Silent Hill Downpour- The Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Are you afraid of the dark? Maybe thunderstorms or shadows scare you? Well, buckle up because the next installment from the brilliant minds at Vatra Games and Konami is here in the form of Silent Hill: Downpour. This brand new survival horror game puts you in the boots of convict Murphy Pendleton as you guide him through the streets of the desolate yet hellish town of Silent Hill. This is the first Silent Hill game since Homecoming in 2009, so I was excited to see what changes had been made to the series that is held in such high esteem. Bring on the rain!
Booting up the game left eerie sounds emanating from my TV. The mood was set: screams could be heard and the game hadn’t even started yet. Starting a new game gives you a few choices. Players can not only pick the difficulty of the game (which controls monsters’ health and damage output), but are also allowed to choose puzzle difficulty. Silent Hill is known for its puzzles that reveal clues to help you through the game. Setting both to normal, I dove headfirst into the wonderful world of Silent Hill.
Now the game is scary, but what sets it apart from other survival horror games is the audio. The music is eerie in spots and absent in others. Musical absence allows for the use of the creepiest sounds I have ever heard. Children’s laughter in the dark, women sobbing, wheelchairs scraping on the floor, and people screaming are just some of the disturbingly wonderful things you will hear. Then the music seeps back in and you know something is about to happen; this is where less is more. Sounds are what set this game up and get your blood pumping. Music adds in that extra flair to the intense moments and dread to the lonesome, dark instances. The departure of the original composer, Akira Yamaoka, is a sad one, but Daniel Licht is a fine replacement and has really set the mood for this game and hopefully the games to come.
So, what better to go with amazing sounds than spectacular visuals? The cutscenes are beautifully rendered. The textures are very well done and nothing is too shiny. It seems Konami got the memo – not everything needs to glisten when light hits it. This is where I may get a bit vague, to avoid spoilers. The first ten minutes of the game are gruesome. There is no lack of blood or murderous motives, and it is devilishly fantastic. When people play a horror game, the right feelings need to be established and Downpour leaves nothing sacred. The in-game graphics do not differ greatly from the cutscenes. Everything looks great down to the dust on the couches. Another high point that needs to be taken into account is the lighting.
Silent Hill: Downpour is big on rain, hence the name. When it rains, the monsters come out to play (and by play I mean fulfill their bloodlust). With storms comes lightning, and this is some of the best I have seen. It isn’t just a flash in the sky, it lights up your world. A scene that stood out was in a building where a children’s play (a stage set up to look like Hansel and Gretel) comes to life and a storm starts. This is a very climatic and intense moment. Monsters are chasing you and you almost have to rely on the lightning to see them. But the rain and lightning look so real that you are captivated; you feel the severity of the situation, and you are fully immersed in the game.
Just like the lightning, the rest of the game’s lighting is spot on. Areas can be pitch-black, allowing you to see only what your flashlight reveals. The addition of a UV light can reveal clues in your surroundings like blood splatters and footprints that can’t be seen by the naked eye. Detail was added where needed thus creating a captivating environment. Captivation, however, is broken in some spots due to Murphy’s movement.
The controls can be a bit wonky. Murphy does not have the best turning, getting jittery in spots and sometimes finding it hard to go through doorways or narrow passages. The other huge issue was blocking incoming attacks. You cannot move and block at the same time. This becomes a problem when an enemy attacks you, then swings around behind you and attacks again. This leaves you no time to move and block again. You will find yourself, more often than not, searching for first aid kits because of this issue.
Those problems aside, Konami gives you a simple inventory system to work with that isn’t heavy and doesn’t get in the way. It feels more like playing a movie because there is no HUD, no health meter, and no ammo counter (though guns are in the game, they are few and far between). However, you are given visual clues as to the health of Mr. Pendleton. His clothes will get bloodier and he will walk with a limp, the more he is hurt. If you really need to know his health percentage you can find it in the start menu.
Another issue arose, however, in the form of lag. Frame rate became a problem at a few points in the game, causing death. In a few spots, I thought the game was going to freeze, only for it to unexpectedly return to normal. Surprisingly, this happened in scenes with minor action rather than heavy-action areas. Most often the lag occurred inside a building while turning or running through doors, which seemed very odd. Installing the game directly onto the Xbox helped to fix this problem a bit. It also fixed the other problem: long load times.
Loading seemed to take forever in certain areas. With today’s game engines, loading should be a breeze; some games even skip load scenes altogether. Silent Hill will sit you on a loading screen for a good minute before continuing the game. It may not sound like much, but a minute is enough to break you away from the game. If you have the luxury of hard drive space on your Xbox (sorry, PlayStation users) installing the game shortens load time.
Despite its small flaws, I can honestly say that Silent Hill: Downpour is one of the scariest games I have ever played, but also one of the most creative and addicting. The puzzles are ingenious and actually take time and thought to solve. The environment gives you the sense of being alone and terrified. Side quests will keep your achievement hunting, and, if that isn’t your thing, the exploration alone is good for more than a single play through. With the amazing lights and sounds, the bugs were easily forgivable. Downpour is recommended for anyone who is a fan of the series and even for those who have never played. Just make sure the sound is up and your lights are off!
Silent Hill: Downpour receives a 4.0/ 5.0
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