Silent Hill: Downpour Review
Genre: Adventure, Horror, Puzzle, Survival
What we liked
What we didn't
A game full of good ideas but poor execution. Not nearly as mentally scaring as it should be.
Silent Hill: Downpour marks the series’ return to PlayStation®3 and Xbox 360, and brings a completely original storyline which follows Murphy Pendleton, a convict stranded in the foggy, malevolent world of Silent Hill. Pendleton begins the game lost and alone in the woods on the outskirts of the fabled town, when his prison transport bus crashes…
What happens after this is up to the player, as Silent Hill: Downpour reveals a new, expansive environment that is similarly claustrophobic and where the player is never truly alone. – Amazon.co.uk
Silent Hill: Downpour is Konami’s sixth cannon instalment to Silent Hill and it’s every bit as creepy as the last five. Whilst it’s true the series has lost a lot of its charm since leaving its Japanese home for the American shores, the franchise still has its loyal fan base with people prepared to face many different horrors to see the protagonist’s story unfold. This time we are in the shoes of Murphy Pendleton. A convict being transferred to a maximum security prison following an attack on a sequestered inmate. After his transport vehicle crashes he awakes to find himself stranded in the foggy town of Silent Hill.
Vatra Games have thankfully stuck with the third person camera, hand to hand combat and movement control system which has treated the survival horror genre very well since Resident Evil 4. There are points in certain buildings where the camera will revert to a fixed position like the original game and the early Resident Evil games. I felt this (whilst nostalgic) was unnecessary. It successfully creates tension as it forces your characters movement to slow and places a feeling of being watched or followed, but it fails to deliver more than that. Enemies rarely attack you in these areas. On the occasion they do the controls make the experience all the more frustrating. You can no longer aim your gun (if you’re lucky enough to have one) whilst the camera is fixed, for example meaning you blind fire and waste precious ammo or run.
Speaking of enemies, the monsters of Silent Hill have always been the face of the franchise and whilst they are still troublesome at some points on this occasion they are easily forgettable. Each one feels like the last with slight differences. ‘The Screamer’, the most common enemy, will let out a loud shriek to stun you allowing any other monsters around you to get in some easy attacks. The ‘prisoner minion’ has similar attacks but can take and can deal more damage. Occasionally the game will throw something different your way like the ‘Doll’ monster, which is a spirit only visible using a UV light making it hard to fight. The only way to defeat it is by finding and destroying its mannequin. Other than the rare exception the game fails to deliver truly memorable foes. Even the games main monster, known as ‘The Bogeyman’, can’t truly leave it’s mark and certainly cannot be put in the same league as ‘Pyramid Head’ from Silent Hill 2 (the best entry of the series to date).
The story for this visit to this hellish town is full of twists and turns which will keep you guessing until the very end and is actually one of the games strong points. Controls are solid and the game is constantly creepy. What lets Downpour down are its big ideas which have a lack of direction and a lack of polish. The game lags far too often for a modern game, enemies feel ridged and repetitive in combat and the loading times feel longer than necessary. It has some serious frame rate issues and events seem too widely spread.
With all that said though there is a lot of fun to be had here. The story is long and puzzles are very different with varying difficulty, something which the Resident Evil series has forgotten completely. The town has never been bigger and there is plenty to explore but it’s very vacant. It shows the basic idea of how good a truly free roaming survival horror game could be, but falls short on its delivery. Side quests are there if you can find them but they offer nothing more than a minor distraction to the main story and a trophy/achievement. They provide very little backstory so finding out exactly why these specific items were stolen or how/why a person was killed never gets explained and is quite frustrating. Knowing exactly what to do or where to go is another of the games overlooked faults but it’s a problem easily solved with updated main objectives and a better use of the map. Overall the game, whilst a fun experience, has many minor faults and many big ideas which never fully reach fruition. A longer development time would have done this game the world of good.
The Silent Hill games still have quite a way to go to get back to their best but it’s definitely on the right path. This instalment is definitely the best since the third game. Downpour has many flaws but I found myself strangely drawn back, even if it was just to see how the story ends and with 6 different endings there is some reply value, albeit not much. It’s full of big ideas which could really revolutionise the franchise and there is plenty for Vatra Games to build on for a return trip to the disturbing town. Much like the Resident Evil games, I expect to be scared out of my mind the minute I start a new game and whilst the game constantly felt creepy, it was never truly scary. Maybe a lack of money to match their intended ideas, an unmoveable development window or release date caused the game to fall short of something truly great. I left my sixth visit to Silent Hill satisfied but nowhere near as mentally scared as I should have been.