Silent Hill 3

18_1Aesthetic of the grotesque, by Team Silent.

Though Resident Evil is often credited with starting the “survival horror†genre, old-school PC gamers will remember the true originator was Alone in the Dark from 1992. And unlike Resident Evil, Konami’s Silent Hill 3 has all the successful trademarks of that series – It’s a classic, exploration-heavy adventure game with plenty of tension, scares and splattered blood. It’s 3-D, but with strange camera angles that seemingly popup at the most inopportune times to lend extra tension to a scene.

The game puts you in the stylish shoes of the teenage-ish Heather, who’s appropriately pissy when dealing with adults and jaded enough not to freak out over the fact that her world just turned into a living nightmare. Silent Hill 3 is set in a lot of everyday locations – malls, subways, amusement parks, hospitals – that get a whole lot creepier when the nightmare world creeps in, turning everything into a horrific, decayed and bloody alternate reality crawling with eerie monsters.

You do all that good survival horror stuff when the nightmare world seeps in, which is always there in some form or another contorting reality. Weapons and resources are sparsely scattered throughout the world, odd flesh monsters stalk you and you’ll get to explore some of the most bizarre, horrific scenes ever coded into a computer game. It doesn’t quite approach Silent Hill 2’s level of morbidity as far as subject matter, but the game has its shockingly gruesome highlights ( anyone remember the scene with the dying fetus? ). Both monsters and environments are impeccably designed in evoking terror, so kudos to Japan for keeping things nice and twisted.

Back in Town

An occasional seemingly normal human character will popup to try and explain some sort of plot – why you’re there, why you’re important, and why there’s blood everywhere – but most of your understanding of it will hinge on whether you’ve played the first Silent Hill game (which was never released on the PC). The story and dialogue might therefore be more than a little incomprehensible for new players, but half of that craziness is what gives Silent Hill its bizarre edge. You don’t need to know the full story to appreciate Silent Hill 3, but it does add to the experience somewhat.

9_1To its considerable credit, Konami didn’t just bring the PS2 version over to the PC. A thorough improvement over Silent Hill 2, this port has mouse support, remappable keys, it plays almost as well with the keyboard as a gamepad, and there are a number of high-level graphic options that make the game look absolutely stunning. In fact the game looks stunning everywhere, whether you’re in the nightmare or ‘normal’ world.  And unlike the PS2 release, Konami added the ability to save anywhere instead of just at certain places marked by a special symbol.

There’s no logical reason for Silent Hill 3 to be as effective as it is. It’s a disjointed tale that’s hard to follow, yet it’s exactly that nonsensical quality that lends it a more hallucinatory feel. There are ambient sounds that creep you out, and special visual effects make scenes look grainy and distorted, greatly increasing the sense of dread. It’s all atmosphere and, particularly when you’re talking about horror, that’s more than enough.

System Requirements: Pentium III 700 MHz, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB Video, Windows 98

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