7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Welcome back to Silent Hill...almost as you remember it..., 31 Mar 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars
Like others here, I am a fairly big fan of the Silent Hill series. Famous for delivering true terror and tense atmosphere, the SH games have slowly declined over the years to the point we are at now: Downpour. So, without further ado I suppose, here's my own opinion.
First off, Silent Hill 2 is and most probably always will be the strongest in the series, as well as perhaps holding the title for the best horror game of all time. Therefore, it's important to realise that Downpour is no SH2, even if similar in areas. Combat, atmoshpere and a good story are all relevant to both SH2 and SH:D, but there's something to the former that has the edge over this latest outing to the foggy locale. Let us begin with the premise: you play convicted felon Murphy Pendleton who escapes when his bus crashed during transportation. Upon waking he finds his way into the titular town of Silent Hill, in which things start to take a turn for the worse. Without spoiling anything, the story is great; modern games often suck in this regard but Downpour is a shining example of storytelling done right. Murhpy himself, however, is less than inspired - perhaps a few more weeks back at the drawing board would have been of benefit. He's not a 'bad' character, just not terribly engaging either.
Gameplay is a mixed bag: on the one hand the exploration is inexplicably brilliant - exactly what should be had in a horror game. Slow, creaking opening of doors, dark environments with low visibility, run down derelict interiors, a small flashlight and feable lighter your only allies.....this is how horror should be. In some ways it reminds me of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. However, when it comes to combat the game suffers a little. Now, before I discuss the mechanics themselves, I wish to point out that despite numerous reviews on the web claiming that Downpour is the most action-oriented title of the series, this is by far NOT the case. In fact, enemies are rather infrequent and the vast majority of the time exploration is key. Sure, there are instances when the player is faced with more combat than at other parts, but in general I'd liken the number of enemies I battled to the amount I fought in Silent Hill 2; overall this isn't that big a number. SH: Homecoming most certainly had far more combat. With that out of the way, let's move on. The occassional enemy poses no threat to character health or the player's annoyance and can usually be avoided if one so chooses, but when the game forces multiple enemies on to the player Downpour's rather average combat system begins to become apparent. Despite being a prisoner and clearly violent individual, Murphy truly blows at using melee weaponry. His slow, sluggish attempts to fend off multiple foes is very often the reason one takes damage, rather than the enemy out-fighting you. Weapons feel like they have little impact, break fairly easily and blocking in different directions is a horrible mess. To be fair, combat has never been a strong point of the series; Resident Evil's has always been far superior. Still, a few tweaks in this area would definitely have been nice. On the plus side, I find gun-combat to be much better. There is very little ammo to be found and on hard mode firearms are incredibly rare (it's definitely a strength in that it causes an inevitable feeling of helplessness!). However, the effectiveness of these weapons balances out their rarity: handguns often cripple opponents in half a clip or so, and the shotgun delivers one of the best punches I've ever seen in a game (witnessing a monstrosity rushing toward you, only to fire one of your precious shotgun shells into its face and have it blast backwards to the ground is simply marvellous). To sum up: melee combat is average yet isn't usually frequent enough to annoy, and gun combat is often a pleasure.
Moving on to graphics! There's not much to say really. They're okay, and suit the game itself, but overall they're nothing special. Lighting is nice though, especially with the flashlight, and certain water and weather effects can sometimes cause beautiful moments, if only breifly. As I said though, they do suit the title itself and there's an element about them that is really appealing, even if they aren't technically outstanding. The biggest gripe I have in this area is the framerate, which at times can be horrendous. I noticed it got significantly worse during exploration of certain areas, whereas at other times it's not even an issue.
There are times when it feels like Downpour is capable of being a 10/10 horror game. Let me give a personal example: early on you come across a local motel on the outskirts of the town. You creep through each door, slowly peering round in case any monstrosities lurk in the deepest, darkest corners of each room but alas, they are empty. You beam your dim torch off the walls and up a crooked wooden starewell, with a lone, bolted door at the top. Another passageway takes you down into the basement, where freakish sounds and unsettling door bangs cause incredible suspense. After finding a key, you slowly unlock the stairwell door, opening it into the motel corridor. With numerous rooms to choose from within the putrid yellow hall, you feel your heart thump as you venture into each one to discover the untold horrors they hold...
- Alright, so perhaps that was a little dramatic...but it's how I personally experienced it and it's one of those memories in gaming where you can never forget or replicate it. It's pure, untapped cinematic experience. Also, that passage is spoiler-free, don't worry. And the good enws is that the game is FULL of these creepy, derelict locations packed with mystery and coated in blood and death and all things nasty - as a horror game it's completely awesome.
Anyway, the main reason I wished to voice my own review is because I honestly believe this entry in the franchise has been unfairly ridiculed and criticised to the extreme by journalists. 4.5 out of 10s, 3 out of 10s - whatever; these are ludicrous scores. I often feel that game journalism today has hit a snag and more old school games such as this cannot catch a break. Personally, I'd give this a 9, or at the very least an 8. It is not the greatest in the series, no; SH2 has that honour, but it comes so very close. It recaptures the chilling, tense atmosphere that SH1, 2 and (to a lesser extent) 3 did, and this is no small feat. From beginning to end it had me on my toes and wanting more. So long as you play it cautiously (go on hard because despite combat shortcomings it makes you feel far more vulnerable), and don't just run around with shovels smacking everything in the face without giving second thought on easy mode, you'll hopefully recreate some of those old Silent Hill moments of the past.
Play at night. Throw on some headphones. Hit the lights.
Welcome, to Silent Hill...
.....almost, as you remember it...