PS3 Reviews: Silent Hill: Downpour Review

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Silent Hill: Downpour Review

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Graphics:

 

6.6

Gameplay:

 

6.9

Sound:

 

7.2

Control:

 

6.4

Replay Value:

 

6.5

Overall Rating:       6.8

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Konami

Developer:

Vatra

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

Survival/Horror

Most survival/horror fans will tell you that Silent Hill is quite possibly the freakiest franchise out there, as each installment has been genuinely creepy and atmospherically impressive. Vatra takes the series in a slightly new direction while maintaining some of that ambient effectiveness, but doesn’t polish the gameplay and leaves us with an uneven technical presentation. Downpour is worth playing if you can look past the obvious shortcomings.

This is one of those instances where a poor frame rate and other minor technical mishaps mar an otherwise decent graphics effort. Some of the enemy designs are appropriately nuts and the animations aren’t bad. On top of which, the developer did indeed spend a great deal of time creating intimidating environments, the kind that keep us on the edge of our seats. Unfortunately, there’s not enough clarity or sharpness, and the aforementioned issues make us frown with mild disappointment.

The sound is a little better, as the effects take center-stage throughout. By basically eliminating music from most confrontations, you’re faced with a particularly tense situation; you only hear the background audio and aren’t distracted by a driving soundtrack. Therefore, the sound does its job, so long as you don’t mind the absence of music from the majority of your adventuring. What you do here is often enough to make your skin crawl and that’s just fine by me. Even so, I still think Vatra could’ve done just a bit more with the audio presentation.

You play as Murphy Pendleton, a prisoner at Ryall State Prison. Why he’s there, we’re not really certain, but we know he escapes when his transport bus crashes outside the town of Silent Hill. You will get the chance to make choices as you progress, which may let you discover more about his character; he has a mostly hazy past, as you’ll soon learn. That fits in with protagonists from previous entries in the series, too, so the fans should embrace Murphy quickly. As for the rest, you’ll have to make some allowances for change.

Firstly, the environment is more about rain than fog. I still remember playing the original Silent Hill, where what freaked you out most was the scraping, shambling sound you heard in the fog. Where’s it coming from? How close is it? That type of thing. The fog has been scaled back in Downpour and, as you might’ve guessed from the name, rain is the primary weather element. When it’s raining particularly hard, visibility isn’t quite as good and enemies become nastier and grow larger in number.

However, back to the familiar stuff for a minute— You may recall that in past stories in Konami’s series, there were two worlds; both worlds are pretty dark and scary, but while one appears relatively normal (despite the crazy monsters), the other is just downright twisted, and often reserved for specific plot points. Vatra does use this mechanic to some extent, but there’s more of a focus on combat rather than a shifting landscape in which we face potentially different realities. Sadly, the combat is far from perfect.

Murphy can only carry one weapon at a time. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a great many objects can be used as a weapon; everything from a chair to a simple rock. You really need something as attacking with your hands is basically useless, and you can’t block if you’re not armed. Yeah, there are guns in the game but while vastly superior to, say, a rake, bullets aren’t exactly a common pick-up. The biggest problem is the overall stiffness and awkward nature of the fighting, which really required an update in this generation.

We have to acknowledge that combat in all the Silent Hill games has always felt a little clunky; it’s sort of the nature of survival/horror adventures, isn’t it? The idea is that we’re not supposed to feel like supermen; we’re just regular humans fighting for survival, so we don’t have amazing speed, power, or agility. Still, I know I’d be able to fight better than Murphy in certain situations, and that’s just depressing. The act of attacking is slow and clumsy and the enemies really feel cheap. The only upside is that they’re also predictable.

The frame rate is just too big of a problem to be easily overlooked. Again, this was common in past generations but these days, I think we’ve all gotten used to smooth gameplay. They needed to progress, you know? It didn’t happen. The stuttering never seems to go away and the accompanying screen tearing makes it all the more disheartening. I also had the game freeze up twice when loading a new area or chapter, and many times, I expected it to crash during especially flagrant frame rate errors during combat. It just isn’t a pleasant experience.

Still, I always try to have fun and engage myself in the experience, and I managed to do that to some degree. I like the patented urgency and tension that seems to be unique to this great series and in this case, I’d rather be more vulnerable than overpowered. I also like the side-quests in the game, because they actually seem to shed light on interesting aspects of the story. They also encourage you to explore and conquer some original puzzles, which is another positive staple of the franchise. And in truth, I’m used to some combat awkwardness in such games.

It’s just a little too unforgiving and loose. So overall, Silent Hill: Downpour is a decent game with missed opportunities due to technical and mechanical drawbacks. On the plus side, I really think the hardcore followers should be able to deal with the fighting eccentricities, because they’re so…well, familiar. I just wish Vatra had brought this franchise into the current generation with better visuals and a greatly improved combat system. That didn’t happen but again, this is distinctly Silent Hill, so that’s a good thing.

The Good: Great ambient audio. Familiar and freaky Silent Hill atmosphere. Enemy design is interesting. Storyline gets better with time. Side quests add longevity and flavor.

The Bad: Disappointing visual presentation. Poor frame rate and other technical issues. Clunky, awkward, and generally imprecise combat mechanic. Pacing seems off.

The Ugly: “For a prisoner who looks like he can handle himself, you sure do suck with blunt objects.”

3/26/2012 Ben Dutka

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Comments (20 posts)

ZenChichiri
Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 9:40:39 PM
Reply

As a hardcore SH fan I will be picking it up regardless. I fall into the category of forgiving the technical shortcomings as long as the game can give me the creeps. When it comes to these games, I'm more interested in the atmosphere and story than anything. I don't mind feeling like a gimp as long as it's not TOO gamebreaking.

Music will be missed, as I remember some of the older games had some really creepy piano songs that fit really well. However, Akira Yamaoka isn't involved this time, so I suppose if they attempted to fill that void with something lackluster then that might be even worse than nothing.

I have a feeling I'll like this more than Homecoming.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 10:42:36 PM

I think you'll be satisfied then.

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Jawknee
Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 9:53:44 PM
Reply

Shame. Really does seem Konami's last great franchise is MGS.

Agree with this comment 4 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Kall555
Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 10:24:44 PM
Reply

I was actually pleasantly surprised by this. I thought the side quests were interesting, the enemies were eerie & the story was solid. I also reckon having old classic SH tunes on those jukeboxes made for a nice nostalgic touch.

The highlight in this game for me was those Shadow Dolls, they were bloody creepy. What did others think of them? Or is it just me that finds twitchy manniquin women freaky?

It was never ever going to surpass SH2 or SH3 but Vatra did a decent job all the same, better than Homecoming imo. They just need to address that atrocious frame rate issue.

On the topic of SH, i also recently checked out the SH HD Collection. SH3 looks the best but the voice acting is pants compared to the PS2 version, Heather just doesn't sound like that scared teenager anymore instead sounding more forced. :/

SH2 in HD was disappointing as they removed most of the fog which is a bad idea considering back in the PS2 days, the fog was used to hide the scenery, now we can see it & it looks shite house. Just wait until you see the boat rowing scene without fog masking the water :/

I'm glad i still got my PS2 copies.

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Condemnedsoul23
Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 10:33:05 PM
Reply

Only thing good about this game is the song from KoRn's lead singer Jonathan Davis on the soundtrack

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Kall555
Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 10:56:43 PM

If Korn was the only good thing about Downpour, then this series really is up shite creek.

Agree with this comment 11 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

PC_Max
Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 11:02:43 PM
Reply

I stopped after SH3, have not looked back since... well replaying the originals, but for me the series ended at SH3.

Now I wish I could get over freaking out when my radio goes to static. ... even if I am in my car on the road... on a dark and foggy night.

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ZenChichiri
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 12:34:14 AM

I don't understand the beef people had with part 4. The backtracking was a little annoying, but the story and atmosphere were fantastic. The fact that you couldn't kill the ghosts but had to use a sword to pin them down added even more to the horror.

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556pineapple
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 12:37:35 AM
Reply

This is definitely a game I'll have to try for myself. It seems to me that most people have complaints with technical issues and controls, which, I could probably be able to look past if they're not TOO bad. The positive things I'm hearing about this game seem like they might make up for the negative things. I'm not hoping for a game on the same level as the originals, but so far I've found something to like about each of the games I've played in this series.

Also, I really have to thank you guys for paying special attention to audio in your reviews, which seems to get glossed over all too often in some other reviews I read. I'm majoring in audio production in school, and in cases like this, I take a special interest in what others have to say about the audio in games. Akira Yamaoka is sort of a hero of mine, and I've based some of my compositions off of his Silent Hill work, and I was pretty disappointed when I first heard he wasn't involved. After hearing what you said about the use of sound effects, and lack thereof of music, I've really made it a point to try this game as soon as I can, if just to hear the new take on the series.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 2:53:35 AM
Reply

I'll pick it up when the price drops because it seems to have some good stuff, I want the SH HD collection but I don't think I can handle those controls.

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___________
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 5:07:54 AM
Reply

:(
predictable i knew this was going to be a disappointment ever since it was announced!
but i always had a glimmer of hope a miracle would happen and we would finally get a game worthy of the silent hill name!
oh well, back to the waiting game.............

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Vivi_Gamer
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 9:16:55 AM
Reply

I might pick it up after it plummets in price, but there is not chance I'll be buying this anytime soon. I still have yet to complete Homecoming as I just found the gameplay clunky, the story bland and the graphics worse than last gen SH titles. It sounds like it had a nice few Ideas like focusing on rain over fog and I am interested in the character at least but I just dont think this is the series we all remember and love.

Last edited by Vivi_Gamer on 3/27/2012 9:17:23 AM

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slugga_status
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 10:01:08 AM
Reply

Well based on this review, I'll stick to my guns and get the HD collection and wait on a price drop for Downpour

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AcHiLLiA
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 12:56:32 PM
Reply

I'll be waiting for a price drop on this. 1 and 2 still remains the best in the series in my opinion.

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Oxvial
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 3:44:29 PM
Reply

I still don't play homecoming..how good is compared with this one?

Last edited by Oxvial on 3/27/2012 3:50:51 PM

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berserk
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 @ 3:26:39 PM

At price it is now ( homecoming ) it s more then worth it if you re a silent hill fan .

Last edited by berserk on 3/28/2012 3:27:12 PM

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Oxvial
Friday, March 30, 2012 @ 7:45:39 PM

thanks, gonna do it.

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Spore_777
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 @ 11:14:15 AM
Reply

I'm one of those Silent Hill fans who'll play them all... regardless.

KONAMI... Your biggest fan is an African.

Last edited by Spore_777 on 3/28/2012 11:15:13 AM

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Knightzane
Friday, March 30, 2012 @ 12:24:11 PM
Reply

Creepiest thing for me was going into that pitch black basement, all you could hear is a woman crying hysterically. You wander around and get closer to the crying. Then you see a gate and open it. You walk towards it and it stops. Then you hear laughing. Suddenly your getting attacked but invisible monsters. You run away and hide in a corner with your flashlight turned off. You can hear the giggling around you. I was so freaked out but i recomend to anyone with patience. The frame rate is more or less around save points and the gameplay feels a little better than sh2.

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Chamoru_Warrior
Monday, May 07, 2012 @ 7:38:04 PM
Reply

See this is what I'm talking about that confuses the hell out of me. On one hand, Ben is one of my favorite reviewers because he gives indepth, detailed reviews and usually stays as objective as possible, but on the other hand sometimes he comes out with the most weird verdicts from way out in left field. Both SHDP and Prototype 2, showcased not only considerablely better graphics than I Am Alive, but they are just overall better made games. Both in sheer development quality and in actual gameplay. Yet for some odd reason, Ben thought I Am Alive's fugly, broken and outdated graphics engine (generic, uninspired use of the UE3) deserved a higher graphics score than Prototype 2 with its great SSAO and deferred lighting and Downpour with its superior textures, resolution and just flatout superior graphics. Yet both those titles scored lower in that department AND in overall score. I Am Alive is little more than a nearly canceled game with a wonderful idea and concept that is ruined by horrible AI, outdated and wonky mechanics and just plain bad presentation. SHDP is not perfect but by comparison it is infinitely better. So is Prototype 2 and it isn't even in the same genre.

Last edited by Chamoru_Warrior on 5/7/2012 7:39:58 PM

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