Silent Hill 3
We delve once more into the world of Silent Hill, and return with the verdict, a little bloodied and a lot wiser.
By Kikizo Staff
Ah, the halcyon days spent cowering in the dark, struggling to hold onto the last vestiges of lucidity. The intense, crippling fear; the ceaseless legions of nightmarish abominations; and lest we forget, the blood. Good times. It goes without saying then, that the arrival of a new Silent Hill title is met with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation around these parts.
Silent Hill 3 is, for all intents and purposes, a worthy successor to the original game and if nothing else, infinitely superior to the second title. It strays little from the formula established by its predecessors; wrapping an intriguing narrative around familiar gameplay mechanics. But it is these selfsame traits that prevent the title from reaching its full potential.
Silent Hill 3 chronicles the exploits of Heather, a seventeen year-old girl whose past, unbeknownst to her, is inextricably linked to that of Silent Hill. Like Harry and James before her, she understands little of what is going on, but in spite of this is compelled to press forward in the hopes of learning more about her past or at the very least, escaping. Relying as it does on psychology, instead of standard scare tactics, to elicit fear proves problematic because of the familiarity of the surroundings.
Blood stained walls, rusted walkways, dirt, grime and dilapidation were scary the first time, but by now, veteran fans of the series will have grown accustomed to such imagery, and as such the fear presented simply by the environment is considerably lessened. Ironically, many of the game's scariest moments are perpetuated using the Resident Evil-style tactic of having something happen when the player least expects it.
While fear no longer permeates every fibre of your being to the point where you have to switch off the system just to compose yourself, the game is most certainly unsettling. Konami have a knack for creating imagery that is, to put it mildly, 'freaky' and nowhere is this more evident than in Silent Hill 3. Particular scenes will remain with the player long after the game has been put back on the shelf. That said, the creature design has changed little over the course of the last two games, and this latest adventure is poorer for it. Gameplay, too, remains identical to that of its predecessors, though the puzzles, moreso than the last two titles, can be solved with a modicum of logic and a keen eye. Though simpler than ones in the past, on the whole, these are thoroughly more enjoyable.
Somewhat irksome are the camera and control oddities that persist, though fans can and will overlook these quirks. And newcomers will no doubt grow accustom to these mechanics in short order. Because much of the game now takes place indoors, certain control quirks are greatly exasperated, however. Dead bodies for example, can partially block corridors, making maneuvering through a throng of creatures, at least without taking needless damage, all but impossible at times. Thus forcing the player to waste ammunition that could have otherwise been conserved or to backtrack momentarily.
These are minor qualms however, and in time players will learn to deal with, and even overcome them. The storyline, it must be said, is fantastic, with one caveat: long-time fans are bound to have a greater understanding of certain events than newcomers. Though it initially offers little for players to go on, the storyline manages to tie up a number of loose ends from previous adventures, which in itself serves as enough incentive for fans to pick up the title.
Although the most technically proficient of the series, Silent Hill 3 is merely a refinement of the second title's visuals as opposed to the huge leap made between that and the first game. Textures are as diverse as they are detailed, and characters, especially in cutscenes, come across much better than their stiff, robotic predecessors. The lighting, as always, is splendid. Voicework too, is much improved over previous releases.
Though the characters' delivery remains stilted and melodramatic, it is nonetheless a vast improvement. One shudders to think what quality voice actors will do for what is already a gripping franchise. Sound design, as ever, is remarkable. And much of the player's fear can be attributed to it. Eerie silences punctuated only by the scraping or screeching sounds that draw ever nearer; distant voices; howls from within the darkness. These incidental effects contribute greatly to the overall mood of the adventure.
Though a largely by-the-numbers entry into the Silent Hill mythos, Silent Hill 3 is still a good deal of fun to play. The sense of fear is not quite as pervasive as before, but it still manages to serve up a fresh scare or two. The question remains though, where does Konami go from here?