The Silent Hill series is very interesting to talk about. While they aren’t exactly known for their amazing gameplay, they excel at many other things such as story, setting, characters and really understand what it takes to make a good survival horror game… sometimes. With the first four main series games being made in Japan and the fifth game Silent Hill Homecoming, being released from an American publisher seems it’s time for a European developer Vastra to take a stab at the series.
Silent Hill: Downpour is the eighth installment about a foggy town with a sick sense of humor and it seems to have more in common with one of the more popular games in the series Silent Hill 2; it’s a stand alone title, it mostly focuses on one character and doesn’t lump you with a sidekick and even has its own version of Pyramid Head in the form of the Bogeyman. The poor sap who happens to have stumbled into Silent Hill this time is Murphy Pendelton, a convict whose bus decides to take detour down a cliff while being transferred to a new prison. Now a free man, he finds his way to Silent Hill where he will face his inner demons and he will have to face his past as it unfolds. You know, like everyone else who goes there.
The muscles that the Silent Hill series likes to flex the most are its story and its setting aspects. Downpour does a good job at this, just not an amazing job. The story is pretty easy to follow and is told well, but it’s not as interesting or have great moments to make it memorable as Silent Hill 2 or Silent Hill 3. One of the draws of the Silent Hill franchise is that it likes to use symbolism to reflect the personal hell that the character is stuck in. Mind you not all the games do this very well, but I get the feeling Downpour is trying to do this but doesn’t pull it off. The monsters are usually supposed to be the key figures in the “symbolism” idea but the ones in Downpour aren’t really that interesting. The only ones that seem to make any sense are the two breeds of monsters that look like prisoners because they have tattoos and carry shanks and I assume they could represent the fear he might have had of the other inmates, but I never got the feeling that he was afraid of them at all. I also don’t see how the other monsters, like the sex doll that sends out shadows or the ceiling climbing mutants, were reflective of Murphy’s psyche. Maybe I’m just thick and not as smart as I think I am, but I don’t see how any of it came together. Oh yeah, and like the other Silent Hill games, you can make some choices that affect your ending but they don’t hold much weight or change the gameplay.
Silent Hill’s setting isn’t really much different from its predecessors; it’s foggy, eerie, foggy, lots of weird noises, full of people who don’t ever give you straight answers, foggy and gives off a nice feeling of emptiness and off putting. Did I mention it’s foggy? The new mechanic added, as you can guess by the title, is rain. Now, unless the rain has particular deep meaning that I was also too stupid to figure out, it doesn’t really do anything. It’s supposed to make the monster more numerous and aggressive, but I didn’t notice a difference. The rain’s only purpose is to make you take shelter in the many houses of Silent Hill so the game can show off its optional side quests. This is nice but after you beat the game you can’t go back to Silent Hill to do them and instead have to replay the entire game again.
Silent Hill: Downpour‘s biggest missteps though come from its game play. I don’t normally harp too hard on Silent Hill’s combat because I feel it is a flaw that is fixed by its genre. The combat may be clunky and overall very crap, but that’s fine because most of the protagonists of the Silent Hill games are normal people so they aren’t exactly martial arts experts and running for your life is the better option and it truly becomes survival horror. I guess the thought in making this game was since your character is a criminal he would be a bit more aggressive and he would know how to fight, so the game puts you in scenarios where fighting is the best option or the only option and this turns the spotlight on how horrendous and unrefined the combat is. And if sluggish hack and slash combat isn’t bad even enough, you have weapon degradation causing Murphy’s butcher knife to dull after a couple of slices making you run around trying to find a new weapon in the middle of a monster hoedown.
On top of horrible fighting controls, even picking up weapons is a hassle. I do like that inventory is a bit more realistic. You don’t have backpack or anything of so it makes more sense why you only have room for so little and can only carry one melee weapon, but it seems Murphy has a bit of a case of the “butterfingers” and an even bigger case of the “stupid.” If at anytime you want you want to grab your flashlight or switch to your gun, Murphy will throw whatever weapon he is holding to the ground like he just saw the world’s biggest spider on it. Then you have to put back your gun or flashlight and then go pick your weapon back up. This might sound like nitpicking but you won’t believe how frustrating this will get after you do it for the billionth time. I don’t understand why he can’t attach the smaller weapons like the wrench and knife to his stupidly over sized belt, and you will more than likely press the right trigger button by accident and when you do Murphy will chuck what ever weapon he is holding like a football across the damn room. The thing that really kills this game though is the game itself. Silent Hill: Downpour suffers from frame rate drops, long loading times and the occasional freeze up, bringing down the experience and the mood when they happen and are too numerous to overlook.
However, I would like to point out that music is composed by Daniel Licht, who is known for his work on personal favorite show of mine, Dexter. He does an impressive job and deserves to be ranked up with the rest of Silent Hill’s series impressive scores. His style seems prefect for this kind of game.
So is Silent Hill: Downpour even worth getting? Well, I’m sure if you are Silent Hill fan you will probably buy it anyways and can probably look past it flaws, then write me a comment saying how stupid I was for not knowing that wall crawling enemies represented Murphy’s fear of ceilings. But if you’re aren’t a Silent Hill fan then I don’t see you enjoying this one. I guess what really holds Silent Hill: Downpour back is that it isn’t really that scary; it’s still a good little adventure with some good old human drama thrown in but it never put me on the edge of my seat and besides a few pop-out scares, it didn’t make me sleep with the lights on. Silent Hill: Downpour is a step up from Silent Hill Homecoming, but only a step. I give it a seven out of ten.Silent Hill:Downpour,