I had originally planned to do a Focus on the Frightful about the theme of revenge in Silent Hill: Downpour (and other media) but I’ve been spring cleaning and mixed up my days. In other words, I totally thought yesterday was Wednesday. So, I’m doing the game review tonight and next week I’ll be going more into depth about the themes.
Silent Hill: Downpour is the eighth Silent Hill video game installment and the last fully-released video game in the series. Just like its predecessors, Downpour combines exploring abandoned surroundings, talking to characters, and solving puzzles, set against a slow, psychological horror theme. Different from the previous game Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is the return of combat. The player often has to fight off monsters using a variety of weapons, but he can carry only one melee and one ranged weapon who can deteriorate over time. Entirely new to the series is the introduction of a weather system: there is a full day and night cycle and rain often warns the player of danger that is approaching. It is possible to hide until the weather becomes better again.
Title: Silent Hill – Downpour | Series: Silent Hill | Developer: Vatra Games | Publisher: Konami | Release Date: March 13th, 2012 | Genre: Survival Horror | Platform: PS3 | Source: Purchased | Unstarred
Silent Hill: Downpour Review
This is my third time playing Silent Hill: Downpour I so I think I’ve given it a fair chance by now. I got it when it first came out and I was so excited for a new Silent Hill game to rock my socks after the very, very disappointing release of Silent Hill: Homecoming.
Unfortunately, Downpour was not it. At first I thought I would love it. I didn’t seem to experience the glitches that other people reported so that wasn’t an issue. Really the only technical issues I experienced was the game getting slightly jerky in the town sections from it trying to load the whole town section at once. But, I’m old. I’m used to that sometimes, so it didn’t really bother me. I mean, they could have used the fog to mask some of the loading issues but, y’know. They didn’t deem the fog necessary.
Ok, first I’ll start with some positives. I liked Murphy, for the most part. I felt they could have done more with his character but I’ll get into that later. The voice actor was very good. I thought his voice sounded familiar but looking him up Downpour is the only listing on his IMDB page. Which either means it is a known actor under a pseudonym or this is literally the only thing he’s appeared in. I lean to the former because the voice quality is very, very good.
I thought the combat was good. I liked the idea of having to scramble to find a melee weapon sometimes and it gave it a very ‘in the moment’ tense feel to it that I liked very much. In fact, I think I would have enjoyed it more if melee had been your only choice. The guns are hard to aim with and just feel very unnecessary.
I liked the plot. For awhile.
And there were some very good moments that hit me in the gut hard. I’ll probably go into them more next week to keep this non-spoilery and they’re very tied into the plot.
I have been so divided on the side-quest and partially open-world attempt. I honestly don’t think open world suits most horror, in general, and does not suit Silent Hill in particular. The side quests were generally interesting and some were very creepy and I enjoyed doing them. The Ribbons side quest was very dark and felt very tied to the town and feel of Silent Hill. The Gramophone (in which you replay a murder backward) was one of my favourites. Cinema Veriti was also very cool in which you step into movie reels that you splice together. For most of them you either do not get a reward or the reward you get is so minuscule compared to the difficulty involved (Dead Man’s Hand). I know they were meant to encourage town exploration but… I hate to compare to Silent Hill 2 already but SH2 encouraged exploration and actually rewarded you with health items, ammo, etc. You can explore all the nooks and crannies of the Silent Hill roads but you’re very rarely rewarded for it. The side quests in general, while cool, felt like they distracted from the overall plot of the game.
I liked the melee combat but, as I said before, they could have just left the guns out, entirely. They weren’t easy to use, they didn’t work properly, at times, on a technical level. There were quite a few times when I would have a monster in front of my face, my red dot right on its face and I’d shoot and it wouldn’t hit. Now, I’m no expert but a shotgun that can knock a monster down several feet away should take it out at that close of range but it’s like it didn’t register it as a hit.
Ok, bear with me on a Silent Hill 2 tangent. It will make sense, I swear. In SH2 there was a very small but very well fleshed out cast of characters. Silent Hill: Downpour has two main characters, Murphy and Anne. Anne seems to have a bit of a grudge against you for some reason (you find out at the end of the game). You also have a brief run-in with a DJ, a postman and another guy who is part of the town backstory but ultimately serves no purpose other than to give you a choice to be ‘good’ or an asshole. DJ Ricks dies literally moments after meeting him face to face. His sole purpose seems to be exposition. The Postman I have other issues with since he seems to be firmly in the Mystical Negro category and is just a mysterious guy that gives sage advice and propels you forward.
Murphy was ok and the actor did his best but Murphy needed more. He has very little reaction to anything and just feels so unfinished. Anne could have used way more depth to her, as well and I think a DLC focusing on her journey through the town would have been really cool.
Monsters and Level Design
The monsters were easily the most disappointing part of gameplay. There were only a few types of monsters that really seemed… blah, compared to the care put into past monsters in the series. Even Homecoming, for all its faults, had very symbolically creative monster designs. The monsters were just meh. They weren’t very scary and their attacks were more annoying than tension-inducing.
I’m torn on level design. It was cool but also bland. Which I know is an oxymoron. The places and levels themselves made sense with the game and the plot. The puzzles were cool but again, they weren’t really symbolically tied to the plot. They had a very M.C. Escher feel to them as did a lot of the levels. Which were cool but felt very divorced from the aesthetic of Silent Hill.
Oh baby, the plot. This is where it all fell apart for me. And why Downpour, out of all of the recent iterations, was so damn disappointing. It had so much potential and started so strongly. It had such a good start and it all went downhill about mid-game. I’ll get into the minutia more next week because this is spoiler-free but revenge has such a strong theme to it that it’s very hard to screw up. And, yet, they did. If they had carried it through they could have had a story as good and complex as Silent Hill 2 and when it started I was so excited. Then so let down.
So, yeah. I know this is old but if you were looking for something to tide you over until hell freezes over and Konami deigns to give us a new one then I would replay anything between 1 and 4, Origins and Shattered Memories. Downpour is just frustrating. Frustrating plot, level design and monsters. And they had so many good ideas to work with.
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.
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