Finally, right? Yes, it’s my long-time coming Silent Hill: Downpour review! Yes, the latest installment in the famous and infamous horror game franchise. After multiple staff changes and developers over the years, the series hard-core horror fans came to know and love slowly began to lose it’s amazing reputation with shitty game after shitty game, rehashing the old characters and tropes in an attempt to keep it alive.
So, now after another major change, does this new game serve to bring any glimmer of hope back tot he franchise, or is it just another disappointing failure on a long line of failed game? Let’s take a look.
If you’re interested in seeing my progress through my first six hours of game play, you can click here.
So, let it be known now, while all the spoilers will all be contained in one paragraph, that this is a full discussion of the game.
Silent Hill: Downpour follows prison convict Murphy Pendleton, whose is on his way to a different prison, when the bus crashes and Pendleton must pay for his crimes in that delirious, demented little lake-side town called Silent Hill. There he faces his failings and his monsters all while trying to escape back to civilization and away from the feds.
So here come the spoilers – It turns out Murphy got himself in prison because he wanted to find his child’s killer for revenge, and was involved in the assault of another officer who tried to help him. Here’s the big problem – we never get a clear cut answer as to what exactly happened to his child or what the murderer actually did. Also the choice to kill the officer is up to the player and you don’t even get the good ending if you do, so in the end all you’re being tortured for is letting your kid die (which actually wasn’t your fault) and killing the guy who did it. I’m sorry but that’s just stupid. What’s next? Being brought to Silent Hill for jay-walking? Forgetting to say thank you? The psychological torture doesn’t work if the person is question has done nothing actually wrong. Or is involved with a cult, that thankfully doesn’t come up in the game. Overall, the story is actually the most unsatisfying part of the game because of it’s vague explanation of what’s happened before, and it’s failure to have any real issues or consequences involved. Also, what does the final boss mean? Is it the paralyzed cop? There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason going on in terms of the story, which only manages to but into the action every now and again, so it just feels very rushed. And lame. So lame. – Spoilers over.
One of the things that really bugged me the most was the lack of interaction with your environment. There were books, boards, plaques, dead things, pictures, and none of it, absolutely none, was clickable or readable, even though IT WAS RIGHT THERE. STARING YOU IN THE FACE. BEGGING TO BE EXPLORED. There’s a lot of little side-quests, like freeing trapped birds, or solving picture puzzles, but none were that interesting or easily apparent. If they had cut half of the side quests, and put in more detail around the scenes like in previous games it would have been a lot better and more fun. After all, the greatest part about Silent Hill is the huge mystery surrounding this malevolent, vicious town.
The monsters are sort of generic and boring. I mean, there’s nothing to them – they are humanoid creatures with a couple of details here and there but there’s nothing special about them. I mean, the previous monsters weren’t much scarier either but they were symbolic. There’s nothing deeper in meaning about the design of these monsters – they just look vaguely disturbing. There’s no surprise and they looking very similar when you’re smashing them with your brick or beer bottle, or battle axe. Honestly, this was one of the most disappointing aspect – it felt like the development team put very little thought into their designs.
The battle system is pretty interesting. You have to pick up weapons as you go, which break often, and promotes melee fighting and hand on hand combat. There are some fire arms, but since I can’t aim for shit, I never used them. I prefer this method since it’s more about screaming and button mashing than cooly aiming at monsters. It really helps to up the panic factor and there’s just something satisfying about watching Murphy beating the crap out of some random monster that just ambushed you. However, a good portion of the blunt objects are useless, so try not to break your good weapons on stupid stuff. They are also incredibly easy to drop by mistake and I occasionally had to beat monsters to death with my fists, which was absolutely no fun. But there’s no pyramid head…even if they did make a replacement of him with “the boogie man.” Better not touch that subject.
The puzzles are kind of fun, and employe lots of interesting ventures like putting a small play together, amateur surgery, and even deciphering a poem to set off color-coded buttons. The cut-scenes are amazing, and a ride in a mine-shaft you’re not soon to forget really ties in what parts of the plot are missing out on. As far as the Other World goes, the running-away-from-the-red-ball-of-death sure gets old quickly. But I will say they manage to inspire fear and panic in me as I tried to figure a way out of the giant, violent mess, and the rooms there could be pretty creative if sometimes empty. The game, during these parts, was incredibly enjoyable and really brought home that this was a Silent Hill game and not some generic horror videogame. Though a little more explanation about the angry-red ball would have been nice.
As far as graphics go, there are a few glitches here and there. They were only bad twice, where the game was stopped for over ten seconds, but otherwise nothing to majorly concerned with. The art is nice, and the level design not only flows well, but is also incredibly creative and creepy looking. From the forrest, to mines, and jails, even just wandering around the residential area, you never know what’s going to come up where. In fact, sometimes monsters are just behind you instantly and the screams begin. The rain mechanism (i.e. the harder it rains, the more monsters show up) is a great idea since as soon as it started I could feel panic rising. The level design is a little cliched but I love it so much, I don’t even care. It’s a great looking and feeling game.
The four characters within the game who aren’t Murphy and the lady-cop following him include DJ Ricks, the creepiest nun ever, JP Sater, and Howard Blackwood, the mail man. Besides JP, who we find out why he’s stuck in this own personal Hell in the mines, we have no information on anyone. DJ Ricks is probably a real person, but we’re never given any clues as to why Silent Hill has decided to torture this poor man, or even if he HAS done anything. He just runs the radio station and has a boat he could have escaped on long ago. The nun PROBABLY isn’t real but was my favorite character as she just went on verbally and emotionally tormenting Murphy. And Howard the mailman…what WAS his purpose? And what could he have done to have to deliver mail for eternity. And for all his presence in the trailers, he’s barely in the game. Just because you want the character to feel isolated and alone doesn’t mean you have to introduce random characters and then never, ever talk about them again. Some back story would be nice.
But the biggest question is this: is it scary? And to that, I have to answer with a resounding yes. It’s panic-inducing, random scream expelling horror. Is it on the level of the old games, or even an Amensia? No, but it’s a valiant effort, and I did feel a sense of dread and fear while playing the game. It’s certainly a lot scarier than the last two games, but still has a lot of room to grow in the future.
Personally, while this game isn’t a slam dunk, it’s got a lot going for it and I think Vatra deserves another chance to make the 9th game because they took lots of steps in the right direction. If they could just up the detail and the scares, and get a better story, they could really knock it out of the park next time. After all, we may never get the original games back, but this isn’t a bad start for a new era of Silent Hill.
Developer: Vatra Games
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Notable people involved: None
Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: PS3
Genre: Survival Horror
Release date: March 13th, 2012