Silent Hill is a place within the gaming realm I have never visited. The horror genre is something that I’m slowly getting acclimated to (thanks to the Dead Space series) and with Konami putting these early Silent Hill games into the new generation via HD-ing them up, I felt now was the best time to finally get into this beloved franchise. Silent Hill 3 was well-received by fans back then, and after completing it, all the same strengths are still visible today. However, bringing this game to the current generation caused a whole slew of new issues not present in previous versions. It’s a bigger deal than it sounds.
Awakening from a nightmare within the local mall’s burger joint, our teenage protagonist Heather figures that her house is probably a better place to catch some shut-eye. After dodging an inquisitive detective asking for an interview, Heather finds herself seamlessly transitioned to a spooky nightmarish realm that she can’t explain. Unsettling clues from even creepier people are left in her wake and the game becomes a mystery that becomes slowly unraveled by Heather as events unfold.
A solid plot that develops well is subtle and doesn’t often interrupt the game. Seeing as this is a survival horror game, this presentation fits quite well. A sense of isolation is nailed as Heather doesn’t encounter many of the characters very often and when she does, things are never dragged on for too long or deliberately spelled out. You are left to interpret some things for yourself, which is good, even though it leans a little heavily on prior knowledge of the series. If you didn’t play the original Silent Hill and aren’t willing to do some Wiki research, prepare some names and events to go over your head.
Heather is also a great fit for a protagonist especially given the setting she is thrown into. She’s strong and ballsy, but she shows enough of her weaknesses to feel vulnerable, thus feeding into a unsettling sense of helplessness. She carries her story well and becomes someone to care about. All of Heather’s lines (along with everyone else) were re-recorded and have a bit more emotion and nuance inserted into them along with sounding a tad more mature. Whether or not you liked the old voice-overs, the new ones are pretty good and relevant to what we expect nowadays.
Voices were redone, but the graphics didn’t need much touching up. Silent Hill 3 has a wonderful yet repugnant look to every single one of the game’s dank, claustrophobic environments and succeeds in making the player feel uncomfortable at all times. Nightmare sections are particularly gruesome, with one specific bloody, veiny level providing a non-stop rush of the heebie-jeebies. At all times everything is either rusted, covered in vast amounts of dirt or blood, shrouded in complete darkness, or all of the above. I hope Heather didn’t have any open wounds because she would have surely been infected with something nasty within the first five minutes.
The visuals are fear evoking, but if forms a symbiotic relationship with the sound design. Less is definitely more but it flawlessly captures and gives off an incredibly creepy vibe without overdoing it. Sometimes no music at all is the creepiest thing imaginable because it lets your mind wander. Foreboding noises are frequently heard in the background and can make for some of the best scares in the game. In a few late night sessions, I nearly soiled myself a few times because, let’s face it, ghastly whispering is beyond creepy. Other sound effects like disgusting squishy noises and disturbing roars give all of the creatures qualities that make them sound like actual monsters. The minimal music that plays during gameplay doesn’t have many instruments within its composition, but it is still haunting in its execution. I can perfectly recall a few of the tunes and each gives a Pavlovian response of fear within my mind. The music that plays during cutscenes and non-creepy moments is surprisingly catchy and unique, something I definitely was not expecting. Besides some sounds that often repeat, from top to bottom, Silent Hill 3‘s phenomenal audio is vital to your enjoyment of the game.
Repulsive graphics and impeccable sound design such as these present the golden opportunity to give the player a chilling, tense atmosphere, which is something Silent Hill 3 excels at. Even at times when nothing is actually happening, it is hard to remain completely calm. Silent Hill 3 doesn’t usually rely on cheap scares and doesn’t need to because my own mind was frequently used against me. Seeing a corpse or something that could jump out had me more frightened then when something actually did happen. Psychological mind games are frequently played in favor of jump scares, something Dead Space could probably learn a thing or two about. I never thought I’d be thankful for being on-edge and stressed out, but yet here we are.
Hideously disfigured enemies are also stressors, as you are constantly outmatched and outnumbered. These nightmarish ghouls can take a fair bit of punishment if you even decide to face them at all. Silent Hill 3 is one of the only games where running away is actually a viable (and almost necessary) strategy. Unless you want to drain resources and die a lot, foes will just have to be avoided in most scenarios. Running may not seem like the most militant strategy, but it displays her fragility and adds a fair bit of tension along the way.
Truth be told, the fighting isn’t even a highlight. Swinging your weapon is sticky and sluggish at best and aiming your firearm at a specific target can become cumbersome. Combat should be avoided in most situations and the shoddy controls and camera reflect that. The camera can get in the way most times too, as wiggling the right stick does absolutely nothing. I can understand why combat scenarios are slow (to become more frightening), but I don’t see why it has to be like that.
Puzzles and exploration facilitate your progression but I found the puzzle part to be heaps and bounds more unwieldy. Exploration stems on whether or not you like wandering around until you find what you are looking for. Personally, I’m not a fan of aimless meandering and constant map opening, so I’ll cop to having a walkthrough open during my play time and I recommend it for people like me. Puzzles aren’t as “lucky.” Most of these brain teasers require logic only found on planet Kleptar in the Gaspius system. Examining items is never explained as a viable mechanic and some combinations don’t make much sense, both of which can leave you confused until you accidentally stumble on a conclusion or look up the solution somewhere else.
Some of these miscommunications can even lead to an instant death. I’m already at odds with one-hit kills, but some aren’t foreshadowed well enough and lock you into an inescapable cutscene. Having no checkpoints is the bigger issues, as an untimely death can send you back to your last save wherever that may be.
All of these previous complaints are fairly minor in the scope of the whole game and are dug into the core in all versions of Silent Hill 3. However, this new HD iteration has brought some ugly “features” to the table. “Features” so awful, that they almost completely break the game as a whole. For one, lip-synching is a little off in some scenes. Near the end of the game, there are few story-heavy cutscenes where the audio is off by a few seconds entire time! I don’t know whether it is the new voices or not, but something is off and it is incredibly distracting.
Honestly, the previous complaint (along with literally everything else) is nothing compared to the abysmal framerate. Simply put, I’ve never played a game with such a sporadic, low framerate. Almost every single time an enemy gets on-screen, it almost devolves into a slideshow. Monsters play a big role within the entire game so this can lead to area after area of low framerate. Although sometimes, literally nothing is happening and the framerate still halves itself! Tension is snapped into pieces, the audio begins to crunch and distort, and controls become even more unresponsive as it becomes a playable PowerPoint presentation. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that it almost kills everything the game does right and I am downright appalled that it was released in this shape.
This rendition of Silent Hill 3 has a me peeved at Konami. Silent Hill 3 HD provides plenty of late night scares and is fantastic game overall, but the easily avoidable technical problems hamstring a game like this so severely, that it almost makes it hard to recommend. Almost. Instead of prettying up an already tasty steak, they chose to rub it in sawdust and cat hair and prematurely throw it on the plate for dinner. I didn’t think an “HD Collection” would ever make a game significantly worse than its older counterpart, but lo and behold, Konami has showed us this forbidden dark art. I heartily plead gamers willing to be scared to give Silent Hill 3 a shot, it just probably shouldn’t be this specific version.
+Haunting, disgusting atmosphere
+Plenty of genuine tension and scares
+Story unravels in an interesting manner with a great protagonist
+Impressive visuals and phenomenal sound design
-A technical nightmare with a disastrous framerate
-Combat is sticky and slow and some puzzles require odd leaps in logic
-Archaic mechanics, like the fixed camera, lack of checkpoints, and instant deaths are frustrating
Final Score: 7.5/10