8.5

Overall Silent Hill 3 is a great survival horror game. If hell is what you want, Silent Hill 3 can take you there.

To view this review in it's original formatting with images and video, go here:
http://www.hamst3r.com/article/55/thoughts-on-silent-hill-3

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I just completed Silent Hill 3. It took me about 5 1/2 hours according to a chart at the end of the game. I was hoping for a bit more game than that but perhaps spending 5 to 6 hours in the town of Silent Hill is all that's really necessary. Lingering around in that kind of environment could have an adverse effect on one's health.

Silent Hill 3 is part of a survival horror series which focuses more on psychological horror and disturbing imagery than other series in the horror genre. It's very good at this too. Silent Hill 3 wants to get in to your head so it can rub sandpaper on your brain and whittle away your sanity. This is one of those games that can get to you're not used to this sort of thing. There's actually a disclaimer at the start of the Silent Hill 3 stating that:

"Some parts of this game may be
considered violent or cruel"

Gee, I think they might be on to something there.

Silent Hill 3 has gore and cruelty in large quantities. Not-quite-dead bodies dangle from chains and corpses occupy nearly every corridor. It's the only game I know of that has a carousel – like the kind you find at any carnival – but with living horses on meat hooks. For some this could all be a little much. For me, it's both hilarious and disturbing at the same time.

Still though, Silent Hill 3 actually doesn't have as much, "disturbing imagery" as Silent Hill 2 or the 4th installment in the series. But that's not to say it's lacking in any way. What's there is great. Except for the voice acting. That's one thing in Silent Hill 3 that I don't consider great. Aside from Heather, the lead character, the rest of the voice acting is pretty bad. Though the voice acting in the Silent Hill series have never really been that good. It would be nice if the voice acting got better with each installment though. Maybe Silent Hill 5 will change that.

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In Silent Hill 3 you play as a teenage girl named Heather. There's nothing remarkable about her for most of the game and she seems very hot tempered and bratty, but about half-way through the game her past starts bubbling up to the surface. This is hinted at almost annoyingly by a detective Heather meets very early on in the game. "What? You don't remember your past?" he questions more than once. As your past unravels the game makes a lot of big connections back to Silent Hill 1, so I hope you've played it. Overall the story is very interesting and a bit confusing.

On the visual front, the graphics in Silent Hill 3 are very good, at least as far as the character models and environment designs go. Textures look blurry up close…but due to the fact that everything in Silent Hill is covered in rust, blood and other things that are far worse, you'll probably never notice. The long shadows caused by Heather's flashlight is a great effect and adds a lot to the atmosphere.

The monsters in Silent Hill 3 are all very good with the exception of one very lame lump-with-legs that makes a honking sound. The game could have done without those stupid things, but all of the other enemies are fantastic and many are quite unique and disturbing.

The sound design is Silent Hill 3 is exceptional. The ambient sounds in the environments are unsettling and well placed. The static from your pocket radio and the grinding sounds of industrial machinery, that grow louder as enemies get closer to you, do their job of heightening the tension in the game. Not all of the creepy sounds are linked to enemies though. In some places you'll hear howling in the distance, a sudden growl or the sounds of something close-by breathing heavily…yet there's no actual danger from these sounds – they're just there to freak you out. Lots of horror games do this, but for the most part Silent Hill 3 does it better. The only game I think can compete with Silent Hill 3 in this regard is Condemned: Criminal Origins.

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The gameplay in Silent Hill 3 is great overall. There are some things that I wish they would fix, but I know that they're holding on to them for the sake of nostalgia. For instance, the horrendous camera. The way you can be in control of your camera one moment, only to have it switch to a fixed camera angle facing away from the direction you're trying to go…so you just have to run forward, blindly, until the camera gives the control back to you. Some times the camera changes are at the most inopportune times. When these camera changes are used for cinematic effect, that's great – but when they're used to simply make navigation or combat difficult, that's a bad thing.

Another gripe with the game overall is the inventory system. Due to it's console beginnings, Silent Hill 3 does not make use of any hotkeys for switching weapons or using items. To do any of that you have to go in to your inventory screen, which pauses the game, so that you can hunt around for the item you want. It's not so bad if you're used to this sort of thing but a hotkey to switch between a ranged and a melee weapon would have been appreciated. I would have also liked a way to reload a gun without going in to the inventory.

Ammo deprivation is a huge part of Silent Hill 3. While it may not go as far as not allowing you carry extra ammunition like Condemned: Criminal Origins or the complete lack of firearms in the Penumbra series, there's still very little ammunition in the game. I barely shot anything the entire game, found what I thought to be lots of bullets throughout the game and still ran out of ammo during the final boss fight.

I've read though that the amount of ammo the game gives you is completely dependent on how much you use it. The same thing applying to health packs. When you find health packs, depending on the status of your health and how many health packs you already have the game decides what kind and how many of the health pack you should get.

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Just like in previous Silent Hill installments and even the Silent Hill movie, sudden shifts from the real world to an alternate dimension play a big roll in the game. These shifts are done very well and I do not feel that they were overdone in any way.

Puzzles also play a big role in Silent Hill 3 and thankfully the developers were very smart with the difficulty levels in the game. When you start a new game you're actually given the choice of "Riddle Level" which is a separate value from, "Action Level". I played the game with both set to Normal. After playing the game went online to read the riddles for the Hard difficulty and my head exploded. I'm glad I chose normal difficulty as the hard riddles seemed extremely frustrating.

One big thing to note about Silent Hill 3 is that some aspects of the game intentionally defy all rational thoughts. While navigating through the game, rooms that did not exist previously will suddenly appear on your map. In one area of the game, as you step in to an elevator you realize that there are now twice as many floors available than there were just a few minutes ago – a three story building has miraculously become a six story building.

Lastly, the map system in Silent Hill 3 is both useful and utterly useless all at the same time. The map is almost laughably inaccurate in every area, especially in the alternate dimension versions of those areas. What redeems the map though is that you just so happen to be carrying a red pen and will automatically correct the inaccuracies of the layout. You will also mark down all of the doors and items of importance. To have the most accurate map though you have to try opening every single door in the game. This can prove very difficult in the alternate reality levels as the bizarre effects on the walls make it very difficult to tell what's actually a door.

Overall Silent Hill 3 is a great game with a lot of goodness for survival horror junkies. I highly recommend purchasing it if you're in to these kinds of excursions in to hell. If hell is what you want, Silent Hill 3 can take you there.

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I recorded some footage during my stay in Silent Hill. Here's a video of Silent Hill 3 gameplay synced up to one of the music pieces from the soundtrack:

[VIDEO AVAILABLE IN ORIGINAL REVIEW]

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