heather Morris is lacking the overall shock value that James Sunderland had. While James has no clue what was going on around him, you get the hunch that Heather knows a lot more than you think (and no, that isn’t a spoiler; in fact, an early assumption from the first thirty minutes). Once the game kicks into gear, we get the feeling of the town is in place, yet not perfected to its potential.

Graphics: 9.5
I believe that it is actually not the graphical folly when considering that the enemy designs were not as up to par as they normally are, considering there are quite a few enemies in the game that were awesome in design, and perfected once placed into the game (such as the Pendulums). The lackluster-yet-still-swell enemies, such as the Insane Cancers, I will blame on the design team. The corridors themselves are absolutely breathtaking, with city surroundings and unique buildings to roam about in. The details are as smooth as groundbreaking art when it comes to “zooming in” on areas by examining them. Nearly perfect for the series, until the PlayStation 3 is released.

Sound: 9.0
The opening theme is very catchy, and at times beautiful, mixing the casual opening to the Silent Hill series with a female lead vocalist (who plays Heather Morris in the actual game, or so I have heard) that blares through the music without ruining the actual composed stuff. It sounds great. As for the sound effects, the menu sound effects are perfection. They can get no better than this, hence why Konami decided to keep them from Silent Hill 2. I feel as if the white static could be more distinctive between certain creatures, but overall, the feeling of shock and disturbing nature is in tact. Plus, you get a free soundtrack when you purchase the game. Everyone loves free stuff, and I’m no exception.

Gameplay: 8.5
One of the things that I believe everyone and their Mother (except all of those Resident Evil true-blue fanboys) enjoys is the fact that, in all Silent Hill titles, there is no storage limit to what you can carry around. This solves a lot of backtracking in the game, which everyone despises backtracking to begin with. Nice stuff. There is an added gameplay element to the series that sort of bases itself upon a “real-life situation” pattern, as you can now fall into holes throughout the game, and die accordingly. This, my friends, is quite clever, but not very fun if you do happen to fall. As I mentioned in the actual review, the attack distance is royally screwed up to the max, as if you begin slamming the Pipe weapon into a Nurse, it will merely hit it once out of four times, unless you smack it well. All in all, the games corridors complement the way the game plats out, and it is, in fact, one of the finer elements throughout the game.

Enjoyment: 9.0
This game is a Silent Hill title to the very core, only a lot more crafty and witty than the previous outings. Despite my constant nagging in the actual review, this is one of those games, much like the second installment in the series, that I will be playing for many years to come. It does not reach the same acclaim as the first two games, because, just them the first two titles, it is not driving on the same road as they are. Rather than combining the same experience over and over again like Capcom consistently does with the Resident Evil series, Konami has decided to do things differently every time, and this is definitely not an exception to that rule. This one is shorter than the second edition in the series, which is pretty rare nowadays, but I have never been one to complete about the length of a video game. The Easter Eggs that are randomly placed along your journey are also a nice nod to past Silent Hill players, and well appreciated. Thanks for the heads up, Konami.

Overall (not an average): 9.0
While I realize that this review focused more on what Silent Hill 2 had that Silent Hill 3 did not, I was simply using stepping-stone techniques to show what made the second installment in the series so grand, that was missing from Silent Hill 3. Rest assured that while the game is a fine beast, I was honestly just expecting a better, scarier version of the best in the series. It may seem as if I complained a lot, but I loved the game. It stayed true to the original purpose, and it is a great survival horror game that is not Resident Evil, and it messes with your head in different ways than the past installments in the series, which is fresh and fun. Is Silent Hill 3 a must-own game? Indeed, especially for a fan in the series (but you probably already own it by now). While the atmospheres are somewhat bland at times, there are several areas to explore in the game that keeps the action mixed up to keep things interesting throughout, and even some genius in the surroundings themselves. If you can create the atmospheres into characters themselves, you know you have done something right, and this game has done just that.

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Community review by zoop (February 05, 2004)

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