Some games you play give you nightmares, others are nightmares to play. Silent Hill fits well into both those descriptions, with some classic early games (about to have a HD remix of their own) to the disappointing more recent console efforts. So where does the latest release, Silent Hill: Downpour, fit in?
Kicking things off with an outstanding but very violent intro we are introduced to Murphy Pendleton, who during a routine prison exchange is inadvertently freed as his bus crashes on the outskirts of town, leaving him wandering the streets trying to find a way out; but of course this is Silent Hill, where your deepest and most darkest thoughts and fears are visited, flipping you from the fog riddled “real” world to a flooded asylum of pain and mental torture as you learn more about the town and Murphy. Silent Hill Downpour is classic survival horror, focusing on exploration and puzzle solving, which whilst a little illogical to solve can be adjusted in difficulty via the options screen.
Some games you play give you nightmares, others are nightmares to play. Silent Hill fits well into both those descriptions.
As Murphy battles his own personal demons, there are still other things to worry about too, such as the world of Silent Hill being populated with a warped group of beings. To aid Murphy, the classic radio receiver, this time a police walkie-talkie bursts with static when in close proximity, ramping the tension tenfold as you scour the area trying to find a weapon, be it a knife, hammer, garden rake, rock or pistol; though killing these monsters is not essential which is fortunate as the melee system is a pain to use, more so when against a group, with the camera going wild trying to centre the action as you block and attack with a simple two button fighting mechanic.
Throughout the majority of the game you will be picking up useful items but this is not made easy as interaction with items is a real struggle. At times you’ll be negotiating a pin point area to pick something up, struggling to find an essential key puzzle item to an indistinguishable way of separating vital items or the numerous weapons found on the floor, causing you to pick up and drop anything you come across, “is this a key, no its another rock”, then having to search the ground again for the knife you have been brandishing for the past 20 minutes.
The suspense is full on right from the start with a creepy soundtrack that keeps you on the edge of your seat, to clever tricks of light and puzzles that warp environments and upset the brain. Even simple actions like opening doors have been injected with unease as you can now slowly push a door open, allowing you to peek through the crack to see what’s on the other side. To ramp up the fear factor even more, when visiting the nightmare world you are occasionally chased by a horrific phantom called the Void. Appearing from nothing and ripping apart the world around you, it leaves you with only one option, run; This sees you going full pelt through twisted rooms and confusing corridors, hitting switches and trying to slow it down, constantly checking over your shoulder to make sure you are safely ahead. The game does suspense exceptionally well, but the only problem with all this is that it goes nowhere, with far too many “empty” areas, with the music and visual effects teasing you but not paying out on any sort of final fright.
Silent Hill Downpour looks great, with a well-crafted blend of realism spliced with a familiar but torn apart other worldly feel, with it looking especially impressive during the transition from real world to the surreal nightmare world as walls and fixtures peel away, crying rust underneath; plus of course the obligatory heavy fog of the town itself. What is strange though is the frame rate drops, as they are as mysterious as the game itself, with the gameplay at times locking up for no apparent reason. Even after the usual lengthy PS3 install, the screen will lock for a noticeable time, jarring you from the claustrophobic world and spoiling all that hard work.
Silent Hill Downpour improves greatly on the more recent lacklustre efforts.
Where effort has been made in the visual and audio areas, the story, particularly the character progression, does struggle initially, with Murphy being spooked by the strange goings on early on and within minutes he seems very quick to accept mutilated corpses attacking him and other inmates getting bludgeoned. Thankfully after the first couple of hours of play the story finally gets its cold grip on you as you start to make decent pace, making the game a must play right to the end, allowing you to witness Silent Hill’s signature selection of multiple endings depending on what you accomplished in game and the morale choices made.
Silent Hill Downpour improves greatly on the more recent lacklustre efforts and whilst not offering too many frights, the mess it leaves your head in is more like what the older Silent Hill games offered, it is just a shame about the lame fighting.
Rating: GoodReview Policy(version tested: PS3)
You can order Silent Hill: Downpour from ShopTo on PS3 and Xbox 360.