Review: Silent Hill: Downpour
If you’re looking for a great Silent Hill game to play, you’re in luck. Two came out this month; Silent Hill: Downpour and Silent Hill HD Collection. Only one of them is worthy of a purchase and let me tell you, the one I’m reviewing isn’t it.
For those unfamiliar with the Silent Hill lore, it’s based on a real city that haunts your conscience. It features some of the most horrific creatures of any video game horror series and in some cases, can leave a bit of uncomfortable vial in your mouth from the story. Downpour manages to stay with part of the traditions that Silent Hill is known for. It has scares (or “jumps”), a lot of interesting back story and side story, and even has some really bizarre creatures to fight. But it doesn’t really feel like a true survival horror title. It’s missing the horrific twists that the series was known for.
There’s a lot of things wrong with Downpour. The graphics engine is powered by Unreal technology but utilized horribly. If you love watching frame rate drops during every cinematic or when things get hectic, then by all means, you’ll absolutely love Downpour. During a save, the game would hang up for a couple of seconds. A new Trophy/Achievement unlocks and you’re sitting there a few more seconds. It seems like a few minor complaints but throughout the entire game, it constantly was glitching up on me. Luckily, I didn’t have to hard reset but once. I’m actually shocked. Several times during saves, I thought the game froze.
Save game locations are extremely annoying. I’ve never understood this concept with developers to prohibit me from saving whenever I please. Sometimes, I just need to save and do something else. Some auto-save functions aren’t that bad though. The God of War series always seemed to save at a point I would have quick saved. In Downpour, we have a prime example of how not to design the auto-save. Most of the time, it’s right before a cinematic you can’t skip through, or before (not after) you finish going through the vortex sections (see below).
Lets go ahead and get into the incredible combat system. It felt like the protagonist, Murphy Pendleton, was always getting spun around due to camera issues. Or he’d miss his target using a shotgun at point-blank range. If he’s not missing or facing the wrong way due to the lack of targeting, he’s getting caught in a wave of pathetic button mashing marathons. One of the enemies, the one you’ll run into 90% of the time, is called a Screamer. When it screams, you’re stuck in this daze that requires you to wiggle your analog stick until you snap out of it. I’d rather have a quick-time event than wiggle my stick around. And wiggling the stick quickly doesn’t even pull you out of a daze quickly. It’s just a timer of you breaking your analog stick. There’s a few weapons around the town but I found it less annoying to just run past the mentally challenged enemies. They give up pretty easy.
If I remember right, you’ll only run into maybe six different enemies. That includes bosses. Maybe only one is kind of scary the first moment you see them, but then you realize they’re lame because you can run right past every enemy in the game aside from the bosses. At least there’s one “boss” I think everyone will enjoy. A giant hellish vortex which forces you to run through mini-mazes. I don’t even think it’s possible for that thing to not get you at least once. You’re basically outrunning this moving force through the rustic nightmares that Silent Hill is known for. While this could have been done in a manner that had you on the edge of your seat, you usually were just annoyed because you missed a turn or you barely were caught in it and it slowed you down enough to crush your bones.
Since this is a horror survival (or horror action) game, there’s some good chances you’ll be scared at a few scenes. Some of the abandoned apartments have some creepy moments in them. Really, most of the horror comes from generic “jump” tactics in bad horror movies. If that’s your idea of horror, then I guess the Half-Life series is of the horror genre since I’ve jumped quite a few times from head crabs jumping out at me from ventilation systems. What was truly scary in the original games was the uncertainty of what’s going on mixed with the disturbing images being displayed. Downpour certainly has uncertainty (even after you beat it) but there’s really nothing too disturbing in the game. I mean, Silent Hill 2 has a bizarre rape scene in it that makes you ponder, “What did I just witness?”.
Downpour does the puzzles right, at least. I normally never need guides in games but Downpour had me pull up a guide more than once. I’d much rather have doubled up on puzzles than the fighting for sure. One of the best puzzles involves a movie theater you visit that leads you through an amazing setting. Without giving away anything, it has the presentation of the movie The Ring. The puzzles involved are nicely done and require some brain work.
Usually, I can ignore some bad mechanics in a game for some really interesting story lines. Enough to at least recommend a one time play through. Downpour has nothing too interesting to give you in terms of story. The beginning feels like it’s going to take you down the rabbit hole again. Instead it takes you down a turtle hole that feels incomplete. There’s little done with the story aside from reading the several hidden pages (which I liked) around town. But as far as really interesting and puzzling cinematic cut-scenes, you’re left with a feeling of boring uncertainty. After beating the game, I don’t know if I liked Murphy or hated him. I guess I hated him because I hated his game.
I truly would write a longer and much more detailed review but I don’t think there’s anything more I can say that I haven’t. It’s buggy. It has frame rate issues. It has combat issues. The story is non-terrifying. There’s not much more to say. If you want an overview of the story, head over here. Also, if you’re interested in the PlayStation’s 3D effects, I will say they did a heck of a job on them. The mine cart ride you take is a great example of fun 3D effects in games.
TL;DR: Would I recommend the game? No. It certainly has its moments, but the overall story is such a downer that it’s hard to really justify a purchase. There’s several endings. But do you want to sit through a mediocre game to get a new ending? It just feels like a waste of time.
Reviewed on PlayStation 3.