Downpour is a roller coaster, mixing in terrible combat with great puzzles, and a messy, but enjoyable, story

User Rating: 6.5 | Silent Hill: Downpour PS3
Ever since Silent Hill 4: The Room, it's pretty dificult to deny that the quality of the games have been lower since. While Origins and Homecoming had their positives, their enphasis on combat and low horror certainly weighted. Shattered Memories certainly took a step in the right direction, despite some notable flaws in the gameplay. How does the next entry, Downpour, fare compared to the past? Let's check.

GRAPHICS:
I have no idea how this happened, but this game looks worse than Homecoming on a technical level, and Shattered Memories on an asthetic level. Sure, when looking at a distance the game looks good, and some enviroment have a great intention to detail, but that doesn't excuse the bad facial animations and the muddled textures. Most characters, with the exception of Murphy, feel incredibly stiff in their animations, most notably on the children, which just look hideous. Often, the frame rate takes a huge dip, not to mention some textures that are ugly and take forever to load. So, if you look at a distance, it is pretty good, but a closer look shows a game really rough around the edges. 3/5

SOUND:
This is the first game in the series where long time sound designer Akira Yamaoka doesn't do the music. In his place is Daniel Licht, famous for working with the Dexter TV series. And he is a good replacement for Yamaoka. The atmosphere of this game is quite eerie, although it is a bit too quiet at times. And, most sadly, the game doesn't really have many memorable or catchy tunes like the previous ones had. Still, the sound design is not bad, just a little underwhelming.

In terms of voice acting, its quite solid. Murphy himself is really great, being very believable and it does make you believe in his character. The supporting cast also fares well, with the exception of the child characters, which sound bored and uninteresting. In general the voice acting for this game definitely matches the level of the last few games in the series.
3.7/5

STORY:
Downpour tells the tale of Murphy Pendleton, a prisioner who finds himself in the haunted town after his bus crashes. With no idea how to begin, Murphy makes his way into the town, remembering things he didn't want to and facing his inner demons.

On the surface, we have an interesting set up. Not only that, but this game takes place mostly on the south area of Silent Hill, and area that hadn't been explored much in previous games. As such, the game definitely has an original feel to it. Does it succeed in the end at telling a good and twisted tale up to its precessors?

Well, sort of. First of all, Murphy himself is one of the most sympathetic protagonists in the series. As the game progresses, you definitely feel his pain and suffering, and you genuinely want him to get out of there and get a move on with his life. His backstory is compelling; while it doesn't match characters like James and Walter Sullivan from previous games, he still is well developed.

However, this game misses the mark on many areas. The supporting cast, for one, is forgettable and made of characters that are just not very likeable, with the exception of one of the police officers at the prision. All the others are excessively mean spirited or boring/uninteresting. The female police officer that chases you all throughout the game is a perfect exaple. She is an absolute bitc* to you for no reason that we know, until the very end of the game, and depending on which ending you get, there is no reason for the way she acts, which makes her a very uncompelling character in the end.

The way the story progresses is also way too schizophrenic. It takes way too long to really understand what is going on, and the game takes a shot at some unnecessary subjects. Sure, other SH games had, say, references to child torture, and Homecoming way already graphic, but the areas this game touches are way too dark and don't particulary enhance the story. I don't want to spoil, but the game gets too disturbing at times, and for a Silent Hill game, that is saying something.

The monster design, which was always wattled in with the story, is pretty silly, with some incredibly generic design that, while make sense with what's up with Murphy, are in general quite silly and uninteresting.

One good point is that the endings are all very diferent from one another, and all are quite interesting. So, after all, is this a good story? Yes and no. Downpour has a good hero, and his dillemas are interesting and well put together in the end, but the game takes way to long to get you interested in the story, and a lot of it just either doesn't work, or feel necessary. Take it for what it is, but be aware of its missteps. 3.5/5

GAMEPLAY:
The game is a survival horror game. As Murphy, you have to make your way through the town, to finaly make your escape, while at the same time figuring out what the hell is going on.

The gameplay is mostly similar from Homecoming, but it still feels original and unique. First of all, you can always only have one firearm and one melee weapon at a time. At first this may seem stupid and annoying, but it is very well integrated in the game. You can pick a lot of diferent things from the enviroment to attack, so, despite the weapons being breakable, you always can find something to defend your self. This concept also makes you more on the edge, and weary of your surrounding. Some weapons, like the fireax, also have other uses, such as breaking wodden board, something that was present in Homecoming, and is once again well implement here.

Now, Murphy is well equipped to the battle, but the combat itself is a chore. Enemies in this game are much more agressive than any other iteration of the series, and often come at you at large numbers. Couple that with the fact that mosters can defend after a few hits, and you have a combat system that makes killing enemies take much more time than needed. Again, comparing it to Homecoming, where you were way too strong for most monsters, in this game enemies are way too much of a pain to kill. I could single out one specific enemies as annoying, but they all have something that will make you want to kill a puppy, be the Screamers shouting that stunts you or the Dolls shadows that you cannot see clearly. So, it is better to just run from them whenever you can.

Puzzles are a staple of the series, and they are back in this game, and are by far the best aspect of the gameplay. You will always find a note around you telling the solution, which rarely is too hard to figure out, and they are always quite smart. A great example is the play puzzle on the church, which is just a lot of fun to do.

This game also brings some elements from Shattered Memories. First, you can look behind you, which is great to see if there are enemies coming towards you. Second and most noticeable, the Otherworld segments in this game normaly feature you running away from something that wants to kill you, similar to that game's. Speaking of the Otherworld, it looks good and plays nicely, but the chase sequences can be kind of frustrating at time. The way the camera is positioned is also similar to that game, and the exploration feels similar to that one too, and it works just as well as it did in Shattered Memories.

A new addition to this game are side quest. All throughout the town you can find sidequest to be done, which normaly give you a small reward, such as a first aid kid, and give you more backstory on the town and on Murphy, since it opens up his thoughts on specific characters. They are a good addition, and are never too hard to do, but they are optional, and you will generally have to go out of your way to do them, so I didn't particulary bother too much. Another nice thing from this game is that there are many easter eggs from previous game, and spotting them is a lot of fun for a SH nerd like myself.

At the end of the day, the good parts of the gameplay outweight the bad ones. The puzzles, exploration and sidequesting is enough to make you forgive the game for its bad combat. The game will take you about 10 or so hours to beat, and there incentive to comeback with multiple endings, doing sidequest you missed and getting trinkets, which are collectible scattered throughout the game. 4/5

OVERALL:
I really wanted to love this game, but at the end of the day, this is just another okay entrie in the series. Downpour's story, while good, feels haphazard and way too messy at times, the combat is a pain, and the visuals are not impressive. There is still fun to be had with the puzzles and seeing the truth behing Pendleton, but be aware that this game will frustrate and annoy you many times.