Silent Hill: Downpour review

Throughout the years, the Silent Hill games have managed to carve out a nice little niche in the horror survival genre, with ordinary folks stumbling into extraordinary and scary situations within the strange, little town.  Fans have embraced the games rather quickly, flaws and all, and they were eager to see where the next chapter in the series, Silent Hill: Downpour, would lead.  Well, the good news is that the story is probably one of the strongest in the series to date, focusing on a new character that’s just scrambling to survive.  However, those familiar flaws we mentioned earlier?  Yeah, they’re back.

The game focuses on Murphy Pendleton, an inmate at a local prison who seems like a nice-enough guy when he’s first walking through the halls.  Moments later, however, you’ll see how vicious he becomes when he beats a toweled man to death in the shower, for reasons (yet) unknown.  This leads to his transfer to a tougher facility, but along the way, the bus he’s being transferred on crashes.  That leaves Murphy to wander through Silent Hill, not only looking for answers from the accident, but also things that tie in with his own personal dilemmas.

Silent Hill: Downpour really plays with your emotions when it comes to its story, sometimes giving you moral choices (save the deputy that wants to kill you, or let her drop to her death?) and providing more than enough interesting characters to keep you guessing.  Konami has also done a superb job regenerating scares, something that a couple of the previous games were sorely missing.  If you can, play the game in its intended 3D format, using the proper television.  You’ll love it when the camera angle goes wrong, or if something jumps out at you.

As for the town, it’s well worth exploring.  Not only can you wander around outside, occasionally getting into encounters with monsters and avoiding bottomless pits (they are EVERYWHERE), but also through interior places, like the local diner or houses that all of a sudden come undone.  Konami did fine work with the game’s graphic engine, even if there are times it stutters when you’re trying to do something simple, such as saving your game or manipulating the camera.  Perhaps a patch could fix that in the future.

Also, for a Silent Hill game, the dialogue is quite serviceable, with solid (if not incredible) voice acting and great music cues placed throughout the game.  This is one sure to send chills down your spine — especially if you’re wearing headphones.

The game sounds like a great ride, but where it derails, almost completely, is in the gameplay.  The puzzle solving throughout Downpour can be downright tedious, from trying to find items to scrounging around a solution to get through a locked door.  Some hints would’ve been preferred for lesser players, though Silent Hill fans will probably be right at home.

Like other SH games, the combat is clunky.  Yes, you can effectively hit enemies with weapons, or even go all fisticuffs on top, but the aiming feels off, and too many times, you’ll miss your target completely, leaving you vulnerable for a counter-attack.  What’s more, there aren’t many enemy types throughout the game.  The same old monsters keep coming back, time after time.  Variety wouldn’t have been out of the question here, guys.

We will give proper kudos to Konami for at least trying with Silent Hill: Downpour, with its great new story and presentation.  However, it should’ve given that same effort to most of the gameplay and maybe provided a little more clarification when it came to certain puzzles.  Though it’s far from the worst place to be, some folks just won’t feel like Silent Hill’s right for them.