The horror genre takes another step into the gaming world with Silent Hill 3, the latest instalment of the popular series. The original was ground-breaking in a way that set previous forays into 'horror' to one side. Resident Evil became 'just another shooter', whilst House of the Dead was more akin to Virtua Cop. Therein lies both the beauty and the shortcoming of the latest instalment, and perhaps, the serious 'horror genre games' as a whole. What do you want your game to be - a horror flick, or entertainment? Which is better viewing - Scream! or The Omen? I digress...
That minor discourse aside, Silent Hill 3 does bring back something
refreshing to the gaming world - there is no doubt that Silent Hill is
conceptually original. If you are new to the series, then part 3 is as good a place as any to dive into the horror. If you are an old fan, then you'll probably be itching for more monster slaying action. To do any justice to a review, I really have to do it from these two perspectives - old-timer and newcomer. If you are an old hand at Silent Hill then this is more horror for you to experience. By now you'll know the game, the horror devices, the sounds and the controls - it'll just be like starting a new chapter. Great! If that is what you want. If you are looking for the same repulsion (in a good sense), then I don't think you'll find it. Familiarity dulls the senses and will take some of the shock out of the third game. Having said that, if you are a fan you'll probably have it already.
If you are a newcomer - be prepared, this is nothing like gaming has been before. Silent Hill thrives on atmosphere (or should that be atmosfear?). The visual imagery, the sound, the joypad feedback and the confusion all add to that horror sense of helplessness. Most of the game is spent trying to figure out where you are and what is going on, like most adventure games. (It certainly works, I had very little idea of what I was supposed to be
doing). The controls are horrible, as is the way the camera has a mind of its own. Actually getting your character to walk the right way round a corner takes some practice. At first touch, it isn't amazingly playable, but it certainly invokes a degree of horror in the player. The camera movement is popular with some people, but to me, I found it an annoyance. The character dynamics seem a little limited and clunky and doing what you want to do can sometimes be hard.
Having said all that, the graphics are very well done. The use of
stereotypical horror devices are rife in this game. From the outset, things like the butchered giant rabbit costume (think Donnie Darko meets Pennywise the Clown) and the use of both the dark, and fog or smoke, make it an interesting experience. Generally, everything has been dirtied in that horror film way. The game does come with a warning about some of the images that you might see and things you might do - not the best for children, or those with animals. Blood and screams are not spared, and the game deservedly carries a 15 certificate. One of the first creatures I encountered was a dog like thing that bit me. I clubbed it to death with a length of steel pipe, then kicked it a few times for good measure Graphically, you can't fault it, Silent Hill 3 is visually very well accomplished, and the sound partners that superbly.
There are two settings you can adjust on the game - the action aspects and the riddle side, so you can change the bias as you want. This tells you something about how the game is constructed in these two layers - rather like Tomb Raider - you need to tackle both to get through the game.
Overall, Silent Hill 3 and horror is one of those things that you either like, or don't. I find the horror genre a little too much horror and not enough game and in the long run, really quite tedious. The fact that this is the third game in the series says that there must be a legion of fans out there to keep it going. Not a game for everyone, but if you are looking for something different, it is a very accomplished offering.