Silent Hill HD Collection – Silent Hill 3 Review: Missing the Mark in Style

I know it must come as a surprise to you, internet, that I would be covering the other half of the Silent Hill HD Collection today, and by surprise I mean that it is about as predictable a post as there is. Silent Hill 3 is , surprisingly, the successor to Silent Hill 2, and is often considered either the best or the second best game in the series with Silent Hill 2 taking the other slot. Silent Hill 3 is the only Silent Hill game to be a direct sequel to another; in this case, it is a direct sequel to the original Silent Hill. Like the Silent Hill 2 portion of the HD Collection, the Silent Hill 3 port brings some new and exciting things to the table, but is held back by some astoundingly unfortunate bugs. Like Thursday’s post, I will be making a mini review of the game itself first followed by a review of the HD Collection aspects of it. 

Chapstick, girl!
Silent Hill 3 puts the player in the shoes of Heather Mason, the daughter of the protagonist of the first Silent Hill. As mentioned, the plot of the game is heavily influenced by the plot of the first and many people who have not played the original may get lost in seemingly insignificant event. Nevertheless, the bulk of the story is anchored in this game’s events so it isn’t too much of a concern. One of the weaker parts of the game is the primary narrative, however, as the Silent Hill cult plot line, found in many Silent Hill games, is a little weak in comparison to the far more personal Silent Hill 2. Despite this, Silent Hill 3 makes good use of its forebears and delivers an emotional and terrifying story. Silent Hill 3 doesn’t rely on the oppressive atmosphere of the town of Silent Hill as much as Silent Hill 2 does; instead, it has more levels spent in the overtly terrifying otherworld. So, the oppression is till there, it just takes a different form. The whole of Silent Hill 3 is far more linear than Silent Hill 2, with very little exploration; however, this does make for a tighter gaming experience, at the cost of personal freedom.
Terrifying indeed.
For the unobservant, Silent Hill 3 doesn’t offer much in the way of a deep experience. You move to random locations, one of which you visited in Silent Hill 2, and fight monsters and reveal more about a sinister cult. However, this game is probably full of more symbolism than any other game in the series, or game in general. Of course, this is easy to miss, because the player isn’t even made aware of what to look for until near the end of the game, but at the risk of spoiling the heavy symbolism (You’ve been warned), look for pregnancy, abortion, and birth. You can find this represented in every enemy, every location, and random backdrops. On top of this, Silent Hill 3 is full of major religious themes that can easily missed if you aren’t looking. Like it’s predecessor, Silent Hill 3 is one of those games that gamers should throw out in a “games are art” debate, as every part of it has been painstakingly crafted in the most innocuous way.
Yes, this guy is much grosser when you know the symbolism behind the game.
Finally in our mini review, we get to the gameplay. Silent Hill 3’s gameplay is significantly better than Silent Hill 2’s, although it is still weak to an extent. Weapon use is a little more precise, but the major improvement comes from the enemies. If you recall from the Silent Hill 2 review, I said that Silent Hill 2’s enemies’ poor AI actually made them more terrifying. Well Silent Hill 3 decided to run with this idea. Poor AI still exists, but the wide variety of enemy types, who all act in different erratic ways, makes for some truly difficult situations. Silent Hill 3 is considerably more difficult than Silent Hill 2, and it is mostly because of the change in enemy variety. Only one enemy type in the game can be safely melee’d without much risk of damage, unlike Silent Hill 2, where just about every enemy could be safely melee’d. The bosses also take a major turn for the better. They are harder, more significant to the story (Except for wormy up there), and all around more fun to fight than any of the bosses in Silent Hill 2. While gameplay is still a weakness, Silent Hill 3 offers such a refined vision of that gameplay that it is hard to notice it as such.
Trust me, you don’t want to be in this position.
Now let’s look at the voice acting old and new. Unlike the Silent Hill 2 portion of the HD Collection, Silent Hill 3 does not allow the player to go through the game with the original voice work. This has been a major thorn in the sides of fans, and the option would have been nice; although for legal reasons it was impossible. Silent Hill 3’s original voice work was not nearly as bad as Silent Hill 2’s, and this is all because Heather Morris, the voice actor for the lead, did a particularly good job. Unfortunately, the rest of the voice work in the game was as abysmal as Silent Hill 2’s voice work, and a change was very welcome. Like Silent Hill 2’s new voice acting, this is a major improvement and there isn’t a single performance that doesn’t impress. The biggest and best new voice comes from Kirk Thornton’s Douglas,   whose original voice performance was embarrassingly phoned in. Heather’s new voice actress is the other highlight in the new stellar cast. While I can find no confirmation on this, it seems as if Heather is voiced by Amanda Win Lee, for those who might be interested in this fact. Altogether, fans will undoubtably be angry by the exclusion of the original voice work, but the new voice actors do an excellent job and their addition is an improvement to the overall game, not a detraction.
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn directed the voice cast for this as well. Also, she’s still better than you.
Next we move on to the other major additions of the HD Collection: graphics and trophies (I’m not doing the whole trophies/achievement thing this time, so bear with it). The HD graphics of the collection are a major improvement over the original. I’ve read people deny this on forums, but it’s simply the truth. You can see the improvements clearly in the un-upscaled cutscenes throughout the game. This is by far the prettiest console version of the game, and that is a major selling point. Likewise, the addition of trophies is always an improvement, and the game offers some good variety. Most of the trophies are requirements for the best rank, which includes speed running bosses, killing a certain amount of enemies through melee, or taking little damage. The other trophies relate to achieving endings and unlocking special weapons. The trophies in this game are far less demanding than the Silent Hill 2 part of the collection, but still require a certain amount of skill so both experts and beginners can enjoy collecting them.
Above: About to fail the under 500 points of damage trophy.
Now let’s move on to the problems of the HD Collection. The stutter walk, where steps will sometimes get interrupted, is present in this game as well as Silent Hill 2, but to a far less extent in this game, and only seems to affect animation and not your actual movement so it isn’t nearly as bad. Unfortunately, Silent Hill 3’s port has a major problem not found in the Silent Hill 2 port, and that is slowdown, buckets full of slowdown. In just about any large area, the player will be assaulted with incredible framerate drops that make the game very frustrating to move through. This is most apparent at the beginning of the game and on the streets of Silent Hill, and it is a perplexing mistake. The entire game is riddled with this slowdown, and it seems impossible that the developers would not be aware of it before they shipped their game. 
Just pretend that you are playing a Matrix game and it isn’t the framerate dropping, it’s slow-mo mode.
Silent Hill 3 is my favourite game of the series. I personally think it stands head and shoulders above Silent Hill 2 in just about every regard. The core game has been preserved in this collection and is as good as ever. The new voice work helps to combat one of the weaker aspects of the game, and trophies will drive many a gamer to do things they normally wouldn’t bother with. Unfortunately, the technical problems, particularly the slowdown, strongly mar this otherwise great game. Unless a patch fixes the problems, this is not the preferred version of the game, which is a shame considering the other improvements. 
* A brief aside concerning this HD Collection as a whole. 
This is the worst HD Collection that has been released so far. The technical problems are unforgivable as they are so obvious that any amount of testing would have revealed them. It is a major problem and I hope other developers don’t make mistakes such as this. These problems are extremely disappointing as the new voice work for both games is a major improvement over the originals, and this should have been the definitive version. If a patch comes that fix the technical issues, I would be willing to call it the best version on account of the voice work, HD upscale, and trophies; however, games should not be shipped in this condition. Note that this won’t stop me from continuing to play them (Trophy whore and all), but this was a missed opportunity, and more work should have gone into these games, especially with the multiple delays.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer 

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