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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Survival Horror

 

Publisher

Tecmo

 

Developer

Tecmo

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2005

 

 

- Using a camera instead of guns is an interesting change of pace

- Engaging story that doesnít marginalize those who havenít played the first two games

- Visuals and sound well tailored to heightening the fright-factor of the game

 

 

- Characters canít stop on a dime

- Reiís running is slow

- Some camera issues

 

 

Review: Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (XB)

Review: Siren (PS2)

Review: Resident Evil 4 (GC)

Review: Resident Evil Zero (GC)

 

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Fatal Frame III: The Tormented

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

So, horror games have become quite the established genre over the years, with people running from zombies, gunning down demons, and generally having the crap scared out of them, promising never to do it again, then running out to buy the inevitable sequel when it comes out.  Generally speaking, Resident Evil and Silent Hill have enjoyed the lionís share of the success horror games have enjoyed, but Tecmoís Fatal Frame has managed to carve a niche for itself with itís unique approach to the genre.  Like previous games in the series, this third installment continues to force players to confront otherworldly foes, and even take the time to snap a photo of them, all while unlocking a mystery.  Itís worked well in the earlier games, and continues to do so now, though it could have been better with some tweaking of the controls.

 

fatal frame iii          fatal frame iii

 

As Fatal Frame III starts we meet the gameís main character, Rei Kurosawa, who has survived a car accident.  However, upon inspecting the wreck she sees her fiancť, Yuu laying dead.  As Rei copes with this tragedy, her assistant, Miku, helps her out as the two try to pay the bills through Reiís freelance photography skills.  It would appear that weddings, store catalogues, and the like arenít their cup of tea.  Instead, these two find themselves investigating allegedly haunted houses.  On one such shoot, Rei spots the spectre of her lost beau.  After this she begins having strange dreams that plunks her smack dab in the middle of an old Japanese house that not only has Yuu walking around in it, but the spirits of other, far less friendly folk.  In time she comes across the spirit of one woman, covered in cryptic tattoos.  The woman touches Rei, and upon waking up the photographer sees that these same tattoos are starting to form on her.  As it turns out, Rei has become the victim of an ancient curse, and she has to hurry if she wants to find a way to stop it.

 

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Not only are there new faces to the series, but old as well, such as the previously mentioned Miku, who was in the first game.  Also, Yuu happens to have been friends with Kei Amakura, uncle to Mio from the second game.  With all of these connections, the game actually has a fair amount of crossover with previous titles in the series.  Thankfully, even though there are all these connections to other Fatal Frame games, newcomers to the series wonít feel left out of the loop coming into it at this point, as the game brings one up to speed quite well.

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Of course, the thing that makes Fatal Frame so unique from other horror games is that players are armed with a camera, not a shotgun.  What makes this camera special is that it has the ability to render evil spirits harmless through exorcism properties.  Take a picture of a ghost and it canít hurt you, depending on the character you are controlling at the time.  Some of the ghosts may turn out to be too strong, so multiple snapshots may be necessary.  Also impacting the cameraís effectiveness is the type of film loaded in at the time.  The whole dynamic works quite well.  Most horror games have players leveling machine guns and things that go bump in the night, only to unload all their ammo, all the while screaming, ďJust die, bastard!  DIE!Ē  These methods tie into our fight or flight response so naturally, but to be in a situation where one has to take a photo of the spirit gives a totally different feeling.  The creature doesnít really go away, and even though it has been neutralized it still creeps one out to no end.  This method goes a long way in helping to heighten Fatal Frame IIIís ability to keep players on edge.

 

fatal frame iii          fatal frame iii

 

Adding to the spookiness of the game are its visuals and sound.  Fatal Frame III makes very good use of light in order to shape the unnerving feeling running through people as they play the game.  Many of the environments arenít very well lit, and all players have to help them see a little better is a flashlight.  On top of this, sometimes the game shifts into a grainy black and white motif, where it becomes even more difficult to see, and thus even scarier.  As for sound, there are lots of subtle little noises that will have players wondering where they are coming from and whether or not they are a threat.  What is really scary is that there are soft whispers in the background.  These particular sounds remind me of how sometimes after seeing a horror movie with friends, one of them may try to sneak up on you and whisper ďYouíre gonna die!Ē in a soft, creepy tone.  Itís annoying as hell when it happens in real life, but it actually works in the game.

 

However, as well as these various aspects work in the game there are some control issues that can be bothersome.  First, Rei has the habit of taking another step and a half after telling her to stop.  She couldnít stop on a dime to save her life, which isnít good when a ghost suddenly appears in front of her.  Also, her running isnít very fast.  Itís a dainty sort of trot thatís hardly any faster than her walk.  Thereís so little difference between walking and running one has to wonder why Tecmo allowed Rei to run in the first place.  Lastly, like many 3D games, there are some camera issues.  They donít happen often, but when they do itís a pain trying to get something done without being able to properly see whatís going on.

 

Despite this, Fatal Frame III is a nice departure from the horror game norm.  Having a huge arsenal of weapons at oneís disposal tends to give players a sense of empowerment even if all of hell is on their tail.  This game takes all of that away and forces players to confront these demons.  Itís a great approach to the genre, and those who like a good fright now and then would do well to try this game out.

 

- Mr. Nash

(January 13, 2006)

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