Blimey. Thirteen years. That's crazy. It's been thirteen years since Konami's first Silent Hill game came out on the old PlayStation, but I still recall playing it to this day...
I never really got on with Capcom's Resident Evil
series, much preferring the spookier charms of the town that gave Konami's series its name and location; Silent Hill, a town in the middle of nowhere filled with disturbing nastiness. I always preferred it to the shock and gore of Capcom's long running franchise.
That first game blew me away, showing me that a game could provide a player an atmosphere that both drew you in and disconcerted you in equal measures.
Silent Hill 2
continued the trend in style, bringing in the iconic Pyramid Head and offering up a true challenge as well as a great story.
Time passed by, more games were released (including the excellent fourth iteration, The Room
) and more characters visited their darkest fears in the lakeside town. Now we find ourselves back in Silent Hill
with the latest in the series: Downpour
. Recent additions have proven to have diluted the brand somewhat, so how does this one fare?
In short, not bad. It's certainly not a return to the form of something like SH2
, but it's certainly heading in the right direction. Taking on the role of Murphy Pendleton, you're a guy fighting with his inner demons, all of which are revealed through the course of the game.
Previously a model citizen, Murphy has been thrown into prison for reasons unknown (at the start of the game, at least) but finds himself on the run following a bus crash while being transferred to a new facility.
Of course, nothing goes smoothly when said bus is wrecked on the outskirts of Silent Hill.
The "Grate" Escape
The overall aim of the game, as always, is to escape from the town. In a series of flashbacks you'll discover the true reason why Murphy found himself incarcerated and how deeply he's linked to other characters – much like every other release in the series, to be honest.
Early decisions potentially come back to haunt you later in the game as you progress through the Devil's Pit (a run-down tourist attraction on the edge of town with a story all of its own) and make your way into Silent Hill itself.
The Devil's Pit section eases you in gently and is actually pretty linear, but it's an ideal way to get into the SH
mindset. Everything needs to be checked just in case there's a weapon or artefact that could help you further down the line – these games are not for those who want to simply rush through.
If you've never played a game in the series before this is a perfect introduction, giving you plenty of hints should you need them but also allowing you to make your own mistakes.
However, it's not until you enter the town that you truly get the feeling you're in a Silent Hill
game; it's here where you now have the opportunities to explore and discover the side quests that litter the streets and buildings.
These have very little effect on the outcome of the game itself, but you do get a very satisfying feeling knowing you've dealt with these added extras. Some add to your understanding of your surroundings, but should you wish to ignore them your gameplay experience won't be diminished.
You can, in fact, finish the main quest in under ten hours, then go back to wrap up all the little details should you feel the need for such completion. There's the usual selection of different game endings too, ranging from good to bad to the downright daft – I really recommend checking out the 'Surprise!' ending, even if you have to just watch it on YouTube.
The voice acting and music are decent, and visually Downpour
is... well, it's not horrible. Actually, the many good things about Silent Hill Downpour
must unfortunately be balanced out with a few failings.
Some sections (like the previously mentioned Devil's Pit) are actually quite stunning, but many areas suffer from graphical imperfections that are inexcusable this late into a console's life.
In particular, there's a lot of juddering when there's a lot happening on screen and when the game auto-saves (which is often), leading to a loss of control for a couple of seconds; pretty annoying, especially during one of the frequent chase sequences.
Also, for a game that requires you to investigate pretty much everything in close detail there's an awful lot of repeated textures: every desk, every door... they all look the same. Maybe everyone in Silent Hill gets their furnishings from the same shop?
Several characters aren't really fleshed out and it's not until late in the game that you discover what links the various players. This feels like it's meant to be a shocking twist but I was left with a sense of dissatisfaction after all those hours of build-up. Perhaps revealing such things earlier would have given the story a bit more oomph?
You also get the feeling that Downpour
is setting itself up for a sequel revolving around a certain underused character, sadly to the detriment of the game in front of you. It's hard to care about an apparently important character that you barely see...
Nurse! The Blinds!
I'm pretty torn about Silent Hill Downpour
. As a fan of the series I'm delighted to see a new one that takes me back to the town, but I can't help but feel so much more could have been done. It feels like a few more weeks of development and care could have given us something that could compare to the great early games of the franchise.
We're probably never going to see the likes of Pyramid Head and the nurses again, but surely it's something for Konami to aim for?
A brand new story in a classic location
Interesting puzzles and brilliantly constructed side quests
Entertaining all the way through...
...until about an hour from the end
Some characters feel flat and underused
Bloody awful graphical glitches
SPOnG Score: 62%