A few years ago, I picked up Silent Hill 3 and started playing. I had never played a survival horror before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I did not expect was a main character who had to use her entire torso to swing a crowbar at a monster, and then take a couple seconds to breathe before trying again. Needless to say, I died a lot. Then I found a gun and rejoiced, for I would be able to mete out sweet revenge upon their scary butts. I'm sure you can guess what happened next: I ran out of ammo. Cue the dying. Eventually I got frustrated, gave up, and traded it in for whatever hacky-slashy thing I was excited about at the time. Probably a Devil May Cry knockoff, I don't remember.
And now I own my shame. I missed the point, Silent Hill 3, and I am sorry.
I went into the experience expecting something that was not survival horror. In my own defense, I wasn't at all familiar with the genre. I thought it would be your basic action game, but with some scary monsters and disturbing set pieces. And because my expectations were so off-base, I wrongly decided the game sucked.
What I didn't realize at the time was this: survival horror has nothing to do with being an action game. In Silent Hill 3, the fact that your protagonist is a teenage girl who can barely heft a crowbar adds to the terror. She's not supposed to be able to beat the monsters easily. When I was a kid, sometimes I would lie in bed petrified that one of my limbs would hang off the bed while I was sleeping and whatever was underneath would know I was there. Because the moment it found me, I was well and truly boned. That's what made it so scary - not just the fact that there were monsters, but also that it was completely beyond my power to fight them.
Take Dead Space for example. I admit, there were a few moments where I shrieked like a little girl when a necromorph popped out of a vent at me. But eventually I was conditioned to it and formed this equation: vent, dark corner, etc = monster coming out to chew my face off. Then it was just Isaac Clarke gleefully stomping necromorphs into pudding and finding creative ways to separate them from their limbs. Fun, but not exactly frightening. Yes, Isaac is supposed to be a mechanic with no real combat training, but that plasma cutter has necromorph murdering written all over it. And eventually you get weapons that have even more limb-severing capabilities. So Dead Space is basically what I thought Silent Hill 3 was going to be - an action game with creepy set pieces. And there's nothing wrong with that, I enjoyed it. But it wasn't that scary.
Now, I've heard that Silent Hill 3 is quite scary. So I'm going to see if I can find a copy in a bargain bin somewhere and try it again with the knowledge that comes from maturity. Could be that survival horror isn't my genre, or maybe a couple weeks from now my friends will find me huddled in my closet muttering about how I've run out of beef jerky.