Silent Hill Downpour Review
Developer: Vatra Games
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
North American Release Date: March 13, 2012
European Release Date: March 30, 2012
Trophies: 1 , 3 , 14 , 24
The eighth installment in this utterly bone-chilling horror series has arrived. This time you are Murphy Pendleton, a convict who stumbles upon a seemingly deserted town to look for help. This town is none other than Silent Hill, where fear and torment are inescapable.
Welcome once again to the madness that is Silent Hill.
This is where the roots of dislike for Silent Hill stem from. The gameplay. And itís not just in Downpour by any means. Silent Hill has a long history of creating clunky and unresponsive controls and gameplay, and they havenít toned it down in Downpour by any means.
Your only weapons are various tools lying around in the abandoned houses and streets that you explore. You will very rarely find a gun, but even so the ammo you get for them are extremely limited. You swing your weapon and Murphy will stumble, taking the time to raise his weapon again for another swing. Itís obvious that the developers donít want Murphy to become a master fighter the second heís thrust into the fray, but it is still irritating after a while. Your weapons can break too, requiring you to run the risk of dropping it in exchange for another one. The monsters you battle are intelligent and quick. They dodge your weak swings and strike when youíre recovering and least expect it. When you finally do strike them down, you have to spend even more time delivering the killing blows, and when facing a group of monsters you canít afford to waste precious seconds doing so. The best thing is to just run. This further instills the true horror taste.
I'm sure that blood wasn't the only thing he would have found on that bed....
Youíll also solve multiple puzzles while, some of which are done in the Ďotherworldí. These puzzles are clever and require thoughtful thinking, especially on the harder difficultly levels, although the puzzles are rarely anything more than frustrating. Whatís more frustrating is outside of puzzles. You wonít have objectives, but itís constantly a ďgo here, do thatĒ sense thatís rooted deep throughout the game. There isnít much variety, and youíll get bored pretty quickly. Then again, this isnít a game you play for hearty enjoyment. Itís the sort of game you play when you want to see just how itíll take you to start shaking, and how long itíll take you to get to sleep at night. Itís fantastic.
The camera at times will shift to a disorientating perspective, creating the illusions that youíre being watched and that something is significant in the area. Other than that youíre given no indications whatsoever of where you have to go or how you get there. In fact youíll stumble on a lot more side missions Ė most of them which are more enjoyable than the story Ė and go through those instead.
Now surely youíre reading this and wondering why Iím giving the gameplay factors a positive outlook. The reason for this is that despite its flaws, it does it for the better. As you open a door the camera shifts to a first person view. You take a few steps, and then the door behind you will suddenly slam shut. Everything you do, and every second you spend with the game will cause you to feel in extreme danger. If you were armed to the teeth this wouldnít be a problem. The fact is that youíre limping, splattered with blood, and barely have enough strength to raise and swing your broken axe. Youíre constantly in risk of being swamped with monsters, their bone chilling screams piercing your ears. There isnít much to say about the gameplay, but what I can say is that itís unique and is aimed at a very specific audience, for better and for worse. But gameplay isnít one of Downpourís major factors, and it never will be for any Silent Hill title.
The Silent Hill franchise seems to be one of those that divide fans and gamers alike with each release. Some despised a particular title while others thoroughly enjoyed it, while everyone else either was too scared to play it, or wondered what the fuss was about. Silent Hill: Downpour is no different in any form whatsoever.
As previously mentioned you are Murphy Pendleton, a prisoner of a crime that is unknown. When he is transferred from his current jail to a new one, the bus suddenly crashes. Murphy gets out and decides to look for help. He comes across a seemingly deserted town, where nightmares become a reality. Murphy must find a way to escape Silent Hill and never return, but as we could have already guessed, thatís easier said then done.
It's raining, it's pouring, but the Bogeyman ain't snoring.
Donwpourís story isnít really anything thatís fantastic or incredible, but it does the series justice, at least well enough so to persuade you to finish the game, even if your nerves and heart beg you not to. The horror and scares are piled on thick, and cause you to jump at every single sound you hear. You arenít someone armed to the teeth with a well rounded arsenal and countless bullets to shoot things in the face with. This is a game where youíre an inexperienced, terrified person with no combat skills whatsoever. Thereís no guide telling you which path to follow. Thereís no HUD. Thereís no light at the end of the tunnel. Itís just you. Your journey will twist the very fabric of nature as you delve deeper into the abyss. This game is in no form for the faint hearted. This is horror at itís very core, as Silent Hill always has been. Many of the scares do depend on your belief in the supernatural, but even if you donít have one this game is still brutal enough to supply you with sleepless nights.
The side quests are even better, giving you several jobs to complete, such often reward in either a disturbing or bloodcurdling conclusion. Genuinely fear-inspiring games are tough to produce now days, but Silent Hill does what itís best at and reminds us who the King of horror games is. The scare element is the real reason anyone plays Silent Hill, and as far as that sector goes itís sublime. You will catch sight of chilling shapes, drawings and objects during your travels, constantly forcing yourself to glance behind you. Youíve be too terrified to open the door to a room but you know that no matter what youíre going to have to swallow your fear and do it. Downpour doesnít shove gore and blood down your throat with a cutscene. It creeps up along you, giving you subtle messages and hints as you travel, and eventually shaking you to your core. Itís a thrilling experience.
Not the entire singe player is brilliant, however. Youíll often pointlessly wonder around, not knowing where to go next, thanks to the lack of a pointer or HUD. Some could argue that this is a positive aspect, and in a way it is, but you may start to change your mind after a few hours of retracing your steps just to find the next objective.
This area is where the game limps. You will experience a large number of technical hiccups, including frame rate dips, lag, and moments when your PS3 sounds like itís suddenly in a blender. Itís strange that for such a small game exploration and map wise that lag issues would occur. There are no excuses for a title such as Downpour. The screen tearing can also get extremely irritating. The horror experience can be somewhat downgraded when where a message in blood and Satanic symbols are meant to be have been replaced with a white patch as the screen freezes and the PS3 churns like a blender. The game canít seem to be able to handle much power, and it shows. Any time youíre turning a corner, finding a weapon or unlocking a door the game digs its heels in the dirt and takes it time to catch back up to speed. Itís a strange paradox, considering that thereís no such lag or pop-in during the cutscenes.
Downpour gives us a chance at finding out what it's like to be high
The visuals are roughly average, but the art design makes up for it. The abandoned houses, littered with tools, construction beams, tin sheds, old furniture and more all flawlessly suit the atmosphere. Even the art style of the images on the wall seem to compliment Silent Hill lavishly. Even if there was a slight chance of us forgetting the terror of which Downpour contains, the game is determined to never let us forget it for a second.
The audio is ace, filing the speakers I tested them on with delightful screams, clear dialogue and a daunting soundtrack. The soundtrack couldnít be more flawless for a game such as this. Itís a shame that this isnít consistent, however. The wrong soundtrack will seem to play at the incorrect time, sometimes leaving you confused and wondering what emotion you should be feeling, but for the most part the game lets you know: itís pure terror.
Downpourís technical side does fall short dramatically despite the soundtrack, but I just canít seem to forgive the lag due to the gameís size and scale. It has no excuse whatsoever, but the art style and audio do assist this sector of Downpour.
The trophies in Downpour arenít hard, but time consuming. Youíll need to do all the side quests, finish the game in both hard modes, and see all the endings. The latter part ironically deems somewhat similar to Heavy Rainís trophies (rain much?), but thankfully that isnít the case here. Either youíll enjoy going for the platinum or you wonít even be bothered finish the game. No grey area here.
Silent Hill Downpour is a game of acquired taste, mainly aiming at classic horror fans who can stomach a good fright. Whilst not being the best Silent Hill game, it comes gratingly close to being so, if it werenít dampened by torrents of technical issues bucketing down. But every cloud has a silver lining, and while your tension soaked journey will always leave you wet and helpless, in the long run maybe itís for the best. No matter where you stand, one thing is certain: this game will never be washed away from your mind, like the darkness that threatens to pull you into its dimension; the cloud will always be hanging over you, never freeing you completely.
Doesn't live up it's expectations, but the puzzles support the score.
A horror experience unlike any other. A pedigree Silent Hill game if there ever was one.
The only way you'd accept this would be if you were still living in your mum's basement and still thought it was 2006.