Silent Hill: Downpour
I’ve been consistently a great fan of Silent Hill series, as those of you who have read my articles here or at GameFAQs certainly know. And I have been a more loyal fan than most of the fans of the series. I did not lose my passion for the series after the development moved from Japan to United States, and I don’t think that the series lost its mojo after being shipped overseas. I consider the original Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 as two the greatest games of all time, and Silent Hill 3 is my personal greatest game of all times. I consider Silent Hill 4: The Room another masterpiece, as great as all its predecessors and an underrated sequel, and I wrote a very positive review (a 10/10 score) on Silent Hill: Homecoming as well, and I love Silent Hill: Shattered Memories more than any other game in the series, except the third game. The only game that I disliked in the series was Silent Hill: Origins.
With all this said, I admit that after finishing the newest game in the series I believe that overall, Silent Hill: Downpour is not as great as the other games in the series. It’s still a very good game, but not a masterpiece. Although it does not deserve the massive negative reaction of the fans, it is not worthy of Silent Hill name. What did they do right and what went wrong? I will explain in the coming paragraphs.
The Opening: GOOD! The first scenes show Murphy Pendleton, a convicted felon, walking into the prison showers and murder a dude. This is actually quite shocking, since the series usually place you in the shoes of someone whose innocence or crime is not known to you from the beginning. The next scenes show him being transferred from the prison while guarded by an extremely bitchy police officer, and then the transfer bus crashes and you are now free to roam in the city of Silent Hill. The opening is powerful, and leaves your mind blown.
Prison showers are infamous places, but usually not for killing.
The Middle: BAD! For the majority of the game, you’re just wandering around not knowing what the hell is going on. The first time that I read that in a 1Up review, I told myself that this dude has no idea how a Silent Hill game works. This is how the game is supposed to work! For the majority of the first Silent Hill, and Silent Hill 2, and if you really think about it all the other games, you don’t know what’s going on. The games may give an illusion of closure to some gamers, but if you really think about it, the mystery remains unsolved. But I stand corrected, Mr. Oreto! There is no mystery in this game, there is just confusion. A mystery is when there is a question in your mind which is either answered or not. But in the majority of this game, you simply have no idea what are you supposed to do and just wander around because why not?
The Ending: GREAT! From somewhere near the climax of the game, the story begins to make sense and the knots begin to appear and the denouements begin to shower in. Then the game suddenly becomes engaging and exciting, a real horror, and now you are not bored anymore. For obvious reasons (spoilers), I cannot explain why. But let me tell you this, if you decide to buy or rent (or pirate *wink wink*) this game, play it to the very end and do not give in to the initial boredom. However, as a critic, I still find this a great writing fault. You simply don’t hoard all the interesting part in the final quarter of your game!
The Main Character: GREAT! Murphy is the strongest point of the game story-wise. If this was a film and he was an actor I would say that he deserved an Oscar for this one. He’s so much realistic! His reactions are completely natural, and we believe his struggle for his guilty conscience throughout the game. We understand his grief, and we connect to his problems. We feel him. Like all the great Silent Hill heroes, he’s a normal man caught in an impossible situation, and his behavior reminds us of all people around us. He’s not a trope, he’s a character.
One of the very few things Silent Hillish about this game.
The Supporting Characters: BAD! They are completely flat, boring, and no real writing is dedicated to them. A bitchy police who simply points her guns at you and screams and a black postman who is supposed to be mysterious and blabber words of wisdom that are actually gibberish, some children who simply run around and a nun whose screen time leaves no real place for her character development. Compare this with the malevolence of Dr. Kaufman and the mysteriousness of Dahlia in the first game, the mind blowing cast of the second game, the brilliance of Vincent and Claudia in the third, and you will realize that what made the previous games so great was also the brilliance of the supporting characters.
You have no idea how many times I fantasized killing this bitch.
The Monsters: AWFUL! A COLOSSAL PUKE-WORTHY FAILURE! Now, if you take away the supporting characters away, at least give us some great monsters. As I have demonstrated before, monsters are a very major element of these games, and a great part of each game’s worth relies on its monsters. But here the game fails miserably. There are a few uninspired unscary monsters here. Not only the monsters in this game are not Silent Hill-worthy, they don’t rise to the standards of a mediocre horror game. A zombie who screams, a prisoner zombie who’s strong, and a prisoner zombie who’s stronger, and some white thing which crawls on the ceilings. That’s it! Such a thin cast! Plus, I repeat, not scary at all. Rayman Origins has scarier monsters. Even the Rabbids are scarier. Hell, Pikachu is scarier! There is also a boogeyman, which tries to be the Pyramidhead, but fails miserably. I would fire anyone in charge of the designing the monsters and then banish them ti North Korea or wherever there is no video games. Maybe Gingrich’s moon colony. Of course, don’t ask about the symbolism and the deeper meaning of these monsters because I’m going to slap you. Hard.
The EastEnders style.
Deeper Meaning and Symbolism: BAD! Don’t get me wrong, if this was a Resident Evil game I would be calling it the masterpiece of its genre. The story is mysterious and open to multiple interpretations, and the multiple endings can all be viable. However, this is not even the least that we expect from a Silent Hill game. All the previous games had great things to say about parenting, family, human nature, human understanding, sex, and religion. This game is merely a character struggling with his conscience. Impressive in its own right, but not Silent Hill material in any sense of the word. The most repulsive aspect is the one-liners dropped by the postman character which are cliche, stupid, and put Reddit posts to shame. “Murphy, you can’t outrun yourself!” (You have to watch me masturbate to see why that’s not so).
No, one-liners don't constitute deep writing.
The Story Overall: MEDIOCRE. Overall, it’s a good story with some right points, a good popular game. The story would be great for a normal horror game but entirely not satisfactory for a Silent Hill title. It’s a diamond in the rough. A failure for such a great name. Yet, you might enjoy it for its own merits.
Combat: GOOD! I know, the combat is extremely clunky. But then again, I think that’s intentional. The game encourages fleeing and not fighting. You have a wide variety of weapons at your disposal. You can pick only one weapon up and use it until it breaks, but you can keep your handgun. The weapons are really varied, from bottles, bricks, pipes, to axes and chairs. The game has improved and kept the only good thing about Origins. You again have the ability to approach the dying bodies of your enemies and finish them off. Unlike the classic games, this is discouraged, but it’s fun.
We've got the moves like Jagger!
Puzzles: GOOD! The good news is, the multiple difficulty levels are back, so you can decide your puzzles to be easy, normal or hard! The bad news is… well, happily, there’s none. The puzzles are all logical, and a bit of thinking will show you how they’re solved. They are difficult enough to ensure you are faced with a challenge but not too difficult to arise a guide-dang-it situation. Nostalgia is also a plus, they are picture puzzles and locked doors and they all remind you of classic horror games.
Exploration and Side-quests: GREAT! For the first time in the series, you are encouraged to actually explore Silent Hill. This is the closest the series have come to being open world, and the game does not encourage you to run to your destination as quickly as possible. Again, for the first time in the series, the side-quests are introduced. And they are great! They are interesting and scary. Some of the most memorable scenes are from the side-quests. This is the best thing about this game, and a real improvement of the series. I hope the developers stick to this and repeat it in the next games as well.
Scariness: BAD! Then again, this comes and ruins everything. The game is not as scary as it should be. There are scary sequences, and some of them memorable. The first time you meet the doll girls is one of the scariest moments of your life. And from the hospital onwards, the very level that the story also got interesting, the game is consistently scary. The beginning is also scary. But like the story, the middle chunk which is the variety of the game is uninspired and not scary at all. And there are too many jump-scares, and it seems that the game relies less on atmosphere and suspense. Granted, jump-scares were introduced in Homecoming, but that game was like previous Silent Hills plus jump scares plus action which made it an incredibly intense experience. If the trend goes on, the next Silent Hill will be like Resident Evil. Hope that won’t happen.
The Gameplay Overall: GOOD, BUT NOT GREAT. Certainly not as great as any other game in the series, excluding Origins. However, the experience is fun and good, and you will enjoy it independently, but again it doesn’t rise to Silent Hill level.
Graphics: BAD! There are a lot of technical issues here, from frame-rate drops to objects popping out and appearing suddenly as you must have heard the fans ranting on the internet recently. The characters look nice, but the environment is repetitive and could be improved. This is not really a 7th generation graphics if you ask me. And everything is too damn dark! I know, some darkness makes the game scary, but you need to see where the hell you are going. Fighting enemies in the mist (as in Silent Hill 2) is scary, fighting them in absolute darkness is frustrating.
Sound Effects: GOOD! Yeah, they’re fine. They can even be scary at times. You have to ignore some instances that an annoying sound is repeated over and over and over again, but overall it’s fine.
Music: MEDIOCRE. The series is deeply hurt by the departure of Akira Yamaoka and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. The soundtrack and the sound is good, but they have lost their special magic. The song by Korn is interesting, because I believe the same thing about Korn as I do of this game: a band in a great genre, following the footsteps of the great, but failing to meet its full potential. Let’s hoping the next game is sung by Iron Maiden or Metallica.
I DID MY TIME!
Few Issues Left:
No PC Version: BAD! Since the original Silent Hill, all the games in the series (with the exception of Origins and Shattered Memories) have been released on all platforms, and I’m bugged. Firstly I’m bugged because in principle I don’t believe in exclusive games as I believe every gamer has a right to choose any console and any game they like, just as your Kindle does not refuse to read War and Peace because it’s a Nook exclusive. Secondly, my PS3 and TV is in the living room, and living room is somewhere I share with my parents. I can’t play all day and some of the scenes might have traumatized my father.
Choices: BAD! The games in the series have all had small and occasional choices but these choices mattered. Silent Hill 2 revolutionized choice system by spreading it throughout the game and basing it on your actions rather than button pushing abilities (if you checked the knife in your inventory too much for example you would the suicidal ending) and Shattered Memories perfected this. Silent Hill 3 had a deeply sadistic choice which seem mediocre in the first glance but when we analyze it we see it’s deeply meaningful and philosophical (like everything in the game). The choices in Homecoming deeply connected with your emotions and pained you. But here, we have the traditional inFamous style choices; be nice, don’t kill, don’t rape, and you’re done.
Replayability: GREAT! You have multiple difficulty levels and multiple endings, and many side-quests you might have inadvertently left unfinished, some new side-quests and endings unlocking in the second playthrough, and now you know how to ignore the boring parts and look forward to the exciting parts. There’s no reason not to replay this game multiple times.
This game cannot be called a Silent Hill game. For that, you first need to cut almost half of it. I say compress the beginning to the hospital level into one level. That would make it short, but who cares? You can beat Silent Hill 3 in three hours. (There’s a reward for it). Then dissolve the monster designer in acid and hire a new one who stays true to Silent Hill spirit, and somehow seduce Yamaoka back to his job. (Hire Emma Watson if necessary). And then rewrite the script, adding more depth and meaning into the plot. Then rewrite the supporting cast. Wow, that’s a lot of work. But only then the game would be worthy of its divine title.
Hey Akira, I'm the zombie nurse for your Pyramidhead. If you know what I mean.
But then again, the game is a very good game based on its own merits, still better than any Resident Evil game. So I encourage you to buy or rent it. (I don’t encourage you to pirate it just because David Kempe will give me a hard time if I do so.) But let me finish this with an anecdote.
I was back from the university. Last night I was up till 2 am and that day I was at class from 8 am to 4:30 pm. I was dead tired. But upon discovering that I was alone, I ran to my PS3 to play as long as my parents were out. But then, during the gameplay, I fell asleep. Granted, I was dead tired, but I can never imagine falling asleep while playing Silent Hill 2 or Silent Hill 3.