Our third outing to the infamous town.
In many ways, this game serves as a sequel to the first game and not the second. I think this might be disruptive to fans hoping for another psychological tale with the narrative heft of the second entry
The theme of Silent Hill 3 is bigger=better. Everything seems larger in this game. For many aspects, this is a success. For others, it is a slight slog. The dungeons feel too large—game fatigue sets in before completing the areas. The game opens with a dungeon—something not done before to this extent in the series. The long foggy walk that has been a trademark thus far disappears at the start. Instead, when we are briefly outside, we see an orange sky! Seeing the sun disrupted my acclimation to the game, and I am not sure why.
The gameplay feels about the same, but a bit tighter than Silent Hill 2. The graphical upgrades work in many ways. The lighting of this game adds more to the creep factor here more than previous entries. In some ways, this is scarier than 2, and that will be the focus of this entry. Note: spoilers for both 2 and 3 will follow.
Cult vs. Psychological
I have heard complaints that the Silent Hill series is too disconnected, and to an extent these complaints are valid. It is a good couple hours into the game that Heather’s role in the town is revealed, and that the game is focusing on the cultish lore established in Silent Hill 1. The cult is scary, and this game offers more “woah shit” moments than either of the other entries, but the scares don’t stick around as long.
The positions of the monsters are more prone to startle (at least me) while playing. While these monsters are scary, deformed, and bizarre, they lack the emotional punch of knowing that they are coming from the protagonist’s psyche, as in 2. Here, they are monsters. The symbolism and meaning of them doesn’t seem to delve much deeper than that. Further, the placement of enemies and scary images seems to be done solely for the purpose of fear. There isn’t an additional layer of narrative function happening.
I am not sure which version of Silent Hill is preferred, but the second entry is probably the best of the series. That is not to say that Silent Hill 3 is not worth playing. In fact, on the level of a “game”, this is one of the more playable ones. The weapon selections alone are absurd compared to earlier entries. Heather is a more relatable protagonist in a lot of ways. As the series develops further, their characters tend to strengthen.
The cult storyline adds a more coherent arc to the narrative (as there would be no point in characters connecting otherwise). Detective Cartland is one of the better side characters in the series. It is refreshing to have someone with you who is grounded to reality. His age and experience also counters well to Heather’s youth and spontaneous nature.
One thing that is odd is that you do tread some of the same ground as James does in 2. The hospital (which desperately needs a remodel) is sort of an expected location anymore. However, is it possible that Silent Hill can be both a personal hell and the place of a cult? I am not certain if that would narratively function in the long run. However, the decision to flip-flop on what exactly the town is does cause some problems. The games individually are great, but I can’t really identify this as a trilogy, because it simply isn’t. The third entry (as said) is a solid game, but I don’t think it transcends to the same level of art as 2.
There are a lot of great moments in this game. Including what is probably the best happy-birthday phone call ever. (You will know it when it happens). However, there are also annoying parts. Going back through the amusement park you visit at the start of the game seems lazy. I have never been a fan of “seeing some of the end” at the beginning in games or movies. Not sure why it is such a sore spot for me, but it has always driven me nuts.
The boss fights are tense, but lack that level of tragedy that the previous game did. I know I am harping a lot on how this game links to 2, but it is hard not to. Can this game be judged alone? Probably, but as with any series, it will always been seen by how it links to the greater narrative. I appreciate the religious discussions within this game, but they come a bit late (at least those with heft).
Some of the dungeons are excellent. The haunted house in the amusement park in particular is a lot of fun. The ending boss/cut scene lead up is also pretty amazing. Oral abortions and child eating! Not sure many games go that route. Unfortunately, stupid dialogue throughout limits some of these greater moments. Worth a play, but not as memorable in the long run. 8.5/10