Project Zero 3: The Tormented PlayStation 2
Published by Take-Two Interactive Software
Developed by Tecmo
Release Date: Out Now
Project Zero 3: The Tormented, an introduction.
I remember vividly the first time I encountered the Project Zero (or Fatal Frame if you're in the US) series. I'd played a few survival horror games before and they were creepy enough. In most survival horror games you're armed with some rather effective weapons so you have a means of defence. However, in the Project Zero series, you're armed with a camera, which in effect offers no real form of defence at all. That said however the camera you have is no ordinary camera. The Camera Obscura, as its known, has the power to exorcise the ghosts by taking pictures of them. Essentially the better you frame the picture the more powerful the damage you'll do to the ghost. Its power is dependent on the type of film used in it and whether or not it's been upgraded.
What's the game about?
Project Zero 3: The Tormented offers a similar kind of experience to the first two games in the series but there are some differences too. The game begins with the player in the shoes of Rei Kurosawa. The game begins in the aftermath of a car accident involving Rei and her fiancé. Whilst Rei survives the accident, her fiancé doesn't. The action then switches to Rei investigating a house with a friend. The house is said to be haunted but they haven't found any evidence of this and are just about to leave when Rei decides to take just one more picture. As she frames the shot she sees someone who appears to be Yuu Asou (her deceased fiancé) and decides to follow him. From this point on Rei suffers nightmares where she's in the Mansion of Sleep, a location that's filled with horrific enemies. During the game the action moves from the nightmares, which occur when Rei goes to bed at night, to the day time when Rei is awake and back in the real world where she can develop photos and piece together any clues she's found. As the story progress though, the safety of the real world begins to disappear.
What's good about the game?
The first two Project Zero games were great and Project Zero 3 is once again a great survival-horror game. Those who have played the previous titles in the series will appreciate how the game ties in with the story of the previous two games but at the same time you don't need to have played the previous games in order to enjoy it. In fact there are lots of references to the first two games here and they enable you to piece together some of the events from the earlier games. The Tormented allows you to play as two other characters too. Longstanding fans of the series will be delighted to find that Miku (from the first game) is a playable character for some of the game. You'll also get to control Rei's friend, Kei Amakura too. Each of these characters has their own Camera Obscura and they all have slightly different abilities. Miku for instance has stronger spirit powers and is much more effective with her Camera Obscura.
Once again the Camera Obscura can be upgraded but of course this time you'll have different cameras to upgrade so you'll have to be careful how you spend those points that you earn by successfully banishing those ghosts. Upgrades are expensive so you'll have to choose wisely. Taking photos of the ghosts is no easy matter and you'll have to be quick to capture them all. Some only appear for a few seconds. The difficulty is greater in some respects in this game because certain ghosts teleport from one place to another rather quickly and taking these on can certainly be a challenging experience.
What's not so good about the game?
Whilst Project Zero 3 is a great game I didn't find the game's story as interesting. Project Zero and Project Zero II had storylines that were compelling where as the story in The Tormented just doesn't have the same effect on me. The character you control still moves in a rather wooden fashion and whilst they can run, they don't run very quickly at all. You still don't have any real control over the camera and you'll have to put up with the rather strange fixed camera angles you are given which can make escaping from enemies problematic at times. None of these complaints are major but it's a shame that most of these problems have remained throughout the series.
How does it look?
Both Project Zero and its sequel looked fine and Project Zero 3 probably looks as good as it could on the PlayStation 2. The character models look great and are easily as good as anything else on the console. The dreary atmosphere of the mansion certainly adds to the creepy atmosphere but it's the horrific nature of the ghosts you'll encounter that really increase the fear factor. The Xbox version of Project Zero II gave you the option to play in a first person view which really intensified your fear and I was surprised to see that it's not been included in this third game. You can walk around whilst looking through the Camera Obscura but this makes the controls for moving feel very awkward, so it's not practical. You will encounter small pauses when moving from one room to another. As your character pauses there's a small loading time which is only a second or two but nevertheless it is noticeable.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Project Zero 3 does have subtitles and they are enabled by default. This allows deaf gamers to follow the dialogue and enjoy the game's cutscenes. However, the game isn't perfect for deaf gamers. The complaints we had with Project Zero II are all still applicable for Project Zero 3. Speech from ghosts outside of the cutscenes isn't subtitled. There are no captions so you won't be aware of any crying or other noises that alert you to the fact that ghosts are nearby. The music also gives an indication of impending danger which deaf gamers will be completely unaware of. Whilst all of the complaints do represent minor problems they won't spoil the game to any great extent because the nature of the game means you're always treading carefully and always ready for things to take a turn for the worse. Aside from the minor problems resulting from no captions there aren't really any problems as all the important information such as tutorial messages, notebook content and files, which fill in the story as well as providing hints, are all shown in text
If you've enjoyed the first two games in the Project Zero series than you're going to enjoy Project Zero 3: The Tormented because apart from a few differences the game basically has the same successful formula as its two prequels. With the game moving from the real world to the nightmarish Mansion of Sleep, the game offers an alternating change of pace which does make it feel rather different from the first two games which seemed to just increase in intensity. It's a shame that some of the problems from the first two games are here in the third title in the series (such as poor camera angles and rather wooden animations from the character you control) but on the whole it's a great sequel that manages to weave all of the previous episodes into the plot very nicely.
Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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Project Zero 3: The Tormented is a fine sequel to what has been a great survival-horror series. It's great being able to play as 3 different characters and I'm sure fans of the series will really enjoy being able to play as Miku once again. However, it's unfortunate that most of the problems that the first two games had are still here (even though they are fairly minor).