I can honestly say I’ve never been a huge Silent Hill fan. I’ve always expressed interest in the franchise as I love the survival horror genre, but something about it never really drew me in. Konami‘s announcement of Silent Hill Downpour had me excited, and the title gives Vatra Games the opportunity to express their vision of the franchise, in their own way. While the game’s story is its own, and will require no previous knowledge of the franchise, the core Silent Hill experience is still there, for the most part.
You play as Murphy Pendleton, a convict who has been incarcerated for several years. Following a riot at Ryall State Corrections Facility, Murphy along with a few others are scheduled for transfer via bus by Anne Cunnigham, who doesn’t seem phased about Murphy’s presence. When the bus crashes on the outskirts of Silent Hill, with only Murphy and Anne surviving, your adventure begins.
Being Silent Hill, the game doesn’t give you all the information served on a silver platter like you might expect. Instead, Silent Hill Downpour lets you decide how deep you want to involve yourself with its story. Once you reach town you’ll have the opportunity to pick up many side quests that allow you to dig deeper into the game’s narrative. While these are purely optional and have no impact on the outcome of the game’s final moments, it gives fans a chance to really involve themselves the way they see fit. If you happen to be an animal lover, there’s even a side quest to release all the birds stuck in cages throughout the city.
Puzzles return and are quite enjoyable, especially as they offer different difficulty settings. There are still many that weren’t required to progress that I never solved, giving me a reason to visit the creepy town of Silent Hill once again. One of my personal favorites—without spoilers of course—was when I needed to reenact a play. The setting, atmosphere and music were spot on, making it my most memorable moment from the game. You’ll also find yourself needing to use objects you find in the environment to access certain areas of the game. While some of these are more obvious, like using a fire axe to chop your way through a boarded door, others are not so blatant. Your imagination will take you far on this trip to Silent Hill.
The combat, however, is where Silent Hill Downpour takes a turn for the worse. It’s 2012, and we’re six years into this generation of gaming. There’s simply no excuse for the clunky, unstable jerky mess of a combat system implemented in this title. Facing enemies one on one is somewhat tolerable, but when they come in twos and threes, it becomes quite frustrating. Trying to block in a different direction can be played off as a puzzle in itself, it’s so bad. It doesn’t help that unarmed enemies can block a fire axe to the face with their hands.
Since the game focuses primarily on melee combat, you’ll always incapacitate an enemy followed by the chance to finish them off. When multiple enemies are around, if you can’t incapacitate them all quickly enough, they’ll often get back up, making you repeat the unbearable sequence again. You could always run away, but who wants to do that? The combat is so bad the developers even recognized it, offering 50 achievement points for not killing any monsters during the whole game.
Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there. The game feels the need to save every five seconds. Walk into the kitchen from the living room in an abandoned house? SAVE! Do a 360 degree turn? SAVE! On paper, this is a fantastic idea for a survival horror game. In Silent Hill Downpour, it causes nothing but problems. The game suffers from some horrific (no pun intended) frame rate issues. In most cases, this occurs when the game saves in larger open areas. Since you’ll be spending quite some time exploring the town of Silent Hill, be prepared for massive stuttering.
Aside from the pathetic excuse of a combat system and performance problems, I really enjoyed my time with Silent Hill Downpour. The atmosphere is perfectly in tune with the soft, but violent, eerie music, and the art style really captures what their team was going for. I do have to give some major props to the developers, though. It’s been a very long time since any video game has made me jump even the slightest; I’d say nearly 15 years. Downpour had me on the edge of my seat quite a few times during my 8 hour playthrough. Thanks to my awesome living schedule and playing with my Razer Chimera 5.1’s, my entire experience was played during the night, which made the game much more enjoyable, due its nature.
I feel Silent Hill Downpour could have been one of the most intense survival horror games this generation had the developers taken a bit more time to fine tune. The inexcusable frame rate issues and frustrating combat completely destroy everything good within the game. Every time I found myself immersed within the world, one of these problems quickly became present, ruining the moment. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy your time in Silent Hill, though.
This may not be the Silent Hill fans have been waiting for, but it’s a worthy play through if you can deal with the problems mentioned above. With a lengthy story; tons of side quest, multiple puzzle difficulties, and deep mysteries, there’s more than enough to give you reason to live through Murphy’s story quite a few times. It’s just a shame that the game had so much potential to be something truly special, but ended up falling short.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Fantastic atmosphere
+ Great music
+ Actually had me spooked a few times
– Horrific frame rate issues
– Terrible combat system
– The game saves way too much with no option of disabling
7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.
Silent Hill Downpour was developed by Vatra Games and published by Konami. The game was released on March 13th, 2012 at the price of $59.99. A copy was provided to RipTen by the publisher for the purposes of review.