Monday, 10 March 2014

Silent Hill 3

It's going down hill soon in Silent Hill. Like a vertical drop rollercoaster.

Now I know, some people will disagree with me and some people will agree with me on this, but that's never really been a concern, just something I know and felt like stating. Yes it's a stalling tactic because I'm still thinking up what to write about while typing this out. But Silent Hill 3 is worthwhile playing. Yes I know, I've not reviewed Silent Hill 2 but I need a while to revisit that one before I go all out in the next few reviews and such. This however is a more overlooked game because it's compared to the previous one in the series while the first game seems to be nodded to and referenced and recognised but never really accepted outside of Silent Hill 2's grand (supposed) presence.

Taken as a game by itself, Silent Hill is about one girl's struggle with the pressures of society personified by an evil fucking town with large monsters. She also may or may not be the reincarnation of God... or A God at least. That said, actually... That's all that really needs to be said.

Not the best of days to have a breakout of blood.

One thing you will notice with this game is that it's very empty of people. Which comes as an odd contrast to the introduction which has our protagonist happily chatting to her father in a burger bar (he's on a phone) until she goes to leave and is stopped by a fat man in a dirty Macintosh (the clothes, the other Macs are just as dirty) before bottling the encounter like a coward and hiding in a toilet. After escaping through the window it all goes downhill from there to Silent Hill.

Silent Hill, a lovely town with a gorgeous hotel overlooking a lake that will likely kill you before you can do any real sight-seeing amongst the fog. Or darkness. Or both.

Oddly enough, this guy isn't a direct threat to you.

What you're basically set up with for the first half of the game is getting your protagonist home while traversing through a mall, a train station, a building site for a condemned building (in more than one sense of the word) and then home before actually getting to the titular town itself where more angsty bombs are dropped and curses uttered.

The game makes sure it's as eerie as ever with changes in setting from going back and forth between an empty looking normal place, to looking like hell changed the fire and brimstone for barbed wired and chain link fencing. While you're navigating various locations you'll occasionally find yourself looking at what would be Dante's realisation of Hell if he was more into metal than fire and ironic tortures. All of which are used to give you the idea that something is not quite right.

It all serves a purpose. I'll be damned if I know what thoug.

But it's never explicitly stated, but certainly alluded to, that whether you're really going through these changes and seeing an alternative, possessed, location. Or if you're being forced to see it in a form of hallucination brought about through other means. Do you really see hell and the monsters? Or are you visualising these things. This also brings into bearing the point about the monsters themselves. Each monster is in some way a personification of a fear that typically plagues the demography of the protagonist. A theme that usually carries through the games (until a point at least...). In this particular game, the theme is around fears that teenage girls might have. Relating to cancer (huge fat things, with fat growing on their fat), split-headed dogs (ok some people fear dogs), walking penii (I can't think of a better way to explain them but the sexual allegory is made there) Lots of monsters based around phallic imagery really, or trying to stick things into our heroine in a sort of penetration/rape reference. Seriously though, one boss basically is a huge (think London Underground Tube Train sized) dick with teeth.

Oh and there's some fears around pregnancy in the game too.

Rhyming slang about being Brown Bread probably isn't appropriate here.

But while that's the hidden bonus for those that look deeply into the why and wherefores of a game, it's not the key focus. There's plenty of running around, finding maps and checking which doors are broken and can't be used and which ones lead you ever deeper down the rabbit-hole that is Silent Hill. Filled with references to multiple pop-cultural situations and occasionally poking fun at the world, in particular with theme park mascots. Robbie the Rabbit never looked so... soaked in ichor before.

Actually I do prefer my mascots, dead.

If you think this looks bad, be prepared for it get worse.

The problem with the game is that the puzzles are either too easy or ridiculously difficult, combat can be a cakewalk or in the higher settings, mandatory to avoid and boss fights can go on for far too long with little hope of victory. Playing in easy mode makes everything almost like paint-by-numbers for the puzzles while playing in hard mode will force you to recollect and understand the order of Shakespearian works, deciphering cryptic poems relating faces to keypads and a very dark and disturbing twist on the "Who Killed Cock (heh) Robin" Nursery Rhyme. A nice touch with some of the puzzles is that they change and aren't really the same on any two playthroughs. Such as key codes which have to be found using specified methods rather than just looking it up online. Mainly because you'll encounter a key plot point or item during the hunt for the answer.

There's very little in the way of subtlety in this game either. If something odd is going to happen, you're always going to be in a position where you HAVE to see it, usually through cut-scenes, but even when playing in the game normally, the camera will be positioned often in a way where you can't avoid the weirdness. Case in point, climbing the long ladder in the crossover from one hospital to another. You will basically have one of the creatures of Silent Hill shoved in your face for you to watch like it is some form of living-art exhibition. Almost like the game designers are slapping you in the face with the obvious and waiting for you to take the time to acknowledge it. A problem with a lot of big money games nowadays that force you to observe everything they've done because it cost them money.

[The blogger was chastised greatly for making a "tap that" reference]

What it does that is creepy, it does very well. The reflection in the mirror being one example, the entire Borely Haunted House and the usual descent into madness that is the crossover from normal world into the demonically possessed world (for the most part) while sometimes it's a more subtle approach than blaring an air-raid siren and other times it's smacking you in the face with cock than a 'bring your own rooster' convention. It does mark however the change in the nature of the Silent Hill games as it is, but I'm side-stepping here.

As far as plot and progression goes, you encounter a nutcase who preaches about God and basically follows you home. Sounds like my Sunday evenings back from the local pub. While they claim they're your nemesis, nothing is really done about it until the mid-point in which it goes from them following you to you hunting down them. Plot wise it's a little stop-start and that's mainly because it can take a LONG time to navigate around the game's "dungeons" and get to the key points that start to unravel the main plotline. Though there's plenty to do at the same time with small sub-plots but these are only encountered along the way as a sort of distraction between the main interests on what is a very long and otherwise dry tour from start to finish.

Big, mean and the first enemy you fight. It's also a normal enemy.

Grabbing a submachine gun never seemed to scream "survival horror" either. Though I rarely use the guns, I prefer the melee and with that end up becoming the monster and just going kill crazy happy on the baddies.

3 Different endings await but gameplay-wise there's little difference between one play and another. You could go for the Alien based ending, which is entirely nonsensical but funny all the same, and does require you playing the game dressed up and powered up like something out of Sailor Moon, but it's still amusing. While the other two canonical endings are just the "You did well" and "You killed a fucktonne of things" (by the metric load) which gives you the good and evil bastard endings. Quite the drop from the multitude of endings in the first few games and even the later ones too by that standard.

Come at me, Sis.

It's linear, it's not too complex and the subtle hidden details are laid bare for all to see. It's a real no-brainer of the series that requires little knowledge before the story and about the entire series if you want to play it but within it there's enough there to make you guess what's around the next corner and what's going to happen in the endgame. Fans will enjoy it, hardcore fans will be left feeling unfulfilled by it and to everyone else it's a horror game with some gross out factors and the paranormal stuff will leave others confused as to what the rules of the games reality really is.