With outright amazing storytelling and a dauntingly detailed world, Downpour is going to be an underrated cult classic.
In Silent Hill Downpour, you play as convict Murphy Pendleton. Though you don't know why he's in prison, you do see that he deserves to be there. After a particularly brutal scene in a shower that serves as the game's combat tutorial, Murphy is being transferred to another prison when the bus transporting him and a half dozen or so other inmates crashes and tumbles down the side of a hill. Unfortunately for Murphy, this takes him into the dreary monster infested town of Silent Hill.
It may sound like a simple start to a story, and that's because it is. The beauty of this opening is that, much like Silent Hill 1 & 2, you don't have to know the lore of Silent Hill. You don't have to know its tropes, its back story, or anything about it at all, really. All you have to know is that you're Murphy Pendleton, and strange things are afoot in the quaint titular town.
This is all the exposition needed, and it lets itself be known from the beginning. The way this story is told is absolutely excellent. Instead of having cutscene after cutscene after cutscene, you piece most of it together yourself through different newspaper articles, in-game storytelling and your own wit. It's quite simply one of the best executions of storytelling I've seen in any video game ever. Period.
Story isn't all that's here, though. While it may be one of the huge draws to the game for me, personally, the gameplay here is just as good as any Silent Hill deemed a classic. You wander through the beautifully rendered yet unnerving town with one simple objective; Escape from Silent Hill. Things aren't so simple, though. Most roads are closed off, or worse, simply missing; leaving nothing but an impossible chasm in the distance. As Murphy, you have to traverse your way through this meticulously detailed town to escape. That's your motivation, and with monsters, black hole entities wanting to swallow you, and characters that would seem "off" to any sane person, it's quite a good goal for Murphy and in turn, the player, to have.
Thankfully since this town, while not exactly huge, is extensively detailed, you'll have a blast exploring, solving puzzles, collecting items and searching for that perfect weapon to take down the, admittedly, terribly designed monsters with.
Even with poor monster design, the game is absolutely filled to the brim with frightening moments. From monsters jump scares to the eerie sounds of cries in sparsely lit apartment buildings, there are a lot of moments packed in that either made my skin crawl or jump out of my seat. This used to be a normal occurrence in the PS1 days, but the reason it's so noteworthy here is because horror games simply aren't made like this anymore. The atmosphere is downright creepy, and sometimes you really will feel unnerved. This is what survival horror is supposed to feel like, and I applaud Konami for taking this direction with the series again.
Downpour feels like, if anything, a modernized version of the first 3 Silent Hill games with a much more realistic behaving protagonist. Through playing, Murphy will say things that you, the player, are probably thinking yourself. He gets frustrated when the oddball cast of characters aren't being straight with him, curious when it comes to puzzles, or absolutely frightened when a monster jumps out at him. This is extremely effective, since I felt I haven't empathized with a character in a Silent Hill game this much, ever. I felt bad for Harry in the first game. I thought James, in the end, was a bad person in the second game. Murphy Pendleton ended up being one of my favorite Silent Hill protagonists of all time due to this reason, and VATRA games deserves to be credited for all of their amazing work on this guy.
The game, as a whole, looks great. The lighting effects are gorgeous, as are the main character models. Murphy himself moves realistically, and even the way his clothes move (particularly his prison outfit in the beginning of the game) looks absolutely wonderful. It's a very realistic look that payed off.
However, in taking that realistic design choice, parts of the game get the short end of the stick. The framerate for instance, in particular areas can literally stutter along. Texture pop in is commonplace. The former can become quite a problem, even leading to some freezes, but the latter, not so much. Much like the bad monster design, these are terrible blemishes on an otherwise near-perfect survival horror outing.
Silent Hill Downpour is a game that deserves to be played. It quickly seems to be fading into obscurity, and it seems people are willing to dismiss it based on the merit that it's a newer Silent Hill game (we all know how well Homecoming was received) but even with its problems and bad reputation, Silent Hill downpour is the only new classic feeling survival horror game I've played within at least 5 or more years.
With outright amazing storytelling and a dauntingly detailed world, Downpour is going to live on as an underrated cult classic, and maybe that's the way it should be.