Silent Hill: Downpour Review

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.

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 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

46 comments
lfvando
lfvando

I´ve never played a Silent Hill game, but I think the game is good. The sound and ambientation are really scary. There is an aura of mistery that involves the protagonist and this is very good. Deserves 8.0 or more. Sorry for my bad english.

zombiedriveby
zombiedriveby

the only thing that I feel is underwhelming so far is the monster design ...but other than that ....I feel like it's  a very solid entry to the franchise ...and I have not really had a problem with frame rate ..not as much being described in the review 

sealsa3
sealsa3

 I really hate Konami right now this is bullshit that we waited this long for a damn patch that was 3 mb and doesn't fix a friggin thing. I want my money back and I condemn this game for ever making it into the market. there is no excuse for having something this shitty unfixed. I really hope this hurts Konami really bad, any punishment for this is too good for them. screw the western devs I want the jap. devs back at least they know how to make a damn horror game.

miserable247365
miserable247365

Silent Hill is my favorite franchise, but this game was hugely disappointing. I haven't played Origins or Shattered Memories, but for me this is by far the worst in the series. I thought Homecoming was the worst in the series, but once this game was released I was wrong. Worst music, atmosphere, story , combat, puzzles, monsters, the list goes on. I liked the Otherworld parts at first, but they were the same thing over and over and got monotonous. I liked the story at first, but hated the endings. Fighting is just frustrating. Tank controls were better than this garbage. There are several points in the game where you just hear the same sound effect over and over, and its just irritating. The side quests were very good. Probably the best part of the game. I didn't think this game was scary at all. I can't even think of a single time that I was startled, let alone creeped out. It had some cool parts (like the cinema and the Hansel and Gretel parts), but nothing frightening. The voice acting was well done. I think it was Dax Sheppard, which is ironic because I was waiting for Kutcher to pop up on the screen and tell me I got Punk'd. I paid $18 for this game, and I wish that either the game was never made, or it wasn't Silent Hill. Then I could have easily overlooked it. I would rate this game at 6/10. I gave Homecoming an 8.5.

noctislucis21
noctislucis21

okay i've got no problem with this game i just felt how awesome this game is but monsters were so limited only screamers mostly i've seen and i really didn't like it.

 

Most easiest silent hill game in puzzle solving.

 

other than this visually it was best looking game in silent hill series \m/

djclintonk
djclintonk

The fighting mechanics still really really suck! If it weren't for that issue the game would be awesome.

 

entereddanny
entereddanny

Underwhelming sound design?? Have you heard the Hansel & Gretel melody?

entereddanny
entereddanny

Haven't finished yet, but I can honestly say that this is one of my favourite games. Behold, Silent Hill is scary again!

lpsyco666
lpsyco666

this game deserves a 3...graphic engine and image are (damaged)is a shame

 i bought the game yesterday and i have already handed over today.....

has more trouble than 30 minutes in the dark souls 200 hours....

Syndicalist
Syndicalist

does anyone know if installing Downpour on the xbox360 will help negate the framerate issues?This game is awesome and actually the frame rate issues only seem to crop up occassionally. It only happened around the starting area for me, and I havent seen any since.

dinslacck
dinslacck

the best thing in silent hill is when you know the real mastermind. and it was like "I knew it!" just sayin

staring_death
staring_death

The game is wonderful. just began to progress through. atmosphere is excellent and captivating. I think despite its flaws (like facial animations and gestures) it deserves an 8.0. cause it really delivers! but I still have to play more and then comment precisely.

sheytoonak
sheytoonak

finished it,really a good one after all,specially in designing of the other world.i like it,enough horror not too much

mauel_1973
mauel_1973

@Ripper_TV I can't stand them too, but of course when occur frequently. However, luckily in the console games they are quite rare. :) By the way, the Pal 60hz version of SotC was overall optimized and indeed doesn't present framerate issues, unlike the Ntsc counterpart (I own both of them). ;-)

chadbtownvt
chadbtownvt

see they changed the rating on the rating of this game, maybe they will fix resident evil:operation racoon city rating, douches

TomJimJack
TomJimJack

Turn back time anyone? ;) That was awesome!

brain20035
brain20035

Just played an hour of the game and I can just say that I'm relieved. It's the best Silent Hill game I've played after so long!!

Misfit_Knight
Misfit_Knight

I've always been a Silent Hill fan since" Silent Hill: The Room". So, even if your a new comer or a fan of the series, you should not miss out on this one. I never had fame rate problems while playing because I download it to my hard drive.The only complaint I had was the quality of monster types. But the game is awesome and fun to play; The story is interesting, gameplay has a creepy atmosphere, puzzles are challenging and side quest are fun to explore for extra story missions.Pick up Silent Hill Downpour if you havn't done so already.

Misfit_Knight
Misfit_Knight

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

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

I can't stand framerate drops in games. I think the only exception that still deserved to be played was The Shadow of the Colossus.

undeadgamer183
undeadgamer183

I play this since yesterday and the best part about is that it looks kinda fresh for a silent hill sequel.This is tottaly worth it.

drknessfeeds
drknessfeeds

would have liked more variety in the monsters, other than having a blast playing through.

sunghyun26
sunghyun26

Very fair review from Gamespot I can't believe it, IGN gave this game 4.5 for no good reason, I'm playing it and i'm loving it and i'm not even a fan of horror but it's like watching a very good movie.

TomJimJack
TomJimJack

I'm still playing it and though rough on the surface (that only adds to its originality) Silent Hill Downpour is a genuine horror game with great puzzle solving, lot of exploring and the right amount of combat for a survival game. Though fan of the early series I am glad that Vatra took a different direction in this one, preserving the old values and adding this raw aspect to the Silent Hill. The town never felt more concrete and mysterious since SH2.

GamerOuTLaWz
GamerOuTLaWz

finally a survival-horror game that seems to have sticked to its roots. Man the game looks really good how come theres no god damn PC release???? I WANNAPLAY THIS

GamerOuTLaWz
GamerOuTLaWz

vvvv too much stuff??? LOL they actually found a good and inovative way to make you translate to hell and you say too much stuff is going on? kid that doesnt like puzzles youre the cancer to gaming growth

JmanSeo
JmanSeo

Though it doesn't feel like a true silent hill game (too much "stuff" is going on from the video's), it looks way better than Homecoming, which I liked (but not as much as Silent Hill 2). I do like how this game has tripper effects from the video that Homecoming lacked. Also the facial animations look 800 times better. It reminds me of Silent Hill 3, where it had some really random yet really awesome events that made you think "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?!?!". Going to have to give this a try.

Xiloyd
Xiloyd

even i could draw them better and fck u

Xiloyd
Xiloyd

Monsters look unoriginal at all

depman1972
depman1972

shame its not released yet for some reason in the UK

Giygas07
Giygas07

Not having played the game but tracking much of its premise/world, I'd postulate that a 7.5 is an accurate and fair rating. That said, I'm not in any rush to play this, but I'll get around to it eventually. The reviewer's articulation was tasteful and fun to read; good work!

Granpire
Granpire

I thought there were too many pronouns and not enough variation of words in this review. But that's just me. It gets the point across well. Is the game scary at all, though?

Iridescent406
Iridescent406

@buster898685 I also hate comments that ask for thumbs that don't mean anything at all. Nice try though. I want to give this game a try, it looks really interesting.

Stray-Child
Stray-Child

i like it as an action horror game but not as a silent hill game.

buster898685
buster898685

thumbs up if you hate comments that say first!! and this is a ok games but after silent hill 4 the series kind of died but its still good

Venom_Raptor
Venom_Raptor

A decent score, I'll still give it a go. And @chardokufan - grow up.

chardokufan
chardokufan

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

TomJimJack
TomJimJack

 @djclintonk It was build to be like that this is a survival horror not an action game. Murphy is not a train killer is just an average guy caught in an extraordinary situation. 

Syndicalist
Syndicalist

 @Misfit_Knight 

 

It's good to know installing removes the framerate problems. I needed to find out before I delete some junk for the install. Thanks for clearing that up!

miserable247365
miserable247365

 @TomJimJack  @djclintonk The combat consists of holding block until the enemy stops attacking, then countering. Repeat for 10-20 hours. No, survival horror is not known for great gameplay, but this is horrible.

TomJimJack
TomJimJack

 @miserable247365  @djclintonk The fact that you describe the combat as block holding shows how little you know of this game were enemies use different type of attack based on their constitution, to not mention the effective use of firearms (there were few but very well handled) Play the game for what it is not for what you wanted it to be!

Silent Hill: Downpour More Info

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  • First Released
    • PlayStation 3
    • 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
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    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
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    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language