Fatal Frame III: The Tormented - PS2 - Review
When it comes to building suspense and turning on the scare factor the Fatal Frame series is right up there with the Silent Hill series as well as the father of all survival horror games Resident Evil. Yet unlike the two I mentioned, the Fatal Frame series pays homage to Japanese horror films like “The Grudge” or “Ringu” that tells a unique kind of ghost story. Fatal Frame III: The Tormented for the PS2 is a new entry but just make sure you have an extra pair of fresh underwear ready before you play this one.
The Tormented introduces Rei Kurosawa who has suffered the loss of her boyfriend Yuu during a car accident where she is the only survivor. Deeply saddened by the loss, she throws herself into her work as a freelance photographer for the local newspaper and as she comes to take pictures of a dilapidated Japanese manor known as the Manor of Sleep she sees a figure that resembles Yuu. Suddenly the line between the waking world and her dreams become blurred and the manor becomes a nightmarish den for tormented spirits. Aided by her faithful assistant Miku and a writer named Kei, Rei tries to uncover the secrets of the manor as well as the truth about the Curse of the Tattoo … a curse that is connected to the Manor of Sleep and those who venture into it.
It’s not hard for us to separate the dream world with the waking world since, through our eyes we see the dream world in shades of black and white and gray. It is through a dream that Rei comes to discover the manor hosts various tormented ghosts or those who are “spirited away” as well as come across the powerful Camera Obscura. Armed with nothing but her handy camera, Rei can explore the manor and, if the timing is right, take a picture of a ghost. You’ll know when a ghost is around if you look carefully but then again the controller will shake and once you get a feel of your Camera Obscura you’ll have a warning bulb that will light up red when a ghost is around.
Taking pictures, once again, is done through a first-person view of the viewfinder. There’s a circular reticule that will light up blue when a ghost is within your shot. Many times you’ll have to be quick since ghosts have the habit of simply vanishing or moving away and since you don’t have an unlimited amount of film or flash you’ll have to be careful about your shots. You can keep or delete pictures and you can even store them in an Album you can check out anytime throughout the game or share with a friend. Aside from earning points, though, the camera is also used in combat but we will get into that in a moment.
While much of the game has you exploring the manor and learning its various secrets, The Tormented also has moments where Rei is back in her home. It’s here in the waking world that Rei soon discovers that what happens in her dreams also has a direct effect in her waking life. Thankfully you have Miku working alongside you and in an interesting twist you will also get to play as Miku as well as Yuu’s writer friend Kei. The interesting part is that both Miku and Kei have their own abilities. Miku, for example, has the ability to use the Camera Obscura and uses something called the Sacred Stones that allow her to slow ghosts down. Kei, on the other hand, can move heavy objects and is fast but when it comes to fighting he’s weak to the point that he’s good at hiding from ghosts.
Combat in the game hasn’t changed much and that’s a relief since the ghosts do become faster and make even more damage than before. Using the camera, Rei and Miku look through the finder and wait until the ghost is in the frame. The catch here is that the reticule or Capture Circle must turn red to make damage and with the Camera Obscura it’s possible to pull off what the series calls a Fatal Frame (causing heavy damage plus earning you big points). Some ghosts are harder than the other, such as the mother-daughter ghosts that attempt to strangle you but apart these ghosts are fast and can appear and disappear quickly. The ghosts in this game strangle and you can shake free from their grip with the analog stick.
Graphically, Fatal Frame III is a visually stunning game with plenty of details and beautifully rendered backgrounds and characters. Like the past Fatal Frame games, The Tormented certainly sets the mood right when it comes to haunted places and the manor itself is one seriously spooky place. The dimly lit rooms will make you jump at any shadow or dark spot in the corner. The character models are still quite nicely detailed and they’ll look good both during cutscenes and during the game’s action. The right visual highlight, though, are the ghosts and the effects surrounding them.
Complimenting the great visuals is the game’s wonderfully detailed sound effects and soundtrack. Together they set the mood perfectly and thankfully the game knows when to inject the music and when to just keep silent enough to hear the floorboards creak or the faint sounds of someone whispering behind a wall. The game’s score is haunting, going from mellow to dramatic to chaotic at a moment's notice. The voice acting is decent and the dialogue doesn’t suffer as much from the translation like the first game.
Genuinely scary from start to finish, Fatal Frame III: The Tormented is another excellent addition to the series. It might not be a completely new experience nor does it offer a new twist in the genre but with an excellently told and lengthy story filled with all the series trademark ghost-busting, you will be pleasantly chilled to the bone. If you’re a fan of the series you might just want to pick this up right away.
Review Scoring Details for Fatal Frame III: The Tormented
Controlling the characters is still quite awkward in that old Resident Evil kind of way but the real treat comes in the form of the Camera Obscura and the fact that you can play as two other characters. Combat is still a chilling experience that will not fail to creep you out. The story is a bit more coherent than last year’s Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.
Visually the game is really quite gorgeous and even more so if you have a television that supports Progressive Scan. The character models look amazing during cutscenes as well as during the game’s exploration or intense action. The distorted ghost effects are really eerie and the nightmarish manor is a dark and unwelcoming sight. In other words, this is one great-looking game that sets the mood right.
The game’s sound, on the other hand, goes well beyond the game's beautifully haunting visuals enough to bring us a game that will run a chill up our spine whenever you hear a ghost. You will literally be surrounded by sounds in this game and the soundtrack is still a series highlight. The voice acting is handled well enough.
The game’s puzzles are of the find-key-Y-to-fit-into-lock-Y variety but then there are the good puzzles that require the use of your camera to solve. The real challenge is the combat in this game, especially the fights where the ghosts seem to move faster and appear haphazardly enough that targeting them becomes difficult.
The game’s story will not disappoint and the good part is that it is quite a lengthy story with a lot to see and do. Playing as Miku and Kei is a nice treat and the fact that they have their own abilities makes for a refreshing break from Rei. There are nice extras to unlock and multiple endings that up the replay value.
Wonderfully scary and filled with all the haunting thrills and scares of past games in the series, Fatal Frame III is yet another great addition to a series that really knows how to make gamers jump in their seats. With a really good story, plenty of tormented ghosts to deal with and a few new additions to the series, this is a game to buy if you like a frightening good time.