Silent Hill 3
Dreary American shopping malls are ungodly hellholes at the best of times. Coffee shops full of people acting like they’re in Friends, faceless fastfood joints, the words 'have a nice day’ ringing in your ears. So when Silent Hill 3 takes this frightening scenario and throws in hideous gibbering demons, wall-to-wall blood and grime, and a nightmarish caterwauling din piping through the Tannoy, you can imagine it’s not pretty.
But such twisting of familiar situations into grotesque parodies of their earthly selves will be nothing new to fans of the Silent Hill series, quite probably the most gloriously deranged of all survival horror games. And this latest offering, migrating over from the PS2, will not disappoint in the 'that sure is some crazy shit’ stakes. But, somewhat disappointingly, neither will it surprise with its near-identical gameplay and slightly uninspired approach to puzzle solving.
My Bony Heather
This time out the lead character is Heather, an everyday skinny teenage girl in obligatory short skirt and high boots (this is a Japanese game, after all). After waking up from an horrendous nightmare, a man harasses her in the local mall. She takes refuge in the toilets, but when she emerges Heather finds the mall has turned into a trans-dimensional vision of hell, populated by a menagerie of bizarre mutants. Things happen that way in Silent Hill.
Gameplay remains unchanged. Much wandering and map reading typically leads to a puzzle or a locked door barring your way. Finding the items necessary is a matter of walking up to anything that looks unusual and hitting action to search it. Of course, all of this is done under the watchful glare of a host of creatures - both lesser minions and boss monsters - that have to be shot, stabbed and beaten into a bloody pulp if you are to survive.
Where The Hill...?
Helping Heather make sense of her new surroundings is best done with a GamePad, mimicking the original console game control method. A mouse and keyboard combo is clumsy, nigh-on ruining the gameplay. But even with a pad. the controls are hardly a joy as the 'rotate and move’ system is about as innovative these days as Tupperware. This system is well in need of an overhaul and lends the game a slightly antiquated feel.
Despite such misgivings, you still soon find yourself drawn into SH3's particularly unnerving world, largely because of its uniquely disquieting atmosphere. From the freaky fairground of Heather's nightmare to the dilapidated tenement blocks of Silent Hill itself, the mood of impending doom seldom relents. The locations are uniformly grim. Heather’s feeble pocket torch struggles to strip away the inky blackness, out of which a new. more hideous assailant might stumble at any minute. Creative use of camera angles, subtle perversions of everyday sights and a nervegrinding score all contribute to the impression that what you’re playing is the brain-child of David Lynch and George A. Romero.
Destroy All Monsters!
A hallmark of the Silent Hill series are some of the most disgusting and bizarre aberrations of nature that ever wore the title of 'monsters’. And SH3 doesn’t disappoint. Oh no. All kinds of fleshy appendages protrude from grossly misshapen hides. Slavering, jabbering, chattering fiend after fiend lumbers from the shadows, yet another incredible distortion of nature to test your credulity. And as you apply your boot to their brains and they lie twitching on the floor, you'll feel not a jot of remorse - these things don't deserve to live, dammit!
Combat in Silent Hill games has never been a matter of finesse. One button is used to mindlessly smash your enemy with whatever implement comes to Heather’s hand, be it a steel pipe or the incongruous medieval spiked mace, as well as to fire the odd gun you get your hands on. This simplicity was never an issue in previous games where encounters were infrequent and their crude brutality suited the everyday feel of the characters. But here the designers have increased the incidence of the scraps, putting a strain on your patience with the repetitive dust-ups.
All of which is exacerbated by the ill health in which we find the game's puzzles. Survival horror games traditionally thrive on fiendish problem solving, forcing the player to pierce through a fog of adrenaline and fear to defeat the conundrums that bar his path. But here the answers to your problems fall into place as easily as a jigsaw marked 'for ages three and up'. Typically, the object needed to complete any given brain-teaser will be handed to you on a plate a few rooms previous, and all you need do is shuffle up to the puzzle in question and click to make things happen.
So in one sense SH3 is another fine slice of demented survival horror. But in another it's an unambitious update that retains the core features of the franchise without stamping its own mark on the series. We loved Silent Hill 2, despite its obvious console roots and gameplay limitations. But what's really scary is that if the next installment doesn't show a lot more innovation, its review scores will likely be truly horrifying.
A New Hill Of Beans?
So What’s Changed Since The Console Version? Not A Hill Of A Lot
Silent Hill 3 is essentially the same as its console prototype. In fact there are only two real differences for this PC outing. One: the high-res graphics put anything the PS2 can produce to shame - provided you have a decent graphics card. Two: you can now save anywhere, rather than at specific save points. An improvement? Very much a moot point in our book, with trigger-happy quick-savers losing that sense of nerve-jangling tension console players get when health runs low. There’s no multiplayer, there’s little replay value - we’d like to see a little more in our console conversions. But that’s just us.
Download Silent Hill 3
Still stuck for a summer holiday destination? Why not consider Silent Hill? The quiet, mist-filled streets, the solitude, the unique native fauna - it's the perfect place to get away from it all. Accommodation is never an issue with the wide selection of abandoned asylums and derelict tenements, and for your health concerns there's always a nurse close at hand.
With a helping crowbar and a stitched up piece of meat for a face.
OK, so maybe it's not for everyone. But when we were invited to return to the entrail-smeared world if Silent Hill for a preview of the third hor'or-racked outing, we practically jumped out of our skins and made mobiles out of th am at the chance.
Silent Hill 3 has been out on PS2 for a few months now, but it s almost ready for the PC, and going by the 99 per cent complete code we've t een playing in the office, it's going to be ist as good as its magnificently macabre predecessors.
Fear And Filth
The first thing that's noticeable about the new game is that it foll very much in the footsteps of Silent Hill 2. The feel of the game is essentially the same, the visual style identical - even visit some of the same locations later in the piece, including (eventually).
And in a way this is creators of the series ate by now hugely adept at scaring the living Jesus out of us, and know exactly whici buttons to push. The crackling radio, the camera angles, the inc easingly disturbing claustrophobic locations - the whole thing creates a superb feeling of unease, frequently overflowing into sheer panic.
On the other hand, some of the devices used in the series are becoming a little too familiar. Dismembered mannequins, deformed zombie nurses, mix and match hell-demons of rusted metal and sausage meat. It's brilliantly disquieting, but at risk of losing its impact with long-time fans.
Fortunately, SH3 has taken a very new direction in terms of storyline. The insipid James Sunderland is gone, replaced by Heather, a pretty young thing more accustomed to hanging round malls than zombies. An early encounter suggests she is part of an ominous-sounding doomsday prophecy, laying the groundwork for a far more substantial plotline than the inscrutable Silent Hill 2.
The array of hideous, nameless monstrosities that confronts Heather is also far more impressive, taking in mummified dogs with cleft faces, meaty torsos with spinning death-blade arms and bloated humanoid pus-sacks. In terms of weaponry, your arsenal now stretches to a samurai sword and submachine gun.
However, despite such improvements, detractors of the genre will have plenty to moan about. The survival horror formula is still in effect, with the same clunky combat system, the same glaringly obvious puzzles, and the same old tricks for scaring us. But for the truly initiated, who understand why Silent Hill is the best, classiest and most disturbing horror series out there, this matters not one bit.
The Silent Hill series has always been the odd one out among survival horror games. Instead of utilizing cheap thrills for scares, Silent Hill has always gone deeper, delving into the psychological facets of fear. The Silent Hill series is now on its third outing and is more refined than ever, but is it worth visiting the demon-ridden town of Silent Hill all over again?
Silent Hill 3 follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessors ' in fact, it constantly nips at their heels. SH3 is a true sequel in terms of gameplay. Emphasis is placed on exploration and combat, and neither has changed much. Perhaps the biggest change in terms of gameplay is that combat is a bit more like Resident Evil. You'll often be forced to avoid fights because ammo and health items are sparse ' a stark contrast from previous incarnations. Like Silent Hill 2, the controls can still be troublesome, but can be overcome with time. Additionally, things don't pick up until the second half of the game, which can make the beginning seem to drag on. Perhaps the biggest knock against SH3 is that it's falling in an all too familiar rut. Very little (visuals excluded) has changed from the original Silent Hill that was released in 1999 and frankly, it's due for an overhaul in one-way or another.
In many ways, SH3 is archaic in terms of gameplay, but that's not what horror games are all about. No, it's all about atmosphere and mood, and SH3 has plenty of both. Unlike most survival horror games, scares aren't based off cheap shock thrills, but rather, the dark and gritty atmosphere will keep you on edge throughout the entire game. From beginning to end, SH3 is filled with haunting and disturbing imagery. Just when you think the game has outdone itself, something far more terrifying pops up. And not once does the game let up ' there's always a constant feeling of tension. Couple all this with the engaging story that ties in closely to the original Silent Hill, and you've got a horror game that goes far beyond being spooky.
All of this would be for naught if it weren't for the breathtaking graphics. Though environments are often surreal, they manage to look life-like due to the incredible amount of detail in textures. Perhaps most impressive of all, however, are the character models. Heather (the main character) looks excellent, right down to the freckles on her face, and is animated beautifully. Going hand in hand with the dark atmosphere of SH3 is the audio. It's incredibly moody and ambient, going from soft acoustic rifts to painful screams on the dime. Needless to say, it helps create a much darker atmosphere.
On all accounts, Silent Hill 3 is a solid addition to the series. The thrills are definitely here, and they're more disturbing than ever, but it sticks to the traditional survival horror mold ' a likely turn-off for those looking for something new. Regardless, the town of Silent Hill deserves a third visit, despite the inhospitable residents.
Silent Hill 3 is scary, and I'm talking freaked-the-f***-out-at-3 a.m. scary. I mean it-- after an inexplicably horrific run-in with a blood-spewing bathtub at Brookhaven Hospital, sleep was out of the question for me. I had to see this horror adventure through to the end, and you should, too. The past two Silent Hill titles made serious strides toward excellence, but SH3 easily trumps them. The improvements start with the main character--you assume the role of Heather, a cute (though seemingly strung-out) heroine who's embroiled in a twisted mess of alternate realities and hideous monsters. She's very likable, believable, and expertly voiced, so it's easy to get wrapped up in the gruesome narrative through her. The story feels very tight--the dialogue's not as stilted as in SH2, puzzles make logical sense, and series fans will love how closely this tale ties into the first game's plot. The most stunning upgrades, however, grace the visuals and sounds. Intricately detailed environments constantly astound, from spookily deserted subway stations to grotesque hallways hewn from pulsating flesh. Factor in lifelike character models and Splinter Cell-quality shadows and you've got the best-looking game on PS2. Plus, the phenomenal score and eerie sound effects complement the graphics perfectly. Sadly, some of the endemic Silent Hill problems haven't been corrected--combat's still clumsy (it's best to run away) and the game's simply too short. Regardless, SH3's still a must for horror fans.
If this is your first visit to the town of Silent Hill, you won't appreciate that SH3 is the most together game in the series: Combat finally requires strategy (unless you're a chicken like Shane), environments feel more organic than ever, and veterans of the PS1 original get a reasonable wrap-up of its circuitous story. But jeez, my first pass through clocked in at barely six hours! Granted, these scant hours were action-packed-- the first two games' meandering through foggy streets is mercifully minimized. But I was hoping for more buildings to explore and bosses to fell. The ones in here are gorgeous, but milder settings (subway, mall) don't have the psychologically trying connotations of SH2's ghastly locales. Still, it's worth buying in a hastened heartbeat.
SH3 is easily the best horror adventure yet and contains the most effective use of atmosphere in any title I've ever played. While SH2 shows all its creepy cards at once, SH3 inches out the scares with excellent pacing--there are numerous frightening little moments that'll resonate in your mind long after you've beaten it. And although it's definitely one of PS2's best-looking games, the audio is truly the best feature. Often, you'll hear little cries out in the night, the forlorn sounding call of a horn, or howls in the distance--unsettling stuff indeed. SH3 has a few minor rough edges (the analog control is loose, for one) and it drags a bit near the end, but that's it. Scary and fun.
It seemed like a routine assignment: Find out about the latest game in what Konami calls its terror-horror franchise. When EGM recently attended a Konami press event, we knew few facts about Silent Hill 3: It's not a direct sequel; the main character carries the series' trademark flashlight and radio that emits static whenever monsters get near; and it's set in the same dark, hopeless town. Producer Akira Yamaoka and Art Director Masahiro Ito appeared at the event to demonstrate and discuss Silent Hill 3. Yamaoka showed it to us, and, welL.it was gorgeous and sharp enough to give even some of the better-looking Xbox games a run for their money. Textures shifted in the background as the game morphed into its familiar nightmare-world scenario. Blood welled up in spots on the walls, making them seem almost alive.
"The team has gone to its darkest ideas and implemented them in this game," said Yamaoka, prompting an audience member to ask Ito, the game's main monster designer, if he has many nightmares. "No! None at all," the artist cheerfully replied.
The creators were almost completely mum about the story line, however. They spoke about the three main characters: Heather, a normal teenager; Douglas Cartland, a middle-aged private investigator; and Claudia, a strange witchy-woman who knows more than she's telling. Prompted for more, Yamaoka added, "The game brings back the occult element from the original Silent Hill" Funny. We didn't know it had gone anywhere.
We interviewed the two designers later, hoping to get more info. "At this point, there's a limit to what we can tell you," Yamaoka said. We asked if any characters, places, or monsters from previous Silent Hill games appear. "No, but we didn't say there's no connection." So, there's an overall mythology at work? Yamaoka and Ito paused for a moment. "That's a very good question," they replied, laughing.
We explored the playable Silent Hill 3 demo Konami gave us to find out more. It begins with Heather--an average teenager with freckles, nice accessories, and an expensive haircut--at an amusement park entryway. It's late at night, and some giant rabbit costumes with blood-smeared mouths are strewn around the area. Two tall, grated boxes are strapped to the ground nearby. Something inside them is wrapped like meat in a butcher shop, but it's more human in shape. After searching the area, you enter a darkened hallway that leads to some shops. A zebra-striped, split-headed dog chases you, as well as a large creature with a circular, featureless head and oversized fleshy arms. You duck into a candy shop, but no exit exists. The monsters soon corner you, and...you wake up in a restaurant in the local mall. "What a creepy dream," Heather says in a short cut-scene. Quite.
Heather walks out into the mall and a strange man--who introduces himself as Douglas Cartland, a detective--says that someone wants to meet with her. "It's about your birth." He follows Heather to the bathroom, but she tells him to wait there and ducks out through the bathroom window. You head through the back of mall into an area of closed-off shops. A cut-scene begins as Heather finds a gun on the floor. She picks it up in time to see a swivel-headed beast from her dream busy at work grinding the face off of a dead security guard.
After frantically searching for a while, you find a white-haired woman in old-fashioned clothes.
Heather asks her about the monsters she's seen. "They've come to bear witness," the woman -- Claudia--tells her, "to the rebirth of paradise spoiled by mankind." She refers to Heather as "the one who will lead us to paradise with bloodstained hands." Heather's seized by a headache and Claudia leaves her there, collapsed on the floor.
The hour-long demo ends with a trip down an elevator into a grimy basement that looks like hell.
We're guessing this is right before the first boss encounter--which we saw at the press event--where a giant mutated worm bursts into the basement through a doorway right in front of you. The flesh around its eyeless head (which is unnervingly, urn, foreskin-like) splits in two to reveal massive jaws. Konami's Silent Hill 3 is due out for PlayStation 2 this summer. Will it come to other platforms as well, like Silent Hill 2 did? That's something Yamaoka answered. "At this moment," he said, "we don't have such a plan. "
We know what you're thinkin': What the hell's going on in these pictures? Hey, it's Silent Hill.... The brief video we saw featured a little-girl protagonist who winds up in a messed-up alternate world during a trip to the mall--it's your standard Silent Hill storyline. The little scamp was wielding a submachine gun and taking on larger, more original enemies than the acid-spitting weirdos from SH2 in a cool new subway scenario. Sah-weet.