Silent Hill Downpour User Review
Unfortunately for those of us here at Only SP looking for a great single player story, this isn’t your top choice. Following a convict named Murphy Pendleton the game begins with you being transported to a new prison. Of course bus rides never go as planned in horror games or movies, a la Jeepers Creepers 2. Anyway, the bus runs off the road, crashes, kills just about everyone on board besides you and a cop and then you’re on your way, navigating the woods of Silent Hill.
Murphy isn’t the most interesting character on the planet, but Vatra Games did at least make him a believable one. Throughout the game you’ll gain insight into why he was sent to prison and some extra background info on Murphy, which is hard to follow at first, but later begins to piece itself together in a more presentable manner. Having said that, the other characters in the game are very forgettable and uninteresting. At points there are decisions to be made to either protect or harm some of the characters, but even these decisions seem to have little impact. Just as an example, very early on in the game you have the choice to save the cop from falling to her death as she hangs of the edge of a cliff. Whichever option you choose, the outcome will be the same. Aside from the main story there’s also side missions such as freeing birds scattered throughout the world and exploring houses and apartments, learning more about some of the resident’s pasts.
The town of Silent Hill itself however, despite what other critics have pointed out seems to have the most character of anything in the game. There isn’t a whole lot going on in the town, but taking cues from games such as Dead Space and creating claustrophobic environments with low lighting can really get under you skin. During one of my excursions through an abandoned home, I found blood trails on the walls and the floor and was clutching the controller just waiting for something to pop out and grab me…nothing ever did though and that’s the type of suspense I love in horror video games.
Once I found my way out of the home however I think my heart literally stopped for a moment. Puzzles are a big part of the Silent Hill franchise and the puzzles found in Downpour are pretty unique and give you a good sense of accomplishment once you figure them out. I won’t spoil the puzzles for you, but some of them can get pretty frustrating and will have you setting down the controller in frustration, only to realize when you come back that you missed the obvious clues. Touching back on the beginning sentence of this paragraph, I had just completed a puzzle and was heading towards a gate to move forward, only to have a crazy demon lady (whatever their called) jump on my back. I’m pretty sure I screamed louder than the thing attacking me did, which leads us on to the combat in the game.
I’m not exactly sure where I stand with the combat in Silent Hill Downpour. On one hand, it’s challenging, intense and gives you the sense that you’re on your own and you must do what you have to do to survive. On the other, it seems unfair and clunky. Essentially, Murphy uses whatever he can grab as a weapon whether it be a stone, shovel or a kitchen knife. All these weapons degrade during usage as well, leading to some frantic searches for new weapons.
However, as creative as the concept seems the combat tends to be, as I said, clunky. When using a melee weapon you can block your opponents attacks, but for some reason it never seems to work, and the camera/targeting is way off as well. Plenty of times I’d be fighting only to have Murphy swing in the wrong direction and get slapped in the face. There’s a few guns to use as well, but I found them pretty much useless due to the fact the aiming is really wonky, which was made that way on purpose by the developers, but it just didn’t turn out well in the final product. There isn’t a lot of enemy variety either and after fighting the same thing over and over…well you know what happens then. Of course since Silent Hill is a horror game there’s also going to be some sort of psychological events and in Silent Hill these take place in the form of Otherworld sequences, which are actually quite frightening and to not spoil anything for you, I’ll leave it at that.
Graphically, Silent Hill Downpour has its ups and downs. The town of Silent Hill is a dreary one with constant thunder storms, rain storms and fog. It sets the scene well, but also makes the game feel really bland. Inside environments are creepy to say the least, but with a lot of texture pop-in and a lack of detail makes it all seem just a bit too boring. With such a small amount of enemy variety you’d think that’d at least be pretty detailed, but unfortunately that isn’t the case and being so, the enemies aren’t exactly spectacles to look at. Creepy, but not beautiful. Basically the graphics are up to your interpretation, if you like your horror games being drab and mysterious, then you’ll enjoy Downpours visual fidelity. The soundtrack is pretty intense as well as haunting. Since it’s not played all the time, the scene in the house that I described above can feel all the more intense without any ambient music playing in the background.
Silent Hill Downpour didn’t do much to impress me as a newcomer to the series except to raise my interest in the past installments that were so highly praised. I can’t seem to fixate myself on a final score for the game as I did enjoy it as an experience rather than a game. The combat like I said, is pretty clunky and the story isn’t all that interesting, but the town of Silent Hill itself will creep you out and give you a great sense of being alone. If your a true fan of the series, expect changes, some that you probably won’t like. As a newcomer, I can really only recommend it to fans of the horror genre in a general sense.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.