Saturday, November 15, 2014

VGR Silent Hill 3

Seventeen years ago, Harry Mason thought he had defeated a mysterious cult in the resort town of Silent Hill.

Now, the sins of the father will be visited upon by his "daughter"...

VGR: Silent Hill 3
From Team Silent/Hijinx Studios (HD re-edition)/Konami Computer Entertainment  
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PS2, PC & PS3

Type Survival horror/Psychological horror game
Year 2003

Developed once more by Konami's original Team Silent right after the release of Silent Hill 2 back in September 2001.With Kazuhide Nakazawa this time taking over directing duties, while Masahiro Itō was back as art director and Akira Yamaoka once more working as sound director and composing the music of the game.

Silent Hill 2 was apparently being worked on alongside a second secret project that was just known at the time as "Room 302", and despite an entirely different tone and direction it would end up becoming a follow up to the series under the title "Silent Hill 4: The Room" - they didn't want it to be part of the main numbered series but it ended being the fourth game in the series anyhow!

As such SH2's development team was divided on two fronts, and made much smaller than it was on the previous game.

Once more one of the main key influences on the game was the film Adrian Lyne's Jacob's Ladder, keeping several references to it through the story and its structure. Including the "Bergen Street" subway station from the beginning of the film being actually incorporated into the plot of the game and even used as a major setting in the first part of the game.

While usually most Silent Hill games are stand alone stories, with their own set of stories and revolving around different characters, taking place around the mysterious dark town of Silent Hill, Silent Hill 3 is the only direct sequel to another game in the entire series. It's a follow-up story to the original first Silent Hill game.

It was developed for PS2 first and ported to PC with a lot of special care given to that version (something that isn't that usual for a Japanese-developed game, PC ports tend to be an after-thought usually). It was finally re-released for PS3 and Xbox 360 a decade later in 2012 as part of the remastered HD port "Silent Hill: HD Collection" that also included SH2.

The story is set about 17 years after the events of the first game.

Usually things are kept vague in the Silent Hill series, and several interpretations can be given to the games (such as, are things as they seem, do any of it actually happen, are the monsters real, etc.). SH3 being a sequel to the first game, some things had to be clarified. More precisely, this story follows the better ending you could get in the first game in which Harry Mason defeated a "God" the local town cult sacrificed his daughter for. The story revolved around this Alessa Gillespie that was burnt by the cult her mother ran. At the end of the day, his "Cheryl" was no more... instead there was this mysterious baby girl that left from the God-creature he faced. Harry decided to take care off her.

This resurrected Cheryl/renamed Heather Mason turned out to be the reincarnation of Alessa. Heather grew up in Portland, far away from Silent Hill, never knowing the truth about her origin. But now the cult is planning to come back and they're after her as well... They want her to birth their new God into existence!....

Our story begins with a nightmare. Heather wakes up at a dinner at the mall. She went shopping and fell asleep at this table. She quickly meets this private detective, Douglas Cartland. Douglas comes off as this creepy guy who wants to talk to her about her birth. Obviously this seems pretty weird, and Heather runs away...

She ends up encountering some strange monsters... and finds herself trapped in this... "Otherworld". Walls decay, rusty metallic grids cover everything, and even the walls and ground seems to be covered in... blood? She meets this woman Claudia Wolf who wants to her bring back to the cult. Claudia is now the priestess of the cult and wants to bring paradise on Earth! She enlisted the help  of this private investigator Douglas to look for her. Heather is able to leave for the subway home (where she finds more creatures) and finally head home to her adopted father, who always loved her very much just as his own daughter. But they killed Harry!! How could they!?

She learns the truth while she fights a monster on the roof. It's time to go back to the town of Silent Hill..

She also meets this strange member of the cult, Vincent. Who doesn't seem to like Claudia much, and appears to hide some shady motivations of his own.

Heather has to defend herself from a past she really never knew. There, she finds more regarding her adoption and true origin. How she is supposedly the reincarnation of this "Alessa". There's this huge fog covering the entire town. The cult folks are after her. She goes to the local hospital. Meets (and faces) Claudia's own father ("sins of the father" as they say..), Leonard Wolf, her abusive father...

She finally finds the church after going through this nightmarish amusement park. Douglas is wounded. Heather vomits this strange creature..

Yep. Another day in Silent Hill, alright.

Silent Hill 3 is very similar to its predecessor - both visually and gameplay-wise.

The gameplay is mostly similar to the past two games. Classic survival horror that relies on cinematic angles and tank controls. It's perfectly fine for what it is. If anything it's even made simpler thanks to a much easier way to aim at foes on screen, it helps the game big time on that front. Plus like SH2 you can control the camera most times, bringing it down to a third person view behind the back.

Silent Hill 3 relies heavily on part-exploration, puzzle solving as well combat. With a bigger emphasis on combat this time, though.

You can equip all sorts of melee and long-distance weapons you'll find through the game. You can even perform a "block" and side-step to avoid enemies' attacks.

As usual, you can count on your trusty flashlight and radio to help make it out alive - the distortions coming from your radio alerting you whenever monsters are nearby. You can turn both off to avoid attracting too much direct attentions from your foes.

And just like SH2, you can set the difficulty on both "combat" and "puzzles" to personalize your game, to either accentuate the adventure or combat. This means huge variations on the puzzles depending on your difficulty level. It might just make you think a lot more outside the box, and some puzzles even change randomly every time you play. Beware the riddles get even more obscure on harder settings (you need to know your Shakespeare!).

In Silent Hill, it's always best to usually avoid confrontation with the monsters as much as possible.

The traditionally-secret weapon katana can be easily found pretty early on during the story.

It is recommended to only rely on actual guns for bosses and larger creatures. Ammunition and health is pretty scarce through the game!

In Silent Hill 3 the player gets to revisit a lot of locations from the previous two games. While SH1's places were mostly recreated and revamped for the occasion (being a PS1 game and all), SH3 locations feel pretty recycled at worst.

There's some great creepy and genuinely scary parts in the game. The game doesn't really rely on cheap jump scares for that. It's a great psychological horror game that builds its time getting under your skin and messing with your head.

There's also a great "funny" short passage through an haunted mansion that clearly seems like a little tribute/allusion to the now infamous Dreamcast horror cult classic Illbleed.

The game features a lot of throwback to the original Silent Hill such as both protagonists' name starting with the letter "H", starting the game with a nightmare sequence and soon after meeting a detective, as well as visiting a lot of those same familiar places like the shopping center and ending the story near the Lakeside Amusement Park. And even the last save point takes place in the same place, Alessa's room, and needing to find five items to open the door before the final boss at the end.

The game features a few secret "bonus" references to Silent Hill 2, if you have a save file from game on the same memory card/console. There are some hidden cues you can activate, which reference James' tale such as having Heather put her hand down a toilet sink...

This episode also contains a lot of references to the cult 2001 film Session 9 by Brad Anderson, which probably also inspired Team Silent a lot along Jacob's Ladder this time. They probably wanted to acknowledge it and throw a few nods to it, such as this creepy wheelchair Heather will find behind across a glass window during the part at the Nightmare Hilltop Center. There are a couple of similar throwbacks, including references to the characters from the film and the plot directly.

Silent Hills tend to play with a lot of themes and subjects. Due to the story revolving around the "birth of a God", Silent Hill 3 contains a lot of references to pregnancy. Even the Otherworld appears similar to a womb this time, bloody and veiny with all these heartbeat noises in the background.

The story it offers might not be as deep and the characters not as interesting nor developed as Silent Hill 2's, but there's a lot more symbolism in this episode than any other in the series.

Heavy symbolism to pregnancy, birth and abortion. It shows in the monsters' design, the boss fights and even the settings. Continuing upon SH1, there's also more focus on religious.

Sometimes it feels like we get these random arbitrary changes of locations through the story, like we're getting back to most places from both SH1 and 2 at random. It doesn't feel as open as SH2 was.

It's a great looking game mind you. And the gameplay even tries to improve on SH2's, with weapons more precise now.

The boss fights are also bigger and more difficult. 

Upon completing the game there's a few unlockables to get along the "New Game+", such as alternate costumes and secret weapons! Some fun stuff such as the flamethrower and even a "Sexy Beam", Oh My!

Sadly, Silent Hill 3 marks the installment with the least number of possible endings to get. There's only a "normal" ending, a "possessed" bad ending and the usual "UFO ending" that was at least kept, thankfully. A fun joke ending done in the style of vintage comic books where we even get all the protagonists from the past games, Harry and James along Heather, using the alien's spaceships to blow up Silent Hill for good! Ha!

It goes without saying, Silent Hill 3 was pretty well received by critics at time, thanks to its gorgeous visuals, intriguing environments and special care Konami did to the entire sound aspect.

While I gotta admit, I'm not a super fan of the whole cult angle (thankfully ditched in SH1's "re-imagining" Shattered Memories and most of the episodes in the series - I think explaining too much regarding the town kinda ruins the mystery in my eyes - it was at least pretty well used in Silent Hill 3. Even more so than in the first game. And the concept was well played with to explore our protagonist Heather, in the story. Caught in the middle of a conflict amongst the cult itself, because of origins.

On the music side, Akira Yamaoka was back as per usual. Returning to score the soundtrack of another Silent Hill episode with some truly impressive creepy cues and gorgeous vocals. This time the vocalized tracks are more prominent through the game, compared to the past two games, performed by Melissa Williamson (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) again. Really memorable work, and simply amazing.

Overall, Silent Hill 3 still is to this day a great gorgeous-looking game. A timeless classic, Highly Recommended

The game features some great creepy moments. 

It's a decent and more classic sequel in terms of story. A nice way to recap and bring the "trilogy" to a (albeit temporary) end. And offer a way to cover the narrative of the first game for PS2 gamers at the time.

It had such fantastic production values, be it on the graphic or audio front. It all contributes to really sell the atmosphere of the game.

It also was heavily criticized for not bringing anything much new to the series, at the time. No real innovations. In fact my only complaint is that it seem to use a little too many assets from the past game (literally the exact same streets from Silent Hill James explored in SH2)...

As for the modern port on this last generation of consoles. It was done by HiJinkx studio. And the real problem is, Team SIlent doesn't exist now anymore and Konami could only provide them with a very early build of both this game and Silent Hill 2.. While SH2 suffered from huge problems due to the fog filter (something SH3 doesn't really rely much on anymore anyhow), which made some apparent issues way too visible, it still was perfectly fine and playable for most of the game (on the Xbox 360, or the  PS3 once patched). Unlike the treatment of Silent Hill 2, SH3 was ported from a mostly complete version of the game, with no real issues with the environment. Instead the HD version of Silent Hill 3 suffers from really sluggish issues, lots of slowdowns and drops in the framerate. And these are clearly visible and even annoying at times (particularly a scene after a boss... ugh...). Whenever there are too many enemies on screen or you use the bigger heavier weapons such as the submachine gun. It's clearly apparent and can even detract from the experience, particularly at the beginning during the nightmare scene at the park.... It's almost unplayable and unbearable! Unlike the second game, you can't use the old original voices due to some legal rights. But the new voice acting is a decent improvement, where once Heather was the only good acting and most phoned in their interpretations, the entire new did a pretty solid good job.

Silent Hill 3 is a cult classic, and the game would provide the basis for the second Silent Hill film adaptation, Silent Hill: Revelation in 2012. While it might still be a sequel to the previous original first live-action Silent Hill film, they tried to deviate and retcon as much from it to more closely follow and adhere to the canon of the games. As such it's a direct adaptation of SH2's story.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

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