maanantai 23. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Silent Hill 3 (2003)

Genre(s): Action / Survival horror
Released: 2003
Available on: PC, PS2
Developer(s): Konami, Team Silent
Publisher(s): Konami
Players: 1

After pushing the boundaries of survival horror with the critically acclaimed Lynchian sidestory of Silent Hill 2, Team Silent took a turn back to the roots of the series and developed a direct sequel to the first game, by fans’ request and perhaps due to its rise in mainstream popularity after the second game’s release. Though criticized for being too easy, straightforward, and get this – too gory – Silent Hill 3 was my first true touch with this once great series (I had SH2, but I didn’t play it too much at the time) and I have been a fan of the franchise since I bought it. So, do I disagree with people who say it’s dogshit compared to the previous game? Hell yes. Do I think the game is better than Silent Hill 2? Hell no. Yet, it is an excellent survival horror game, that regardless of the different sort of approach exists to make players crap in their pants. Be afraid, friend. Be very afraid.
A tomboy’s trip to hell

Heather Morris : Heather Mason / Cheryl Mason
Richard Grosse : Douglas Cartland
Donna Burke : Claudia Wolf
Clifford Rippel : Vincent
Matt Lagan : Leonard Wolf

What begins as a normal day at the local mall ends in a brutal, nightmarish scene for 17-year old Heather. After some unsettling confrontations with an old, scruffy private detective and a mysterious lady in black, the suddenly distorted mall is filled with formless creatures with the apparent, mutual desire to send Heather to an early grave. All Heather wants is to get back home to her father, but the trip home seems impossible as there’s something lurking behind each corner. What are the creatures, where did they come from and who are the people after Heather?

The game looks and sounds simply superb. Audiovisually, the game is one of THE experiences on the PS2. What makes the game look even better than Silent Hill 2 is the modern, urban environment in which most of the game’s events take place in. Very detailed, and colourful, in a sleek Silent Hill sort of way. The graphical effects, especially the huge amounts of blood and gore, and their inventive use in scenes which were meant to be shocking are off the charts. Once again, Silent Hill 3 is truly one of the most brilliant looking games on the PS2. We can’t talk about taking the system’s capacity to its limits, however, ‘cause it’s also a moderately short game, but it looks amazing. Akira Yamaoka equally outdoes himself with the music. Melissa Williamson, a.k.a. voice actress/singer Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, sings lead vocals for the very first time in a few new video game classics, including the awesome “I Want Love” and the opening track “You’re Not Here”. Singer Joe Romersa also makes his debut on a Silent Hill soundtrack, with “Hometown”, which is a remade version of the Silent Hill theme from the first game. I love the guy’s Bowie-like sound, but the song’s not nearly as good as the next game’s Romersa track, though. The sound effects include some extremely well placed clonks, crashes and screeches, which will have you trembling even if there’s actually nothing out there – even moreso, in fact. The game was made to be frightening... in a different way than the previous game, but nevertheless frightening.

The voiceover work’s quality is pretty much the same as that of Silent Hill 2, I think Heather and Vincent are some of the strongest characters in both lines and presentation. Donna Burke’s (Claudia) acting is still simply horrendous, and her fake British accent is all but the cherry on the top of the cake. She should’ve been cast in Resident Evil instead of Silent Hill. This is the second time she annoys the hell out of me in a Silent Hill production; just listening to her voice makes my blood boil. The character of Douglas has some very good lines, but for most of the time his voice actor sounds like he’s not interested in his presentation at all. Don’t the guys at Konami pay the supports enough?

The Otherworld, back more disturbing than
Silent Hill installments, as similar as they all are in terms of gameplay, are the kind of games you really don’t know what to begin with – so let’s start with its general presentation of the survival horror genre. Whereas Silent Hill 2 relied on utter psychological mindfuck, Silent Hill 3 goes for a more graphic presentation. It’s not a splatter game by any means, but there’s a notable amount of blood and shit originating from somewhere else than gory death. The things Heather sees, these visions that seem like hallucinations, are usually quite damn disgusting and involve amounts of blood the creators of the Saw movies would be proud of. I already mentioned the amazing effects; they include bleeding walls, blood dripping from a faucet instead of water, a bathroom that actually changes wholly into something that looks like human intestines... the game is very disturbing. The feeling of loneliness adds to that. In the first two games, there was a surprisingly vast cast of characters to converse with. There’s not a lot of conversation in this game, not even a lot of characters to begin with. Throughout the first half of the game, it’s just Heather, and her tendency to converse with herself. I like the character very, very much – she’s probably my favourite Silent Hill character so far. First of all, she’s deliciously sarcastic and witty, yet sensitive girl. And, unlike her colleagues Jill Valentine or especially Lara Croft, there’s not the slightest drop of sex in her. She’s like one of the guys – a totally unstereotypical female lead.

The controls and combat are the same as ever. The camera is tweaked a bit, and Heather runs quite fast before obtaining the optional and very heavy, yet recommendable bulletproof vest. You still have to stomp on most enemies to make sure they’re dead, but luckily there are no monsters as annoying as some of the Otherworld abominations in the previous game – the ones that started crawling ridiculously fast all across the floor if you didn’t step on them quickly enough. There are bigger, actually much bigger enemies now, though, from the very beginning. You’d best wear diapers. The radio is still here to warn you of enemy presence... and you can still turn it off, luckily. You simply don’t need it.

The puzzles are absolutely baffling. Surprisingly enough, they’re quite simple as long as you play on Easy or Normal, but take on any tougher level and you’ll regret it very soon. From the very beginning, the puzzles are pure hell. You will most certainly need a pen and paper at the very least, a razor-sharp mind surely doesn’t go to waste either. Personally, I don’t believe a normal, honest human being can solve the Extra level without a walkthrough. I tried with a friend, and we figured out the first one, but we were so exhausted after that two-hour brainstorm that we just couldn’t play the game any longer.

Robbie the Rabbit, one of the creepiest things
I've ever seen in a video game.
Since the game primarily takes place somewhere else than Silent Hill, it’s more linear than the earlier games. There’s pretty much one single path you must follow, but in turn, you’re given more freedom to explore indoor environments, meaning you can open more doors than before and possibly find some good, hidden stuff. It’s still a tad disappointing game since there are only three different endings, which are affected by points you accumulate during the game. The points are determined, among everything else, on the amount of damage you take during the game and the decisions you make. The traditional UFO ending is once again here to represent, and demands certain criteria to be met. What that is, find out for yourself. In general the game has less replay value than the previous titles, especially since the two proper endings don’t really differ that much from each other. There’s literally tons of unlockable items, weapons and new clothing for Heather, but the clothes are easily unlocked in the beginning using passwords swiped from the Internet. Hey... would you rather take more than 12 rounds of the game than do it the easy way? I didn’t think so.

Unless you’re playing on a hard puzzle level, the game really is easy as hell. That’s the main problem I have with it. Even the tightest combat situations are pretty easily overcome, and the boss fights are very simplistic and easy – even the final battle, if you know the strategy. If you know exactly what to do to get the alternate, rare ending, or the UFO ending, they aren’t hard to accomplish at all – unlike in Silent Hill 2. The game is fun to return to from time to time, but it doesn’t keep you constantly hooked and on your toes like the previous game. There’s so little proper replay value.

Silent Hill 3 is a visually impressive, musically grand and extremely playable Silent Hill installment, but the biggest thrill passes very quickly due to the game being so easy for a survival horror veteran, and the low replay value. Also, now that I look at it in retrospect, I don’t think you should even touch the game before you beat the first Silent Hill; when I bought the game, I hadn’t played the first one a whole lot and I had no idea this was a direct sequel. I guess it kind of spoiled everything, not that I really care – but you might.

Graphics : 9.7
Sound : 9.3
Playability : 8.7
Challenge : 7.8
Overall : 8.6


GameRankings: 70.21% (PC), 83.89% (PS2)

Heather was originally named Helen, and Claudia was named Christy. The writers thought Helen was a too old-fashioned name for a teenage girl and Christy too cute for an evil, self-righteous bigot.

Designers have named Stephen King’s literature as one of their major influences when they were making the game.

The game makes several references to Silent Hill 2, but only if there's a Silent Hill 2 save file on the memory card. Heather refuses to put her hand in a toilet to retrieve an item blocking the drain; James put his hand in a clearly soiled toilet to pick up a wallet. When she examines her mailbox, Heather points out that there are no letters from dead wives; a letter from his dead wife lured James to Silent Hill. When she examines the fence on the roof of the Brookhaven Hospital, Heather points out that it's sturdy and doesn't look like it's going to break; Pyramid Head threw James through the very same fence.

The game makes several references to the movie Jacob's Ladder, just like Silent Hill 2. One of the subway tracks leads to Bergen Street; that's where Jacob was supposedly heading. In the same scene, Jacob was forced to cross the subway tracks by foot to get where he was going, and was nearly hit by a ghost train. The same happens to Heather.

If you throw the steel pipe into a certain ditch in the sewer, a fairy will show up and ask you three questions. If you answer correctly, you'll get gold and silver pipes for your trouble. This is a reference to The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past. In the game, there’s a fairy that upgrades Link's weapons and items if he throws them in her fountain.

If you break a different coloured wall in one of the rooms in the building under construction, you'll find Solid Snake's silencer. The wall is a reference to Metal Gear Solid, in which Solid Snake had to find a different coloured wall and blow it up with C4 to reveal a hidden passage.

The ballet studio in the office building is owned by a Madame Blanc. There’s a ballet dancing character by that name in the movie Suspiria.

The wheelchair behind the sheet of glass in the alternate office building resembles the promotional poster for the movie Session 9.

Luke Skywalker's green lightsaber is one of the unlockable weapons in the game. It comes complete with the vintage sound effect.

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