Silent Hill 3 Review
After the amazing piece of work that is Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3 has some big shoes to fill. If only every title in the Silent Hill series got progressively better and better… But we all know what happens there.
At any rate, Silent Hill 3 is the first direct sequel in the series, though 17 years have passed since the game it follows, the original Silent Hill. This time you play as Heather, an angsty teenage girl with a ton of personality, who gets thrust into the Otherworld as soon as you start playing. Usually, Silent Hill eases you into the Otherworld, but this time, it’s full force as you start with a ton of gear. After Heather wakes up from her dream, in the middle of a cafe in a mall, Douglas Carter, a P.I. finds her and tries to get her to follow him, claiming he knows about her past. Heather, however, is not interested and attempts to escape the mall, only to find horrific Silent Hill creatures infesting the area. Heather must now escape and head for home.
In my opinion, the story is not as powerful as Silent Hill 2‘s, but it’s still a great story and, as is par for the course with the Silent Hill series, each character is wonderfully crafted, regardless of which side of the struggle they’re on. The “normal” characters are more believable and relatable than ever, and Team Silent absolutely nailed Heather’s character. She really feels like a teenage girl thrust into a crazy situation, with all the attitude to boot.
The puzzles and gameplay are typical of the Silent Hill series, and there is practically no difference from Silent Hill 2 in those terms. I’m not going to recount the mechanics a third time (check out my Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 reviews of the list of best games ever) but as always, the use of camera angles and slow, deliberate combat always makes for a tense experience.
Speaking of tense experiences, I would argue that Silent Hill 3 is the most disturbing, creepy, and difficult title in the series. For starters, the Otherworld is the most gorey and terrifying yet. The use of reds and the awful (but in a good way) sound effects and music makes your skin crawl in the best sort of way. Silent Hill 3 is certainly not for the faint of heart. The creatures you’ll face this time are the most unsettling thus far with the twitch factor even higher than Silent Hill 2. Hulking monstrosities follow you around and are filled with a need to kill you. Not only that, but enemies are much more difficult in 3 than any of the previous titles. Enemies tend to travel in packs, and even when they don’t, they’re still pretty tough. As always, health items are limited, and don’t be surprised if you end up going through ALL of your stock by the end of the final boss battle. Ammunition is the scarcest it has been thus far in the series, and you’ll be begging for a few more shotgun shells.
Here begins my list of small complaints with Silent Hill 3. Firstly, the monsters are so tough that it takes some of the fun out of it for me. In survival horror games, I like to explore everywhere. In the Silent Hill series, I tend to spend little time in the streets, but explore every inch of every indoor area. In Silent Hill 3, there is just no way you’ll be able to do that. There are just far too many enemies wandering around, usually in packs, and running by them is really the only option, as they often take far too long to kill. Not only that, but wasting time killing one often results in another one catching up to you. Not only that, but most enemies have at least one move that either hits like a truck, or worse, had a close range area of effect around them that simply negates melee attacks. Again, using guns is just not a good idea, as you’ll want to save all of your ammunition for the boss encounters, which, funny enough, are the easiest encounters in the game. Some enemies are just plain irritating like the flying bladed enemies (they’re called Pendulums) that speed up whenever you try to assault them, making fleeing the only real option. There are enemies that are so large that your progress will be impeded by them, and your only real alternative is to lure them to an easier area for running away, as wasting your precious ammunition and resources is simply not worth it. All of that being said, the tough enemies really do make the game more tense, but there is a fine line between tense and frustrating.
My second complaint with Silent Hill 3 is the instant kill set pieces. These are new to the series, but I could really do without them. Basically, certain areas will instantly kill you. Some are set up really well, like the mirror room, or the bridge above water with CAUTION signs and blood on it, while others are really dumb, like the subway train. In the subway, you’re looking for a train the whole time to get home. If you stay off of the tracks, you’ll only ever see 1 train, a derelict one with a shotgun for your use. However, try to go further up or down on the tracks, and a train will kill you every time, EXCEPT the one time you’re supposed to. Once you do finally get on the train, you have to make your way towards the front of the car while the train is moving. The issue is, make sure you save immediately, as heading to the back of the train instantly kills you, as, for whatever reason, Heather decides to jump off the back of the train. I guess, ultimately, just remove trains in Silent Hill 3. (/joke)
The last thing that irks me is the removal of the robust ending system. In Silent Hill 3, there are only 3 endings. The normal ending, the second playthrough ending (if you’ve met the requirements) and the ever-present joke ending that Team Silent always works in. Silent Hill had 5 endings, and 4 of them (the serious endings) are obtainable from your first playthrough and are determined by two major decisions. Silent Hill 2 has 5 endings, and 3 of them are obtainable from a single playthrough, though the requirements for aiming for a certain ending are far more fluid, and you may not even get the ending you were shooting for if you’re not careful. In return, Silent Hill 3 adds many costumes you can unlock to put Heather in, but again, none of that is accessible from a first playthrough.
Now don’t get the wrong idea. I LOVE Silent Hill 3. The only reason that Silent Hill 3 doesn’t get on the list of best games is because of the frustration. The enemies just aren’t balanced, and instant kill areas are simply annoying to me. Silent Hill 3 is still a great game with fun puzzles, great atmosphere, and likable characters, and ultimately the good outweighs the bad, but I just think Silent Hill 3 can be a bit of a chore sometimes.
The Bottom Line
- Fantastic, tense, and terrifying atmosphere.
- Great and believable characters.
- Wonderfully told story.
- Great puzzles.
- Unlockable costumes.
- A sometimes unfair and frustrating challenge.
- The removal of a robust ending system.
Final Score: 9.5/10
It really is so close to being a best game ever. If it weren’t for those minor frustrations, I really think it would be on that list. And for the record, the List is fluid. Maybe in a future playthrough, SH3 will land on that list.