Three years after the last installment to the Silent Hill series, the survival horror titan makes a comeback with the release of Silent Hill: Downpour. Yes it’s been out for a while now, but after our original reviewer’s PlayStation 3 got struck by the yellow light of death, coupled with the fact that playing this game felt like a complete chore, it took a little longer than usual to put together. Read on to find out why.
Game: Silent Hill: Downpour
Developer: Vatra Games
Downpour throws you head first into the story, as you control Murphy, a convict with a shrouded history. Within the first 5 minutes you are puncturing a sweaty and fat middle aged man with a kitchen knife in a steamy shower room, in what turns out to be quite a gruesome scene. I’m going to tiptoe around the plot where required, but to cut a long story short a prison bus you are on dramatically crashes allowing you to escape into the spooky and foggy (this is Silent Hill, everywhere is foggy) forest.
It’s here where you get to grips with the controls, and make your first “good or evil” decision. One of the prison guards finds you, but loses her footing over a steep drop and ends up hanging on by her fingertips at your feet. You choose to help or save her, but I can’t comment on what happens when you save her as I kicked her into touch. I’ll be honest, I haven’t completed the game yet, but I sunk a fair whack of time into it and it doesn’t seem like these karmic choices have any influence on the story whatsoever.
Murphy eventually finds himself in the town of Silent Hill, which is (as always) complete with run down buildings, creepy locals and mindless monsters. As you progress through the main story you will meet more of Silent Hill’s inhabitants, who provide you with various errands to run.
Essentially these are side quests, and allow you to get a glimpse of the town’s history and obtain new items.
The cut scenes are average at best, and the story of Silent Hill and Murphy’s background flops out as opposed to intricately unravelling. The game does succeed at building up a level of immersion, but this is shattered due to niggling bugs such as weapons disappearing from your hands during cutscenes before magically reappearing again. Call me picky, but in this day and age it’s the fine details that count.
The graphics are not really anything to get excited about. I was beginning to think my expectations of consoles is too high due to being a PC gamer, but when compared to other recent releases, it’s clear that Downpour doesn’t attempt to push the boundaries.
I understand that Downpour is suppose to be washed out, drab and eerie, but it still lacks polish and overall the environments look very samey. Not that I could see a bloody thing, even after turning the brightness to full. Things are improved slightly when Murphy finds a magical Zippo lighter that never runs out, as the light dancing off the walls and objects plays tricks on your mind. Infact, some of Downpour’s tensest moments where in a cave with tight crawl spaces which you had to apprehensively squeeze through to get to the next cavern. Slowly edging through with your zippo held out infront, not knowing if a rotting crazy woman is going to dive for your jugular, certainly gets the cheeks clenching.
Vatra really haven’t been very inventive when it comes to the enemies, and pale in comparison to some of the gruesome monsters encountered in previous titles. Sure, they make you jump when they burst out of a bush, but the fear quickly disappears when you actually stop to study how uncreative the models are. Downpour is also plagued throughout by frame rate issues, which quickly become an annoyance. God knows why the game struggles when the visuals are so lacklustre.
The game’s sound follows suit from the graphics. It serves it’s purpose but that’s about it. Distant screams, creaky floorboards and slamming doors etc. are all present, but often fall short of their purpose to creep you out. It’s a shame because with the right soundtrack and sound effects, Downpour could of impressed me abit more, they really should take a leaf out of Amnesia: Dark Descent’s book. The main soundtrack is actually performed by Korn, if that puts anything into perspective for you. Voice acting is also pretty poor, no surprises there, and when compared to recent releases such as Mass Effect 3, its laughable.
Downpour doesn’t stray far from the traditional style of previous titles when it comes to gameplay. More emphasis is placed on combat this time, which sounds great on paper, but in reality is poorly executed. Weapons consist of tools, bottles, fire extinguishers and whatever else you find dotted around the environment that looks like it could inflict some damage. These weapons eventually break, which happens far too quickly and often results in you legging it or dying very quickly. You can also throw items, but I rarely found the desire to as it feels like slapping them with a wet noodle, and leaves you stood there like a lemon with no means to defend yourself.
Combat in general is awkward and frustrating.It mainly inolves flailing your weapon around desperately, missing 90% of the time, and when you do hit them your weapon breaks anyway. Whether this is intentional to encourage you to to turn tail and run as opposed to taking them on toe to toe I can’t say, but where’s the fun in that anyway? There are guns in Downpour, but being a survival horror, ammo is few and far between. Even shooting at enemies is cumbersome, and I often somehow missed at point blank range. An interesting mechanic is that enemies get stronger the more it rains, which is a pretty solid indication that you should run as opposed to fight.
Puzzles are present throughout, but I either found them frustrating(especially when I wasn’t enjoying the game anyway), or so easy I’d hardly count them as a puzzle. Every now and then you will find yourself in a “hell world”, where a crazy resonating apparition is pursuing you and you have to get away. These are actually quite well executed, but they feel so disjointed from the main game they don’t make much of an overall impact.
As mentioned I haven’t completed the game yet, but from what I can gather it isn’t that long. However it already feels like a 300 hour epic journey because it’s such a drag and flows like mud.
Silent Hill Downpour could of actually been a great game. The foundations are there, but due to poor execution, frame rate issues, a flimsy story and many other negatives, it’s definitely wise to give it a wide berth. If you’re a die hard Silent Hill fan you might get some enjoyment from it, but you’ll also be left feeling extremely disappointed.