The Silent Hill series has been in a hole since Silent Hill veterans Team Silent was disbanded. Silent Hill: Homecoming was good, but it was very uninspired. Silent Hill: Origins was marred by game design. Finally, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories took the series in a different direction and, while it was a fantastic game, it wasn't what Silent Hill was meant to be. In the original three Silent Hill games, you dreaded going around corners, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was just creepy. Now, Vatra Games has decided to take a shot at it and brought us Silent Hill: Downpour. It intends to give us a new experience with Silent Hill. Is this Downpour a torrent of joyful tears? Or are they agonizing tears? Tears that hurt more than any blade.
Silent Hill has a new visitor and his name is Murphy Pendleton. Murphy is a prisoner, incarcerated for unknown crimes and is about to be moved to a new prison. On the way there, the prison bus goes off the road and Murphy finds himself on the outskirts of a little town called Silent Hill. He decides to make his way to the town in order to find a way out. Things don't go according to plan and he realizes that something is VERY wrong here. Murphy starts seeing monsters and other things haunting him from his past. The overall story is pretty interesting, but the execution is a little muddled sometimes. Sure, that's the Silent Hill thing but here, it feels intrusive. Murphy is a very different main character, more ready to acknowledge his predicament than the others and he's likable.
There are a few more characters in the game and they serve their purpose. A few of the are mysterious, a few are not. There are a few things in the game that will alter your ending and there are plenty of sidequests with their own stories as well. Overall, the story is good, but flawed in it's execution with symbolism being really lacking or not apparent at all.
The gameplay is always where Silent Hill has faltered and this one is no different. The basic movement is good, better than the previous games and the camera is much faster than in Homecoming which is a huge plus. The combat, however, is much worse than in Homecoming. You press the square button to attack and the triangle button to block. You can hold the L2 button to lock-on and the R2 button throws your weapon. The combat is pretty broken as your attacks are so awkward, the hit detection is a little off and the enemies can block and counter your attacks pretty easily and you can't do the same to them.
The enemies are also a little too tough for how bad the combat is. Of course, running away is always an option. Other than fight, you'll solve some puzzles. The puzzles aren't the greatest the series has seen, but they aren't bad and the side-quests are really interesting. Each side-quest has their own story and they are usually pretty twisted and dark. My personal favorite is a ribbon trail and that's all I'll spoil since it was quite the surprise. The other aspect of gameplay are the Otherworld segments which usually boil down to chase sequences similar to those in Shattered Memories. These are dull, but offer some decent scenery. Overall, Downpour isn't that great to play, but there are some bright spots of course that combat leaves a bad taste.
The music is without Akira Yamaoka. Daniel Licht, the composer for the show Dexter, has done a decent job with the music, it's not memorable but it does it's job. The intro song by Korn is very out of place, but it alone isn't a terrible song depending on your tastes. The voice acting is decent and the sound effects are good, but it's not mind blowing, just average.
The presentation is back and forth. The overall visuals look alright and the environments are detailed, but there are a lot of technical issues. There is a lot of screen tearing, texture loading (thanks Unreal Engine!) and a lot of hitching. The character models look alright, but the enemy design is the worst in the series, even worse than Shattered Memories single enemy. There are a lot of weapons lying around that you can pick up and break. The town also looks great and the detail makes the exploration more fun. Another issue is the lack of fear, there are plenty of unnerving locations, but only a few terrifying moments. The technical issues almost ruin the visuals, but the small details and the decent character models make it through.
- Interesting story
- Fun exploration and side quests
- Good voice work
- Murphy is a believable character
- Town is nicely detailed
- An original take on Silent Hill
- Some nice looking, creepy environments
- Broken combat
- Bland monster design
- Technical issues
- Otherworld segments are mostly chase scenes
- Story is executed poorly
- Music isn't made by Akira
- Lack of scares
Overall, Silent Hill: Downpour is better than Homecoming, it might not look like it from my scores but it being an original take is enough to make it better. The story is interesting, Murphy is likable, the exploration is fun and the side quests are creepy good. The game might have some technical issues and basic design issues but, if you can stomach the dreadful combat, it is worth playing. The next step in Silent Hill is a more competent development team. They have the right idea giving Silent Hill more of a back story with the side quests now they just need some good gameplay to go with it.