Written by Twisted Ideas
Silent Hill is one of those franchises that hasn’t made any real impact for a long time. After Silent Hill 2 there has been a steady decline in the quality of the franchise and ever since the original team has left they have been on shaky ground ever since. Released early 2012 by Vatra Games who have only developed one other game previously. While receiving mixed reviews, as a budget title is Silent Hill Downpour worth a look?
You play as Murphy Pendleton a prison inmate who working with a guard to assault a sequestered inmate for unknown reasons. Sometime later Murphy is being transferred to another prison which passes through Silent Hill. The bus crashes leaving inmates either missing or dead. Murphy makes his way to the town and he begins to see that the Silent Hill isn’t a normal place.
Downpour refocuses on the combat. Similar to Silent Hill Origins you have to procure weapons on sight. Melee weapons can consist of axes and hammers to sticks and stones. They can be used for a limited time before they break. There a few types of firearms but ammo is limited. If they run out of bullets they can be used as melee weapons. You can only carry one type of melee weapon but you can have firearms equipped on the side.
Combat is designed to be discouraging. Regardless of what weapon, Murphy can fight and defend against attacks but so can enemies. Fighting more than one enemy can be dangerous as they can easily overpower you if given the chance. Throughout the town where enemies could appear out of nowhere with weapons that can break and limited resources it is often wise to run away from encounters. If you linger too long outside it will start to rain then storm causing enemies to appear more frequently and be more aggressive.
Puzzles are a main feature of the franchise as they will have to be solved before you can progress through the game. You will have to find clues items and use logic to help you solve puzzles. There are puzzle difficulties if you don’t think you can figure them out but they are much easier than the earlier games.
As you progress though the story the town will take you to an alternate Silent Hill devoid from what you thing is reality. Most often being here signals chase segments from a rift that will slowly consume you if it gets near. You will have to run away and buy yourself enough time so you can find the exit and escape to safety.
There is an emphasis on sidequest in Downpour. When exploring the town you will find buildings, memos and points of interest. Sidequest take form in puzzles or hunting for items around town either rewarding you with items or telling you stories of some of the victims of Silent Hill.
Graphics and Sound
Downpour looks unimpressive. The character models, while detailed, have very flat textures. The enemy design is very lazy. Most enemies are just somewhat deformed people. Any zombie movie has scary designs then the standard enemies in Downpour. There are about two “non-human” enemies. One looks like a white alien and the other is a torso with a head on a metal circle that you can rarely get a good look at. The level design is the most impressive looking thing in the game. Downpour isn’t using fixed camera angles so it can’t scary you like the originals they do manage to make everyday places eerie and disturbing.
Downpour understands the importance of silence. You are the most scared when you feel the safest because you don’t know what will come out next. This isn’t always effective because whenever your walkie-talkie turns on there are enemies nearby and you will inevitably run into them.
There seems to be a greater understanding than Origins and Homecoming did about the purpose of the town. Silent Hill is a place that draws in guilt ridden and tormented people guiding and revealing them their own personal demons. Downpour did a good job showing you Murphy’s past piece by piece in unexpected ways. What they did wrong is have what Murphy did changes invalidating the final choice and his actions throughout out the game. Silent Hill 2 did it best because the endings were different ways James Sunderland coped with what he had done.
There is a problem with horror games this generation. The best they can do is be tense and throw in a bunch of cheap scares (see Dead Space) and Downpour is no different. They seem to focus more on the scary set pieces like having things run by and disappear or sequences that take control away so you won’t miss it. Occasionally it’s freaky but is not subtle. Running through the town would be scarier if you couldn’t notice enemies way before they notice you and if running wasn’t so effective. The scariest moments are the sidequest because of the creativity but people may miss because navigating through Silent Hill is horrible.
There are problems with the game’s loading and saving. When you enter a new area the loading screen is long especially when entering the town. That’s understandable considering the size and what the game is doing. Then when you are in buildings the game will start to load as you walk through rooms or halls causing frames to skip or pausing the game. The game auto saves whenever you complete objectives or enter new areas also holding up the game. This causes the game to look choppy and unpolished.
Average. Even as budget title I would only recommend this to fans of the series. Vatra games has made steps in the right direction with originality and understanding but the game lacks polish and is creepy but not scary. There are other horror games around the same price that are longer and more worth your time.