SILENT HILL 3 for PlayStation 2 ($80). Rating: NNNN
Graphics: Dark and grainy.
Addictiveness: Starts slow, but give it a few hours, or days.
Anti-social factor: Mercilessly high. Kiss your friends goodbye.
Proximity to the real thing: Those who lived through the blackout will feel right at home.
it doesn't matter that it's the last week of summer and sunny out and that the threat of power cuts has some people spooked. I know many others who will be making the most of the welcome return of electricity by locking themselves in a room with a TV to play Silent Hill 3.
Even in the open-ended video game world, where everything from truck driving to the life of a bug has been turned into a simulator, the Silent Hill series stands out. The two previous instalments of the game have created a massive following, largely because of what they leave out. To say that number three was wildly anticipated would be an understatement. It's rare that plot is given much more than a cursory glance in most games. Action rules, and even those games that call themselves plot-driven often offer just a skeletal story filled in with blood, gore, violence and total mayhem.
At a basic level, Silent Hill is a horror movie as video game. You wake up from a terrifying nightmare with no real memory of who you are and wander through various parts of a desolate area, trying to piece together your past by solving a series of puzzles and clues.
The storyline is dull and takes ages to get rolling, but it's how this game looks that's most impressive. Rarely has atmosphere translated as well from real life to video.
The entire game is enveloped in a mist you can almost feel. It's incredibly dark and haunting, with a Blair Witch Project-style grainy backdrop and foreboding music pushing the mood.
There is plenty of killing (it wouldn't be a game without it), but for once that's not the point. Admittedly, the lack of mayhem can be a drawback. Those new to the series might be better off starting with the quicker-moving Silent Hill 1 or 2, and personally, I prefer a bit more action with my drama.
Those already waist-deep in the Silent Hill mythology could care less what people think, though. They've already bolted the door shut and pulled the blinds down low.