Format: Playstation 3
Difficulty Played: First play through Normal/Normal
Next play through: Easy/Hard or Hard/Easy
The story is fantastic, in parts. I know that sounds odd so let me explain. You play Murphy Pendleton who’s in prison for unknown reasons. It cuts to a gory scene where you are taught to fight and then it fast forwards to the day you transfer to another prison. Once again you’re being thrown into another situation with little to no background. So as Murphy boards the bus some prison guard (Anne Marie Cunningham) gives him a ugly look and then you’re shown speeding down the highway with all the other inmates. For whatever reason, it think it was the weather conditions, the bus driver decides to take a detour through, you guessed it, Silent Hill. The bus crashes, Murphy escapes the grasp of Anne, and the adventure to get out of Silent Hill begins.
After this the moral choice system kicks and and you basically determine Murphy’s fate. Which is awesome since there are multiple endings. The main story is something similar to a American Twilight Zone episode built upon self discovery, with heavy amnesia like qualities. In all honesty it runs along the lines of a American tragedy and melodrama, unlike a Japanese one where they go out of their way to gross you the fuck out. Also it’s heavily laced with serial killers, child molesters, and tons of other nasty sub themes and stories to make you completely depressed and disgusted. There are many parts of the story that hint at things, rather then showing you. However, much of it doesn’t come together until the end. I’m trying not to give much away, but it looks like what would happen if a ‘strong silent’ character type landed in Silent Hill.
The main story is determined based on characters actions through a moral choice system. Silent Hill, and the game, seem to feed a lot on Murphy’s subconscious and worries. Since it’s all based upon morals more enemies you kill the more likely you’ll receive a bad ending. To a certain extent it’s like Silent Hill was testing Murphy to see if he was a reformed man or a cold blooded killer, because it takes NO short cuts in trying to terrify the shit out of the main character. So whole more choice system seems to play with the character like some sort of mindgame. Like it’s tempting to kill some of the enemies, considering some don’t re-spawn, but in the long run you could run into MORE. If you don’t you’ll only have to worry about running from the ones you didn’t currently kill. Other players have found out that you can cheat at the end and receive a completely different ending, as well as the achievement for it. This completely defeats the purpose of having a moral choice system, extending replay value, and some of the choices involved. However, in order to get all the endings you’d have to play the game 6 times and with all the other great games coming out no one really has time for that. So it’s really a double edged sword.
Then the rain system that adds to the moral choice system and the almost ‘no hope’ atmosphere, that Silent Hill has been known for, is fantastic and interestingly done. The more it rains, the more it spawns monsters. Also the more it rains the more the monsters know where you are. So the whole town, and rain, feels like a giant GPS for the monsters and you’re the destination. It’s really creepy. To say the least it does a great job on making you feel paranoid and to make you feel like the entire landmass of Silent Hill is out to get you. However it’s completely killed by the fact that you can go indoors and jump right back outside and everything is fine. To a certain extent it’s like you cheat the experience of waiting for all the towns creepy crawlies to go away and just find a way to skip over them completely if you want to. Sure, if you get tired of fighting that’s cool, but from what I’ve heard it wasn’t a option in the other Silent Hill games.
However the side quests stories are sometimes something to be desired. Yes, they’re dark and dreary and really add to the overwhelming feel of the town that everyone is just rife with sin. So they do add to the towns mythos, but some are so different they are distracting from the main story line and would probably deserve their own Silent Hill story. It’s feels more like a interactive tour guide for unfinished Silent Hill ideas. The two that do add to the main story line DO add some clarity, but not a whole lot. Also many of them aren’t even a factor in the moral choice system. So while you’re putting spirits to rest you aren’t obtaining any good points for it. To me this would just make since they added multiple endings. On top of that some of the rewards for the side quests give you great melee weapons, like the Tomahawk. However you can only get many of them half way through the game, and since you LOSE all weapons when Silent Hill changes worlds there’s almost zero point in getting them. YES, some respawn at the side quests final location, but that’s a lot of backtracking for a single freakin’ weapon and since you can only carry two (one melee and one gun) you’ll find yourself trying to pick between running back somewhere to get a melee weapon or go some place where you last saw a fireaxe.
The gameplay is simplistic for the most part, with some exception to ladders, some movement due to graphical issues, and combat. Many times I’d find him dancing around the bottom of the ladder instead of going up. There isn’t a button to do some of these actions, like duck under something. So you have no choice but to frustratingly watch him twitch while you try to force him to duck or grab a ladder and go up, or down, it. He isn’t PewDiePie so he doesn’t have the right to flounder about in a game doing stupid things and talking to toilets. Also considering I don’t have the patience to watching him to a poor rendition of a square dance underneath the very area I need to go to escape monsters or progress in the game only pisses me off. Stephano isn’t under the ladder Murphy! Stop looking for him and get up the ladder!!!!
Then there was a really neat game mechanic that never worked, or that I wasn’t able to fully use it. You can walk up to a door and slightly open it to peer inside the next room. I thought it was neat considering most games only give you a crappy keyhole to look through and it would appear grainy or just too muddled to notice anything of any importance. Downpour it gives you full visual advantage of the room. However, I found this to be worthless more then half the time considering the monsters DIDN’T appear until after you passed a corner or you did something to make them spawn. So while it would have been awesome if it worked. On top of that it seems some of them were designed to BLEND IN with the background. So I often found myself walking around and I’d turn around and they would be two inches from Murphy’s face.
Another nice feature is that before you start the game you can choose your level of difficulty for the main story and a separate difficulty for the puzzles you’ll encounter. This is awesome if you just want the story, or just want the puzzles, and don’t want to be bothered with the latter. I wish this was integrated into other games considering most puzzles you’d have to be weary of something killing you. In this game all puzzles are secluded and you don’t have to worry about being killed with the exception of maybe 2 late in the game puzzles.
The combat was stupid half the time, but understandable. The Silent Hill series hasn’t ever been known to empower it’s player. So you’d have a character who, not only couldn’t aim a gun, and when you could you’d missed 90% of time anyway. However, Murphy CAN aim. Murphy can hit his targets 90% of the time. Also if you know where to look, and when to run, you’ll be really well stocked weapon wise for more then half the game. Which is OK, but after you get depleted mid-fight pistol whipping the monsters isn’t easy and doesn’t do much damage. Also if you smack them with the butt of your shotgun the handle BREAKS within 3 hits or so and isn’t worth using as a melee weapon at all.
Then some of the melee weapons are something to be desired. The entire game is littered with nothing short of useless crap. You’ll find beer bottles, chairs, and even blanks of wood that aren’t worth more then a few hits until they break. After a while I unintentionally knew when the weapon was going to break and would search for a new one mid fight despite other peoples complaining about the weapons system. Also you can only care TWO (2) weapons, as mentioned before. A melee and a handgun. To a certain extent I feel that this was intention since Silent Hill is meant to cripple the player and not help them. Besides you aren’t Niko Bellic with infinite pockets to store 12 plus weapons and over a 100,000 lbs worth of ammo. This adds realism to the game, but also adds some irritation due to the fact that good melee weapons are few and far between.
At the same time the combat is interesting on how they programmed the monsters. Often there was a Screamer or Prisoner Minion that would walk in and out of the fog. It was kinda like saying come get me! Then one of the other monsters would sneak up behind Murphy and attack him. It was hilarious, frustrating, and neat all at the same time. I can’t help but think this is intentional, because this has similar behavioral patterns to pack animals, like wolfs. Also some of the weaker monsters would also be a challenge. For example the Screamers you can be knocked down, eventually, but it seems like they wait for you to turn around. When you do they’ll jump on you and bite your neck. So it seems like they made the monsters a little more crafty then the previous games which they just ran up to you and pummel the crap out of you.
All that makes me wonder why people were saying the monsters in Downpour weren’t scarey. Sure they aren’t a traditional monster, like demons or something. Half of them look like humans or something from slasher flicks, but I found them intimidating sometimes due to their programming. I guess this is some bias since I didn’t enjoy most Silent Hills monsters to begin with. Most looked so anatomically impossible that I don’t believe that many of them would be able to move, much less kill the main protagonist. Like with my first monster encounter in Silent Hill 2 was a Lying Figure, I think. He looked like a anorexic person having bouts of explosive, and corrosive, vomiting and/or diarrhea everywhere. To me that isn’t to scary. It just kinda looks unsanitary. I mean seriously. The only thing it would have needed was a pair of butt cheeks on its head and it would have been something from a South Park episode. Besides, the monsters are based off of Murphys subconscious and fears. So it’s probably something that wasn’t told in the story, or something I didn’t pay attention to, that would have made the monsters even more disturbing if they explained them more.
The graphics are stunning and are so beautifully washed and grainy that it gives a somber sorrowful tone to the whole experience. The cut scenes are almost MOVIE quality, or better. Also the attention to detail was really neat. Like if Murphy got hurt he would slowly bleed onto whatever clothes he had, but at the same time when you healed him the blood disappeared. So apparently he carried a Tide to Go pen with him everywhere. Also the rain textures are hypnotically soothing despite the constant paranoia of monsters. Some of the scenes are truly the best graphics I’ve seen in ages.
However most of the game suffers from sever freezing and mild clipping issues. There were multiple times were it would freeze and Murphy would be 10 steps ahead of his previous location, or I was being attacked by monsters. Other times, when I’d move from one area to another, the game would load up fully load then I’d take a few steps, it would freeze, and it would close to the loading screen AGAIN. There were also some odd clipping issues. There were a few times I’d cut near a tree, phone pole, or building to prevent from getting hit by a monster and one of Murphys feet would get stuck in the object. So he’d kinda freeze in his animated running position but I would eventually be able to wiggle him out of the object. This would ruin the flow and immersion of the game. Also many times it would get Murphy severely hurt. Like one time he had 20% health left. Sure I don’t mind graphics glitches in other games, but having little to no glitches MATTERS the most in fast paced games and/or total immersion games, like this game.
In conclusion: I love this game, even though it has sever flaws. It’s dark, depressing, and really captures a tragic and miserable feel for the entire game, despite the fact that some of the rain elements help keep you calm while fighting multiple monsters. The story is a lot more chipper then most Silent Hill games, considering most endings aren’t completely confusing, disgusting, nor soul destroying, like previous games. So it gives the story a more American drama-tragedy feel then a horror game half the time. The puzzles are challenging, but not too tough. It’s draws you in making you wonder what will happen to Murphy and the rest involved, while not fully answering all the questions. If you’re looking for something a little different, with quite a few scares, pick this up. Heck it’s only $20 now. So why not?
IMDB – 8.3 as of 02/08/13
Metacritic.com critics – 64/100 as of 02/08/13
Metacritic.com user score – 6.8/10 as of 02/08/13