One week after my last post (thanks to everyone for the nearly 2000 hits on my Slender post by the way), I was finally able to finish playing Silent Hill 3 HD. I actually completed the second half of the game in one sitting. Despite being the third title in the series, it’s actually a direct sequel to the first Silent Hill. So does it hold up to the series’ pedigree?
Given that this game came out all the way back in 2003, I don’t feel I can spoil much of the plot since most people know it by now. Taking place seventeen years after the events of Silent Hill (& presumably some unknown time after Silent Hill 2), you play as Heather Mason, the “daughter” of the first game’s protagonist. Heather is actually the baby Harry receives from Alessa in the good endings. Despite having tried his best to keep Heather’s identity a secret, the Order still manages to track Heather down. Hoping to correct their previous mistakes, the Order wants to use Heather’s latent powers to rebirth their god. As Heather, you’re forced to traverse the real world full of monsters & the Otherworld — which isn’t much better — to escape their plans & get revenge on the Order’s leader, Claudia.
The gameplay carries over most of the previous games’ survival-horror aspects. Being a normal teenager, combat with Heather can be sticky, enemies can be overwhelming, & sometimes it’s best to just run away. Ammo is very limited, but thankfully there are a number of melee items Heather can use, ranging from knives to mauls. Exploration is a large part of the game. Although most of the doors are locked, you’ll still have to check everything to find items you need to survive & pass the various puzzles.
Story: I have to say, I really love the characters in SH3. Heather is very much an Everyman. Ignoring her birth & supposed powers, she’s really just a normal girl who gets dragged into this nightmare. All of her reactions are ways you’d expect a normal person to react. She gets mad, cries & talks back to people. One part in particular I like is at the very end, right after defeating God when Heather starts crying for Harry. It might seem odd, since she grieved earlier, but I think it’s a natural reaction. I think Heather was still in shock & so focused on revenge that she didn’t have time to really absorb that her dad was dead. The other characters are just as dynamic, with their own personalities & backstories. I found both Vincent & Claudia interesting. Although they believe in the same god, they both express their beliefs differently. Claudia seems unique among most villains, even religious extremists, in that she clearly believes she won’t be forgiven for her actions, despite thinking they’re necessary. As for the story itself, it’s okay. Some people criticize it for bringing back the whole cult thing, but my biggest concern was that it’s unclear how things changed to the Otherworld when they weren’t in Silent Hill. Previous games gave the impression it was the town itself, & Alessa’s powers to a lesser extent. Was Claudia causing it? And how? Story: 4
Gameplay: Gameplay is pretty similar to SH2. I was glad the combat feels more responsive this time around. At least when I push the button to attack, Heather attacks (unlike James). I also liked that the inventory system is now divided into three sections; items (usually puzzle or key items), weapons & supplies (heath drinks, ammo, etc.). I thought it made things easier to find. Also, although I didn’t mention it in the other review, I really like the map. I like that it marks off places you’ve been, what’s locked, & where important puzzles you’ll have to come back to later are. As with the previous game, I changed the control scheme from 3D to 2D because I find it easier. But that didn’t stop the camera angles from screwing with me. It was particularly bad on a few occasions when I was in a hurry. For example, when I had to quickly jump up on the subway platform or get run over by the train. The camera angle kept switching, making me run back & forth between the two angles. Camera controls in general just suck. You can only move the camera behind you… assuming you even have that much control. It doesn’t help that every time you enter a door the angle is in front of you, which means you can’t see the baddie just off-screen. So overall there are improvements, but I really wished they fixed the camera. And why does the game keep turning my flashlight off in between cutscenes? Score: 4
Visuals & Audio: It should come as no surprise that the graphics are better than in SH2. The graphics in the cutscenes match the in-game graphics, which is nice. But was I the only one who noticed how greasy & dirty everyone in this game looks? Even Heather, from the very beginning, looks a little worse-for-wear. But the environments are the real focus on the game. The Otherworld has some amazingly creepy designs, with rust & blood everywhere. The two effects I liked the most are in the Otherworld hospital (what I can only describe as wriggling flesh) & the church (where it looks like floating blood). And being a Silent Hill game, the enemies are inventive & distressing. A couple I couldn’t even stick around long enough to see what they really looked like. As for the sound, there’s surprisingly less music in SH3, which I have mixed feelings about. Part of what made SH2 so tense for me was the music. SH3 has a lot of silence. But at the same time, this can accentuate the terror. The quiet makes the noises of enemies nearby more intense, & the sound effects can really scare you. There were several moments in the construction site & hospital that got to me (damn wheelchair scared me even though I knew it was coming). I did, however, encounter a sound glitch. Firing either the shotgun or sub-machine gun would make all sound go out. It’s not game-breaking, but it threw me off every time it happened. I should also discuss the new voices. Unlike in SH2, you don’t get to choose between the original & new voices. But I thought the new voices were pretty good. At first I wasn’t crazy about Heather’s voice, because it can come across as whiny, but it grew on me. I think it was after she was yelling at Douglas after the boss fight with Missionary that I really started to like it. Vincent’s voice is also pretty good (an interesting side note, Vincent’s voiceactor is the same guy who does the English voice for Sasuke Uchiha). But the prize for best performance goes to the Happy Birthday Caller. It’s the one voice that I honestly think is better than the original by far. The way he switches from happy & jovial to scary & threatening is amazing & super creepy. Score: 5
Replayability: Fairly high. Even though there are fewer endings, there are more unlockable items in SH3. These include costumes & weapons, the latter of which you unlock by performing a certain task, such as the final blow to God being with a melee weapon (unlimited sub-machine gun!). Also, I found this game to be much shorter than the second. Score: 4
Overall Score: 4
Final Word: As with the second game, I’m not sure there’s a reason to play the HD version of Silent Hill 3 if you already have it. However, even if you’re not a huge horror game fan, I still think this is a game that everyone should try at least once. There’s a reason it’s so iconic.
Tomorrow I’ll post my opinion on how 2 & 3 compare & my overall opinion of the HD Collection.
Title: Silent Hill 3 HD Console: 360 & PS3 Rating: M Developers: Konami TYO Publisher: Konami Release Date: March 20, 2012