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Review

Silent Hill: Downpour Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

From side quests to sound design, Silent Hill: Downpour isn't afraid of change. The result is a captivating game more expansive than the series has ever seen.

Silent Hill: Downpour is a celebration of gaming's most notorious ghost town. It taps into the madness and surrealism that has made this series legendary, and presents Silent Hill as a more robust location than ever before. Most of the fundamentals are still intact, but developer Vatra Games has not shied away from making some stark changes to this American nightmare. Some fit well into the Silent Hill formula, while others are a little off the mark.

From the outset, Murphy Pendleton, the protagonist, is painted as a morally ambiguous character. He is a prisoner at Ryall State Prison, but the circumstances of his incarceration are unclear. When Murphy's prisoner transport bus crashes in the outskirts of Silent Hill, you're not sure if he is escaping wrongful imprisonment or just fleeing the long arm of the law. Occasional morality choices let you shape Murphy's character, and can give identical scenes an entirely different meaning.

Within the game's opening acts, it becomes clear that Downpour is a new Silent Hill game, rather than an imitation of an old one. It keeps some elements from series' history, but isn't afraid to change others. Fog is a good example: in previous games, it was thick and obscuring. Here, it's less prominent and is upstaged by the constant rain. While it's raining, enemies become more numerous and hostile. An element that merely enhanced the ambiance has evolved to include dynamic repercussions.

As in previous games, your time in Silent Hill is split between the normal world and the other world. The normal world covers most of the combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving, while the other world is reserved for specific encounters. Combat in Downpour borrows some from Silent Hill: Homecoming, though it is not as exaggerated. Often in combat, you face down a group of enemies in an open area. Large environments afford Murphy access to more weapons, while the monsters gain the advantage of flanking.

Downpour has solid voice acting which creates a more believable world.

In Downpour, Murphy can only carry one melee weapon at a time, so he is constantly cycling through them. Fire axes, chairs, lamps, and more are littered about, but they eventually break apart. This weapon degradation emphasizes how desperate combat encounters are for him. Murphy may start a fight with a garden rake but end with a puny stick. Unarmed attacks are an option, but they do almost no damage and you can't block while unarmed. If you're lucky enough to find a firearm, Murphy can pocket it as a secondary weapon. Guns are extremely powerful, but ammo is scarce.

Additional design choices add complexity to the combat, but in doing so, they call more of your attention to the faults. In early Silent Hill games, combat was deemphasized through simplistic controls and stellar sound design. With Downpour, there are more ways Murphy can attack--or be attacked--in a fight. You spend more time thinking about combat, and the weaknesses therein become more pronounced. Striking an enemy still feels stiff, and against most enemies, the fights fall into predictable rhythms. When monsters attack in groups, one usually hangs back and temporarily disables Murphy with a sound-based attack. It's a novel tactic, but it's recycled throughout nearly the entire game.

Of course, combat isn't all you do in Downpour. The town of Silent Hill has a touch of open-worldness and is filled with puzzles and side quests to discover. The side quests are well tailored to the game's setting and imply there was once life in this desolate town. They include investigating a domestic murder, searching for a missing child, and venturing inside a collection of historic films. These optional quests are a smart addition and encourage, as well as reward, exploration.

Murphy's clothes become torn and bloody to represent how much damage he has taken.

In the other world, you do a lot of running. Early on, you are introduced to a glowing ball of energy that wants to chase Murphy down and change him from a solid form into a liquid. Murphy's escape takes him through a maze of hallways lined with obstacles that can be knocked over to slow down the being's advance. Thankfully, one wrong turn doesn't mean death. Incorrect routes loop back to the main path, though you will take some damage from the formless horror. These sections help break up the game's slow pace with high-speed action that's appropriate for the setting.

The Silent Hill series is famous for its music and sound design. In previous Silent Hill games, the music could make the most mundane encounters intimidating. It was an oppressive mixture of industrial noise, radio static, and monster cries. In contrast, Downpour downplays its encounters to the point where most fights are in near silence. Music is largely absent, and while there are still radio and monster effects much of their impact is gone. Sometimes this subtle approach is used to great effect, but too often it makes combat feel commonplace.

When all of the elements come together, they can create some brilliant moments. A great example of this is the Hansel and Gretel sequence. Your first task is to explore the area and collect items to put on a play of Hansel and Gretel. Once all of the items are recovered, there is a simple puzzle that explains how these items work together. Correctly solving the puzzle involves dimming the lights, playing the music, and producing the correct sound effects for the performance. And when you look up from your duties, it's revealed that you've been transported into the scene itself.

Thunder and lightning crash overhead, muffling the eerie hum of an old gramophone. The sounds of children screaming can be heard from the now very-real wood cabin, separated from you by a dark forest. Naturally, it's difficult to see through the rain until a flash of lightning reveals the hulking form of an enemy. There's no fanfare or blaring music; it's just standing there, off in the distance, waiting. You're initially surprised, and then you feel the looming dread of the coming fight. The sequence progresses beyond that, but taken as a whole, it combines traditional Silent Hill puzzles with a bit of combat within a great set piece. It successfully channels the surprise and anxiety that has made this series great.

Unfortunately, almost all of Downpour's accomplishments are marred by some persistent frame rate and stuttering issues. They occur throughout nearly the entire game but are most noticeable in the larger environments, such as the town itself. At times, they are excusable, such as when the game is loading a new environment or autosaving. But when simply looking from side to side causes small hiccups and screen tearing, they become real issues. This happens much less often in smaller, interior spaces, but it is something you have to endure throughout, even after installing the game to a hard drive.

Downpour uses fixed camera angles to create disorienting scenes.

Silent Hill: Downpour makes some questionable tweaks to the established formula, but those decisions distinguish it from the rest of the series. You may not agree with all of Vatra's choices, but they succeed in making an old town feel new again. And when it's the eighth installment in the series, that is quite an accomplishment.

The Good
Captures the classic Silent Hill visual style
Good voice acting
Side missions reward exploration.
The Bad
Combat still feels stiff
Underwhelming sound design
Persistent frame rate issues.
7.5
Good
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Discussion

112 comments
shindark
shindark

Awful review for an awful game.

7.5 for a title does not deserve a 3?

Technically embarassing, flat and boring in plot and gameplay and with a battle system awkward either in melee than in firearms.

Bleah!!!

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

I'm hoping the next Silent Hill game will restore the franchise to it's former glory.

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

I was just about to purchase this on line but decided to check out the review first... and I am so glad that I did.

I will pass on it, for now at least.

juninhotorres
juninhotorres

I wouldn't call it great, but it's a very good indeed. Really atmospheric and it gives me the creeps.

Combat isn't imaginative at all, but I think it fits the franchise. You're not a hero, just a normal person caught by unspeakable horrors. Murphy shouldn't be able to dispatch enemies like a boss, and he isn't.

The urgency of combat is nice too: when you're forced to face some foes, chances are you won't get to the end of it with your weapon intact, and quite often you end up desperately trying to find something else to finish off that enemy, which adds to the sense of immediacy.

I like the tweaks to the original formula: the game feels fresh AND feels like a Silent Hill game at the same time, which is quite an accomplishment.

I've been playing it 3D and having a lot of fun, although you don't actually lose anything if you don't. All in all, it's a must for any Silent Hill fan and it's worth to give it a go even if you aren't. The fog might suck you in and never let you leave again...

wickdawg01
wickdawg01

Awesome Game! Look VERY good in 3d as well, although the screen tearing messes with your eyes when it does that.

ichtus
ichtus

Stuttering is almost unbearable, but the content in this game is great. Will play to the end, completing as much side quests as possible, of course. Shame for these technical issues, though. Hope it gets fixed in a patch or two

QtrArt
QtrArt

Everything Was Great (9/10)

Navasis
Navasis

I just got it yesterday. I'm not to far but it's AWESOME. HOWEVER!.... it's a little confusing if you don't know whats going on so pay attention.

lpsyco666
lpsyco666

ign give 4.0 to graphics,to this game and 8.5,to Lone Survivor graphics hahhaahhahahaaaaaaaaaaa... Lone Survivor have graphics hummmm?!here?!....jajajaa..it looks like 128 k game good Review i see a lot of video Review in youtube and they say all the same its a good game...

DEATH775
DEATH775

Definitely going to buy this

mylulugirl
mylulugirl

Very nice review. I'm looking forward to playing it! It's sad to read the combat is not that good, but I love SH more for their puzzles and exploration and I'm hoping I like those (much better now with the addition to side quests).

lightkemuk
lightkemuk

i buy it and then totally downpoor

Joman1000
Joman1000

Honestly if they release a patch addressing the camera & framerate issues it will make this game a lot better.

XxXJeanLouisXxX
XxXJeanLouisXxX

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

krazken
krazken

I bought this last night and played through about 1 1/2 of the story. I've played (and replayed) every Silent Hill to date and enjoyed each one but this is my least favorite. At this point, it looks like the story could have potential, but I hate the framerate issues and the enviroments seem like a step backwards from Homecoming. The voice acting and character animations are poor which makes it hard to care about the characters. The combat is really boring, compared with the other games in the series. The music and sound, while not horrible, isn't on par with previous games. This will probably be the first Silent Hill I return because of the poor production values. I found myself getting bored of it and wanting to replay Homecoming instead.

staring_death
staring_death

Mcgnnis1 true words man, this the third time I'm writing this comment due to being so long! just an example: Alan Wake and Dead Space have become the Curt Cobains of gaming industry, while likes of Silent Hill and RE are leading the path for Glam Metals of video gaming! You can be open world, racist, derivative, Sexy (in a weirdly ridiculous way), disgusting, full of unjustified rage and violence and "sell, sell, sell!" or you can be moody, chilly, atmospheric, linear (but with a remarkable story depth), beautiful, have unbelievable rage (but with a good reason), represent a real hero, be empty of sexual extravaganza, and offer true gameplay, meaningful quests, and a real survival experience. and then "sell, sell, sell" some have the talent and go for the second, offer something magic that hardcore gamers would enjoy, and casuals try their best to get good at, while the others prefer to resort to fan service and offer anything a casual gamer wants to sell more! the second is something that EA and Capcom know very good! I mean verrrrry good! but poor Konami and Sega are still getting a hang of it. they want to expand their market to gather every last penny possible, but still their arrow misses one after another. Albeit Sega has improved significantly over the past 3 years, but Konami is still struggling. It's really sad to see important and much loved franchises like Silent Hill go down like this. "No matter how good the new game, it Still isn't a Silent Hill!"

lightkemuk
lightkemuk

u guys in gamespot do you think should i buy this game

Mcgnnis1
Mcgnnis1

Staring_death: Oh I totally agree with on every word you said about GS's scoring system but in this case I kinda got the vibe that the score of the game should have been higher based upon the written review. But what still hurts me is the fact that Silent Hill still is toiling away in mediocrity since the last great SH 3. While the resident evil series has enjoyed phenomenal sales despite being left behind its horror elements for good. Though it's good to see that other games like Dead Space and Alan Wake are picking up where SH left off in terms of true psychological horror. But it really pains me to see that everytime Silent Hill tries to reinvent itself, it always comes up short to the masterpieces that are Silent Hill 2 and 3. But yeah I do agree with you on the GameSpot's review and grading system

Mcgnnis1
Mcgnnis1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

666Rich666
666Rich666

I'm 41% through the game so far and aside from a few gripes, I'm enjoying it. Much better than Homecoming already. The side quests make the game feel much more expansive than any SH game to date. Will review it when I beat it, but so far I'm impressed.

UmbrellaIncsSpy
UmbrellaIncsSpy

Honestly this is one of the more belivable reviews I've read. IGN can bite my butt because their review was just horrible! The graphics and cinimatics alone in this game should have given it a solid 6. The game all together though now that should be a 10 but I'm ok with a 7.5. =] Great review!

mhaed
mhaed

I'm pretty far along in this game now, and while it wouldn't be fair for me to review it at this time, I do want to say it's spectacular so far! The attention to detail in this game blows me away. It's so evident that the developers had such a good time making this game.

staring_death
staring_death

Mcgnnis1 don't judge too harsh man, I've been with gamespot (as a reader) for about 6 years and I believe it's system of grading games is better than most of them, not that there wasn't any exceptions (who could forget the Kane and Lynch incident?) but still, 90% of the time they are correct. and what I like about gamespot's way of grading games, is that it's based on technicality, not feelings. I'm a video game critic myself, and I believe no matter how much you love a game, no matter how big the impact of the story, how fascinating the graphics, how special and life-like the sound effects, still, you can't give a game like Silent Hill a solid 8.0. you can't give Asura's Wrath more than 6.0 or 7.0. and you can't grade DMC3 as a solid 10 (a hardcore DMC fan here - the ones Mikami made, don't care about the other 2-). and no matter how crazy and unbelievable Ninja Gaiden's gameplay is, no matter how much old school gamers appreciate it's validity and great design as an action game, still we can't identify it as a complete game, still the targeting system sucks, the camera sucks big time, and no matter how sharp the controls, they get in the way, Sorry for the long explanation, wanted to give you a good insight of why the grading system might differ from what you read in the articles. it's all about being realistic and equitable.

Triplekia
Triplekia

The feeling of being creeped out when exploring isn't there anymore because the sound design is almost non-existent (one of the factors that makes Silent Hill scary). The main character is tailored to today's gaming, able to take crapload of beating before even close to dying. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the next iteration would involve AK-47, AC-130 and multiplayer ala Left4Dead.

Mcgnnis1
Mcgnnis1

and btw, why the hell did you moderated my previous comment GameSpot? I mean what, I can't even criticized you for the way you score and write your reviews?

Mcgnnis1
Mcgnnis1

I don't understand this, the reviewer seemed to really like the game. He points out the ways this games is different in a good ways and points out some flaws. But from the writing, I kept getting the sense that the reviewer really liked this entry, and I mean really liked it, but it only got like 7.5? I mean I don't care about the score per se, I just find it a bit odd..lol

Mcgnnis1
Mcgnnis1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

JoKeR_421
JoKeR_421

this is why till this day i dont understand why ppl rely sooo much on websites to tell them if the game is good. u know how many games i have truly enjoyed and loved that scored 5.0 or lower? also they are hating on the combat so much its ridiculous...i have spent over 5hrs so far and its feels fine, it is a lil stiff but not as bad as they make em out to be. overall this silent game is awesome, by all means not the best in the serious, but def shouldnt let it pass u. its amazing, from graphics, to monsters, story, the art style, and how they captured silent hill town, how scary it is. its a solid 8.5 in my book, id give it a 9 if they fix the frame rate a bit, still playable but does annoy me sometimes

vallee05
vallee05

I watched a trailer from Gamespot where the player could get one hit on the monster and kept whiffing, he had to be doing this on purpose to exaggerate the combat, I think the combat is just right. Unlike home coming were you can best the game without taking much damage because Alex was a weapon expert with his combos. I also like how you can carry one weapon and one melee weapon, instead of like 10. Very realistic addition, I don't understand the wide range of scores 4.5-8... 4.5 really I very picky on my games but if your not sure rent it before buying, I would recommend this game to any survival horror fan...way under-appreciated

vallee05
vallee05

I played every Silent Hill game, this game isn't as amazing as the Dead Space games, but it has a new twist on the series. Previous SH games revolves about the story on the town, this one revolves around your player and his past/ secrets. Unlike homecoming, you’re not a deadly combatant and it makes it more real, here is the break down Pros/cons: PROS: Weapon Break down, great puzzles (you can set the difficulty), you can only carry what you can realistically hold (no more carry 10 weapons at one time, so 1 gun and a melee weapon is all your carrying), 3D looks really good addition to the PS3 version CONS: frequent frame rate issues(patch this soon), some of your decision don’t impact the story much like you would think, players screams come at odd times and doesn’t fit the character, Overall, it’s an improvement from the previous title and a must buy for survival horror fans!

n-re
n-re

only 7? i expected more :\

franzito
franzito

@Lazy_Marine Score gaps doesn't mean to be scary, just two completely different points of view...

jcjamero
jcjamero

i love the chasing scene from SH Shatted memories,the way you open the door w/ flashlight and the way you look in your back it's all here in Downpour im sure i gonna love this too:)

franzito
franzito

Well, in the past GS gave to SH2 7.7, so. it means this one is al least good, although from SH4 to Homecoming the series just fell flat. I guess it's worth to try.

Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

It's just really hard to get excited about this series anymore. The formula that Silent Hill 2 and 3 had was great, but this slow change from the old, atmospheric Silent Hill games to the combat-focused newest ones are just really disappointing. After The Room, everything has just gone downhill. I just can't seem to be interested in these new games with the decline in quality.

Conjuration
Conjuration

Very mixed reviews from the critics. I'm not expecting AAA from SHD, and based on the reviews I've read (even IGNs 4.5) I'm still going to get it. Anyone who was expecting some kind of masterpiece out of SHD shouldn't have been in the first place.

MayMosh
MayMosh

How much do Konami pay you Gamespot? first Gamespot said that Silent Hill 2 original voices were awkward and flat now because Gamespot is an RPG fanboy and Downpour has a little bit of this Gamespot said that this Silent Hill wannabe is good game, one last thing check the original review for Silent Hill 2 and you will see what I am talking about.

Culochilegge
Culochilegge

The combat seems incredibly lame and boring, i don't see the old atmspher of the saga i loved, RIP silent hill,

mhaed
mhaed

Just got this game today! So far it is really awesome! Classic Silent Hill with a bad@$$ main character. Worth every penny thus far.

marvelx3
marvelx3

boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooringggggggggggggg

stamate
stamate

well ign gave poor rating for i am ilive but the game is still amazing doesnt care what one person thing for the game

Lazy_Marine
Lazy_Marine

Btw, IGN gave this 4.0 ! Recently Ign and gamespot have had huge score gaps.

SpookyJack
SpookyJack

@Skakruk: I'm not even comparing Silent Hill to Rage. My point was that framerate issues aren't necessarily hardware related. Downpour is just a poorly developed game.

Silent Hill: Downpour More Info

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  • First Released
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    Silent Hill returns with the eighth installment in its long-running horror genre series.
    7.9
    Average User RatingOut of 728 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Silent Hill: Downpour
    Developed by:
    Vatra, Konami
    Published by:
    Konami
    Genres:
    3D, Open-World, Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language