Welcome to Silent Hill
The streets are quiet, the skies are gray and all roads lead to a dead end. There are monsters that lurk around and the only weapons available are the ones that you find left by the people who used to reside in the town of Silent Hill.
The eight installment to the Silent Hill series, Downpour was developed by Vatra Games. Despite being new to the franchise, the developer retained the same visual style as previous Silent Hill Games while giving it a somewhat different feel. Their approach on this survival horror game proved interesting; doing some things right but also leaving a few that needed improvement.
Once you’re in, you can’t get out
The player follows Murphy Pendelton, a prisoner inmate whose reason for being in Silent Hill is slowly revealed throughout the game. The predictable arrival at Silent Hill sees Murphy being transferred to another prison on a bus with other inmates. Looking away for a second, the driver realizes the road is out and crashes. Thus the story begins.
Murphy’s trying to figure out why he’s in Silent Hill in the first place and wanders around the town. Downpour differs slightly from the other games by its number of side missions. While completing the main story, you come across many side stories that are interesting on their own accord and these keep pulling on you until you complete them. Side missions include finding several paintings, hunting for hidden treasure, returning stolen items and finding items for a homeless man as payment for giving you directions. The one I enjoyed most was finding a missing girl whose mother left red and yellow ribbons all over Silent Hill to indicate where to go left or right in order to find her.
Also new to Downpour is the size of its map and the sheer amount of places just begging to be discovered. There are so many that it is easy to get distracted, skipping whole parts completely. The map details street names, shows you where you cannot go and places blue question marks for unfinished business. While all these are helpful, it is difficult to keep track of what each question mark means. It would have been so much better if a short explanation had been added to them.
The combat system has been largely left intact as compared to the previous Silent Hill games. You pick up items such as pipes, rocks, shovels and other random objects and these become your weapons. Most of the objects that you find are placed in the right context and rarely you will find something completely out of place with its surroundings. Everything can break too. Hitting a monster with the same weapon too many times will cause it to break and even a shotgun will fall apart if you use it as a melee weapon. While it impedes your progress, it really does brings the survival aspect back into the game.
Fighting monsters can be frustrating at times as they tend to move faster than you can swing. In Silent Hill: Homecoming, you could actually see when you hit something but there’s none of that in Downpour and it is sorely missed. I was also hoping to encounter more creepy-looking things than the six different types I have found in the game. Six may be enough but it is also a missed chance to add depth to the game.
Creepily, the radio that you carry goes off whenever an enemy is getting near. You have the option to turn it off which may even be scarier and I recommend players to try both. I also liked the addition of the UV Flashlight which can be used to discover footprints, blood stains, and clues to where you have to go next.
Voice acting in Silent Hill: Downpour is enjoyable, Murphy’s voice in particular. His narrative sounds believable and when he’s in pain, you almost feel it yourself. The music was not made by popular Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka which is unfortunate as it does not have the same depth as the music in previous games. The sound score fares better. Eerie sounds make you feel like you’re being followed, distant whispers and yells cut through the quiet, there’s plenty to get your skin crawled up. Even so, I would have liked there to have been more music, even if the silence and creepy sound effects do add to the feel of the game.
In Silent Hill: Homecoming the siren would ring and you knew that everything was about to change into the red, bloody, and messed up world of Silent Hill. You rarely enter this state in Downpour, but when you do, it’s interesting. Many times, I found myself running away from something that wasn’t actually visible and stopping not being an option: if you stop, something will take you and you die.
Not that scary
Frame rate issues in Silent Hill can be maddening. While running around, the game can lag for a few seconds, severely affecting your gameplay. They are random, very noticeable and cannot be avoided. But of course the real question is: is Silent Hill scary? There were moments that the game startled me but nothing made me scared out of my mind. Some areas are really dark and if you turn off the flashlight, it’s literally pitch-black. In one basement, you search for objects in the dark and you find a hand gun. Suddenly, a woman’s voice is heard behind you but once you turn around there’s nothing but darkness. Then Murphy gets hit by something, or someone, and you’re in combat mode. There are ghosts! Shooting around and missing most of the shots and then your gun serves as a melee weapon; this whole scene got to me and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Silent Hill: Downpour does have its issues, most of these should have been patched up and fixed before release. Nothing can really compare to the original horror games, but it’s a good effort. The side missions will keep you occupied while the story line takes a bit to figure out, true to every other Silent Hill out there.
Side missions are interesting and use of UV Light is creative.
Frame rate issues. Wish there had been more monsters.