As a small lad growing up I was fascinated with all things horror; whether it be books, films, TV programmes or computer games. In the latter category there were always two titles competing for that top spot to claim to be the number one game in the horror genre; Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Both games have been very successful and have even seen Hollywood producers bringing the franchises to the silver screen, but in recent years Resident Evil has continued to get better whereas Silent Hill has seemed to fall behind.
Now Konami are back and they’ve teamed up with developers Vatra Games to bring a new addition to the Silent Hill franchise in Silent Hill: Downpour that they hope will return the game to its former glory. The game has returned to its roots for the 8th edition in the series, trying to create a classic third person survival horror experience with an all new storyline and plenty of puzzles to keep your mind ticking over, in order to re-stimulate interest back into the games franchise. But the question is does it succeed? I was playing the game on the Xbox 360 and to get the best experience from the game I decided to immerse myself into Silent Hill: Downpour and make it that little more entertaining by playing the game completely blacking out any light from my room.
The all new captivating story follows our hero Murphy Pendleton; well he’s actually a villain because he starts off locked up in prison but you get the general idea. Set to be transferred to a new facility, the prison transport bus crashes off the highway down the edge of a cliff. Waking up from the bus wreck you find yourself lost with dead bodies scattered around and a few missing faces; you seem all alone, yet at the same time you always feel as if someone is watching you. Making your way back up to the road you soon find you’re stranded in the dark, unkind world of Silent Hill. What happens after this is completely down to you, the player. In addition to the main storyline the all new expansive environment presents a large number of side quests that are very rewarding to those gamers who go exploring the map.
So what does the new Silent Hill bring to the table? Well it really has tried to pull all the stops out to put this game in a league of its own by attaching a number of people to the game with world renowned story writing and musical talent. They brought in Tom Waltz the Silent Hill comic writer to try and perfect the story for the gamers, and brought in composer Dan Licht who has worked on Showtime series Dexter to direct and compose original music to go with the gameplay and enhance the horror experience. If that wasn’t enough they went and got the multiplatinum hard-rocking nu metal band Korn in to perform the theme song.
Visually the graphics have been developed by using Unreal 3 technology Silent Hill: Downpour claims to stand above the rest of current competition by bringing the town of Silent Hill, the otherworld and all of the characters into an intense and remarkable spectacle. However I’d have to argue with this, although yes the graphics at times do look visually stunning, certain things such as blood splattering from hitting enemies looks totally unrealistic. Not just that though, the game seems to struggle with all the high graphics it promises to have and lags repeatedly, usually when the game goes to auto-save or just before an event is about to happen in the game which makes it ridiculously frustrating to play.
As mentioned there is also the new expansive environment that allows for free-roaming and rewards those who decide to go exploring. With this come new unlockable areas in the game as well as discovering special items and bonus content, so it is really worth while making the effort to explore everywhere, especially with the rubbish selection of weapons you get if you just play through the main storyline. It’s understandable that to make it realistic you would use everyday items as weapons maybe a glass bottle found in a fridge, a knife from the kitchen or a rock found in the middle of nowhere but half of the items break after a few hits, and offer little protection when trying to block an attack. With these random items you also find it can take over 10 hits to kill an enemy making it near impossible to take on a group of two or three at once meaning you have to flee which just isn’t in my nature. There are stronger weapons in the game and you can even get a pistol and find ammo for it, but on my playthrough I didn’t want to waste what little ammo I had in case I really needed it later on.
I can’t just complain about the weapons though, I have to complain about the whole lousy combat mechanics and the enemies; it just seems slow to respond when you attack, and nearly every time you get hit even when you block an enemy’s strike, you seem to lose control and get knocked to the ground. The only decent thing about it is when an enemy jumps on your back and you wiggle the left analogue stick to throw them off your back and on to the floor. Again because of this as I’ve mentioned already it kind of forces you to flee rather than fight, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. What’s more are the additional disappointments in the form of enemy’s designs. They’re nothing exciting, and you’d have to say creature design almost looks like it has had no real thought put into it. You have the boring common enemies that all look like the same dead woman, and some big monsters that again look near enough identical as well as a few others that again don’t really stand out as anything special.
There are two positives to pick out though firstly is how well the world changes; not just between day and night in the normal world, but how it amalgamates reality with the otherworld at times seeing things that aren’t really there or that once happened in the past. All this is revealed by the actions your character makes throughout the game, like in the beginning you walk into the diner of the kitchen and turn off the gas, which causes a fire to erupt and the world to change altering reality. The best thing about it is how the otherworld injects a bit of pace into what seems like a very slow game by the way it tortures Murphy constantly changing its appearance, blocking off passages when early on you are trying to outrun what can only be described as an evil glowing ball of energy that wants to absorb your character. It’s not just the world that changes with your movements either, time and time again you will be forced into making choices, usually resulting in having to decide whether to try and save a non-playable character from death, though doing what is right doesn’t always end up the way you plan.
The second positive is the puzzles; something that has always been a key part of Silent Hill games and usually makes even the poorer games in the series that little more bearable to play through. At the start screen when beginning a new campaign you can even decide on the difficulty of the puzzles separate from the difficulty of the game, so if you don’t want to be swamped by menacing creatures but still enjoy solving a good puzzle or two its possible. Whether it is locating an axe (which can also be used as a weapon) to smash through wooden boards blocking doors, finding a hooked stick to gain access to a fire escape or playing mini-games like at the beginning of the game to get yourself a tram ticket, there will always be something to test your wits.
Overall the game (in my opinion) was very slow and not very scary, I jumped a couple of times and was only really scared once, and that’s when my Mum walked in my room. This could just be down to the fact I’ve grown up and what I thought was scary in the originals as a small lad I’ve kind of stopped fearing now. In addition to that the game is extremely laggy, stuttering every time that the game auto-saves or when you get near to a part of the game where something actually happens. Furthermore you don’t get any real guidance from the game forcing you to figure the lot out by yourself; on the other hand though this is a benefit for gamers like me who love a good challenge. The weapons in the game are rubbish too, having to use rocks and bottles which offer no protection from attack and cause little damage to demons from the otherworld, leaving you in battles that seem to last forever. However the merging of reality and the otherworld causing confusion at times between what is and isn’t real, and the puzzles that force you to think kind of saved it for me, and in all honestly it wasn’t as bad as some of the previous Silent Hills. However for me Resident Evil will always be the number one horror game and Silent Hill has a way to go if it wants to steal that number one spot but if you enjoy horror games it is still worth a try.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.