Silent Hill 3 (2003) Review

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Silent Hill 3 is a direct sequel to the original 1999 game, where you play as a teenage girl, Heather Mason who is drawn to the town of Silent Hill, creepy through industrial looking otherworlds,the frightening Lakeside Amusement Park which are all appropriately disgusting, bloody dirty and grimy, like a higher fidelity rendering of the original’s aesthetic.  The game also took me 6 hours to complete.

The story of Silent Hill 3 follows up 17 years after the original and the plot is more or less a repetition of the original (like our good friend George Lucas says, “it’s like poetry, it rhymes”) but in a good way. The cult is trying to birth their god again The first at least third of the game doesn’t even have you in Silent Hill at all, which is a nice change of pace as it avoids too much familiarity and thus keeps the tension higher. With the creature design, which is fantastic and importantly, different from the previous two games in behaviour and aesthetic (with some nurses being able to shoot you), the game continues the series tradition of using symbolism through these monsters to provide extra depth to the story, although their meanings might not be immediately obvious in the heat of play. The lore of the series is also nicely expanded upon in this game.

But there are nice moments when you do revisit locations from previous entries. For example, you can go into the Heaven’s Night bar for some items and to look around and reminisce of your experience playing Silent Hill 2. Brookhaven Hospital is back and the design of the objectives manages to keep the area feeling both familiar and fresh. At some parts in the game, I saw notepads that looked exactly like the save points in the original game and interacting them let me read the notes of Harry Mason, which were nice moments. The scares here are often ones of tension, with a few unexpected jumpscares here and there, or the fright experienced when entering trap rooms or the discomfort of hearing the moans of Closers.

Visually, the game holds up very well when emulated and the noise filter is improved from the original game (although in stills it looks the same but it’s great in motion I promise), a depth of field effect is occassionally used. The lighting and shadows are also excellent as always. Akira Yamaoka’s sound design and music is on point as per usual, creating a perfectly dreadful atmosphere. The voice acting also feels much like normal people instead of Hollywood voice actors, whilst still mostly avoiding the cheese of the Resident Evil games, with the exception of the detective Douglas, who walks a fine line between a grizzled gruff voice that can be taken seriously and one that can’t. Most of the characters also sound a bit off in a way that works out very well for this series as it does in David Lynch films.

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In terms of the mechanics of the game, there is not much deviation from the previous two. However, there are some welcome improvements. First, the inventory has been streamlined so that instead of scrolling through every item just to get some specific item for a puzzle or to reload your gun, items have been divided into Items (for puzzles, flashlight, radio, etc), weapons and supplies. Another welcome improvement is that more guns allow movement while shooting and that most melee weapons also allow movement while attacking. There are also equippable items, such as the bulletproof vest which reduce damage taken whilst also reducing movement speed, an obvious tradeoff. However, while for me it did elevate the tension when trying to get out the way of monsters, it still allowed me to move fast enough to avoid hits so I kept it on pretty much the whole game. There was one superfluous addition to the game, which was the use of distraction items through beef jerky, in which the game showers on you early on. It stops giving them to you once you reach Silent Hill proper as if the game is self aware that they’re pretty much useless.

Whilst not as original or emotionally involving as the narrative of Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3 is a worthy addition to the series that maintains a high level of quality, some fresh ideas even within the repetitious plot and welcome mechanical improvements that make it a worthwhile experience for any survival horror fans. Just play the previous two first and don’t let your first experience with the game be the HD Collection version because it’s fucked.

8/10

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