Reviews: Silent Hill Downpour
Worthy of the name 'Silent Hill.'
First thing that struck me about Downpour was that the scares are excellent. In addition to the atmosphere which is palpable and unnerving there are many 'scare' moments that are surprising. Plenty of "Wow, whaaat?" moments. Downpour makes Silent Hill feel new again. Akira Yamaoka will be missed, but Daniel Licht does an admirable job on the sound design. I found it was most effective during the quiet moments. Downpour combines the kind of 'rigid' controls of the early games with some more creative and useful abilities. This is important because feeling helpless in these games is an important thing. If you could easily run away or mow down enemies it wouldn't be as spooky. In Downpour Murphy moves slowly and deliberately, but the player can point the camera -and flashlight- anywhere, you also have the ability to look back over Murphy's shoulder, Murphy can throw weapons. Another great addition was automatically crouching under low passages and sliding through narrow corridors. Made things go that much more smoothly. Story was interesting. I liked that we know essentially nothing about Murphy in the beginning. Really made me wonder is he a nice guy who had a bad deal or is he a bad guy who plays it cool? And the ending (I got ending A) was fairly satisfying. My only complaints are the most popular ones. The framerate takes fairly frequent dips and the enemies are booooring. I admit I liked the weeping bat enemies and The Wheelman, but other than that they seemed uninspired and boring. These are my only problems with the game however. It felt like a true Silent Hill game and I happily place it among the great games in the series.
Functional, but disappointing
This is probably one of the better Silent Hill games in recent years. Then again, that's damning with praise: it's not terribly good, but given the fairly consistent failures since the high points of the Silent Hill 2 era, beggars can't be choosers. The biggest problems are the enemies, the characters, the storytelling, and the atmosphere. The enemies: boring, largely unvaried, and un-scary designs. For a Silent Hill game, that last one is a huge problem. Too many of them (read: any of them) just look like hobos who took a roll in the mud or convicts with Errector Sets latched to their heads. And they're dumb as bricks: they can't pass through doorways, and forget about you far too quickly. In older Silent Hill games, the enemies had strong connections to the characters trapped in the town. In this? Not so much. And if they do, it's not even to the protagonist. The characters: Murphy Pendleton does a decent job acting the part of a man stuck in Silent Hill and desiring simply to escape Most of his goals are with that in mind, not getting to the bottom of some mystery. But he screams like a schoolgirl at the slightest provocation, which saps his tough ex-con image pretty quickly. And most other characters are two scene wonders: they're met, then seen a little while later, and then vanish/die. The storytelling: Too. Many. Files. I've never seen so many written pages in a game of this length, and it's lazy storytelling at best and laughable (There was a Silent Hill Tourism Board!) at worst. The atmosphere: Credit where it's due first. The town of Silent Hill has never looked better. Even the fog looks great, though it's hampered by dumb-as-bricks enemies being visible before they're hostile. And the last mission of the game just gives you a shotgun and a mess of ammo...and makes you fight a gauntlet of enemies on a descending elevator. It was a like playing Dead Space, only with clumsy combat controls, boring weapons, and inferior enemy designs. Conclusion: there's so much more I could talk about, but this is a 400 word review, so I'll wrap up. Downpour has a lot of faults. They're not hard to find, nor are they easy to ignore. But give it a rent and see if you find that old Silent Hill magic buried inside. If you like, buy. If not, no harm done.
Is it a perfect game? Not entirely; enemies are just a little too humanoid, there are bugs, a couple of other things. Does it deliver on the classic Silent Hill experience? Yes. Does it have great atmosphere and an original story that isn't just cribbing from Silent Hill 2? Yes and yes! So, despite everything else, it is a worthy successor to the franchise.