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Silent Hill 3
Review By: Greg Lynch
 
Developer:  Konami
Publisher:  Konami
# Of Players:  1
Genre:  Survival Horror
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  4-24-04

After playing through several iterations of Capcom’s venerable cash cow, the Resident Evil series, I had given up on any game with the words “survival” and “horror” in the description. I practically refused to play any of the titles in the genre; because every one of them was compared to a series that I felt had grown horribly stale. It wasn’t until recently that a friend insisted I try Silent Hill 2, and I was wonderfully surprised to find I had been wrong all these years. The series had taken a whole new approach to horror, settling for a deeper, almost subconscious, fear that builds over time as you play it. While there are plenty of “jump out of your seat” moments, I found that the real terror was in the calm moments when absolutely nothing was going on. The longer I went without seeing something, the more paranoid I became as to what might happen next. In the end, I fell back in love with the games that go bump in the night, and the Silent Hill series is the best there is, assuming you’re in the right mindset for it.

Silent Hill 3 carries on the tradition set by the first two by incorporating a solid story (knowledge of the first Silent Hill’s storyline is highly recommended), and wrapping it with an eerie atmosphere unmatched by any other title to date. Despite a meandering start, the scares and paranoia are still as prevalent as ever, and it’s definitely the type of game best played in the dark with headphones on to get the full effect.

Of course, the creepiness is only enhanced by a solid graphic presentation, and this game represents some of the best the PS2 has to offer. With billowing fog, real time shadows and lighting, and excellent texture work throughout the entire game, it’s a beauty to behold. Similarly, the characters feature realistic facial movement, excellent design, and are easily some of best the industry has to offer. At many points, it’s difficult to tell whether or not you’re watching a CGI cutscene, or just the graphic engine at work.

The audio further adds to the scares by being used in exactly all the right places. There are plenty of ambient sounds that go a long way to immerse you in the game, but there are just as many places that are completely silent. While the wails of the dying are enough to put anyone’s nerves on edge, the most effective scares seem to be when there’s no sound, and all you can hear is the falls of your own footsteps. The quality of the audio is as good, if not better, than the graphics, and it’s clear that Konami took a great deal of care when producing it.

The gameplay is very similar to what one would expect from the genre. However, unlike the trigger-happy Resident Evil series, Silent Hill focuses on lengthy periods of calm to create a feeling of tension, followed by quick moments of action to keep players off balance. The series’ special touches also remain intact. You are still alerted to the presence of creatures through the use of a radio that squawks as you approach them, as well as given a flashlight that just barely penetrates the dark, keeping things nice and creepy. Controls can be adjusted between the old-style 3D movement (left and right rotate, forward and backward moves), and the 2D movement introduced in Silent Hill 2 (movement of the stick moves the character in that direction). The typical “what was this town thinking” puzzles still exist, but don’t feel nearly as forced as they do in most similar games. Regardless, the overall gameplay is a lot of fun as long as you are willing to put up with the occasional wandering, and just sit back and take in the scenery during the lulls.

HIGHS:

  • Stunningly realistic graphics
  • Fantastic atmosphere
  • Interesting story…

LOWS:

  • …that takes a couple of hours to get moving
  • Relatively short
  • Playing the first Silent Hill (but not the second) is recommended for story continuity
  • Same old gameplay formula

FINAL VERDICT:

In the end, Silent Hill 3 is everything I was hoping for in the genre, and easily stomps all competition into the ground. Though I’m sure there are several Resident Evil fans that would disagree, the focus on good storytelling and a chilling atmosphere sets this game well ahead of the pack. While the game takes a while to find its footing, and can be beaten in under ten hours, a ton of unlockables and a couple of alternate endings will keep you coming back for more. If you’re tired of the same old presentation of Resident Evil, and want something that really delivers on its promise to scare you, give Silent Hill 3 a chance. You might find that it’s exactly what you need for a restless night’s sleep.

Overall Score: 8.6

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