This review was brought to you by FleshEatingZipper comic artist Cody!
Like a long awaited rain in the desert, another Silent Hill has come to pass, bringing a new story, a new character, and a few changes to the formula that so many people have lauded as a true horror-fest filled with deep dark secrets, cults, and psychological introspection. But does this installment do the trick? Or are we yet again met with disappointment? Well, let me say that, despite all I’ve heard about the game, having played it myself, I’m not entirely disappointed really, and in fact, knew from the get-go that it wouldn’t really be the same Silent Hill we all knew and loved back in the day. I like to think I can embrace change on this one, and I hope you can respect that, as I tell you what I think….
Not Perfect, But Not Horrible
So let’s get to the nitty gritty of this thing. Silent Hill Downpour starts you in Prison, playing as a man named Murhpy Pendleton, hanging around a sequestered shower room to kill another inmate, having made a deal with a guard beforehand. After the sequence, you wake up in a cell, on a day where Murphy is to be transported to a new prison. Unfortunately, circumstance leads to the prison transport bus crashing, tumbling down the side of a mountain, and you to escape from the scene, alone, and disoriented. From there, it becomes clear that you are being drawn ever closer to Silent Hill, where you must face your own nightmares and deal with the guilt of what you’ve done in the past. The game unravels from there, and plays on two key story points: The inmate you killed, and the deal you made with the prison guard. It’s not hard to figure these things out partly due the transparency created from the clues that are revealed to you. The game tries to create a sense of foreboding with these plot points, but does so in a weak sense, the subtleties falling to the wayside in retrospect to the fact the game felt like it was made simply to make a new Silent Hill, rather than to expand on the experience.
The gameplay borrows a lot from previous Silent Hills, mostly from the recent games, like Homecoming, Shattered Memories and Origins. Where the decision to make these as part of the gameplay may have been misguided, it does make it clear that combat is not Murphy’s strong suit, and it does lead the idea that other Silent Hills have made a staple: Better to run than to fight. Where this falls flat, however, is the overabundance of weapons, which really is the sort of thing that lends to the downfall of the game’s difficulty. Running through on Normal mode, the only issues that resulted in death were incurred during QTE’s rather than through straight-forward combat. You take on Homecoming’s perspective, with at least one enemy having the ability to jump onto your back and bite you while you shake them off, coupled with a ‘rear-view mirror’ camera, like that of Shattered Memories. Certain weapons are required to open doorways and reach ladders, and are usually respawned in abundant quantities, so you’ll never really get stuck, though the puzzles you encounter for side-quests can be decidedly tricky. Melee weapons have a durability rating, so expect to replace them often, like what you would expect in SH: Origins. Not a great choice, but one that can be overlooked in the long run if you’re willing to run from combat.
The Nightmare realm is used sparsely, and the dread you feel as you enter is less horror oriented, and more at the annoyance of having to enter into constant chase sequences with an ambiguous black hole that tries to devour you, leaving you running through much of the nightmare realms rather than in prior games where you could explore freely and solve challenging puzzles. You’ll be given several different light sources to navigate dark areas: a regular and UV flashlight, and a lighter. The game will at times haphazardly cause you to lose a flashlight (even though I rarely did, it seems), leaving you to use your lighter, which I found to be far more useful a light-source than either flashlight really, especially when exploring pitch-black areas. Luckily, you’ll receive a walkie-talkie that will give off noise whenever enemies are nearby, sputtering noises from random radio calls to indicate such.
Visually, the game utilizes the Unreal Engine well enough, though pop-in of textures happens enough, leaving you realizing that you’re playing a game, rather than experiencing a story. The mood of the game is captured well enough, with a sense of solitude and loneliness engulfing the player, and David Lintch composing some very classy tunes to add to the feeling, though having Korn compose the main theme is very jarring, and a poor choice all around.
The enemy design is rather unimaginative, though fitting to a degree, leading to a rather bland experience when you enter into a well made area, only to fight sub-par enemies. One example of this are the sort of gangly ‘trolls’ that live in caves and under bridges, seemingly adverse to great quantities of light. Their designs are rudimentary, and hard to explain beyond being some randomly cooked up cannon fodder, as they resemble bipedal albino frogs, their mouths constantly open. My description probably makes them creepier than they are, which says a lot about the design choices.
Well, The Final Conclusion
I’ve read a few reviews of the game, and I’ve found that I agree with a little bit of what they’ve said, but that doesn’t mean I feel like the game is horrible. At best it’s a shaky, ungraceful sequel with some good moments, and at worst a poorly executed attempt to drag the series out well beyond its time.