Silent Hill: Downpour Review
- Posted April 10th, 2012 at 14:08 EDT by Michael Harradence
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Despite clunky combat and various frame rate issues, Silent Hill: Downpour is still a solid survival horror romp that any fan of the genre should take a punt on.
- The superb atmosphere and gripping story
- Great puzzles
- Lots of replay value
- Choppy frame rate
- Poor melee combat
- Generic monster design
(continued from previous page) ...some pretty dodgy controls. Silent Hill has never been renowned for its battles, but after Homecoming’s solid effort Downpour feels like a step back. Murphy can wield one melee weapon and firearm at a time, with the former encompassing a diverse range of items from bottles, chairs, fire axes and wooden planks. Furthermore, these tools will break under continued use, keeping you on your toes in mid-battle. Sadly, their application is cumbersome at best. Combat pretty much consists of hammering the square button to sloppily smack your opponent about, while holding triangle to block when required. While this does inject a bit of strategy into the proceedings, it’s all too unrefined and fidgety to feel worthwhile. Murphy isn’t the most agile of heroes either, and the fact enemies are pretty spry can make you feel rather underpowered; the lack of a proper targeting system for melee attacks only seeks to exacerbate the situation.
Firearms fare better, though occasionally I would still find my bullet missing my target even at near point-blank range. Sometimes it was just easier to blind fire rather than enter aim mode. Fortunately, aside from a few instances, the game rarely forces combat down your throat and running is a viable option in many encounters. In typical survival horror fashion, ammunition is exceedingly limited and must be saved for emergency situations; needless to say, it’s pretty satisfying to find yourself faced with an onslaught of foes before mowing them down with all that Shotgun ammo you previously horded. The most interesting dynamic however is the titular rainfall, which brings out foes in their droves and makes them far more aggressive, forcing you to hide indoors and upping the tension tenfold. Equally impressive is the Otherworld sections, which offer frantic chance sequences where Pendleton has to avoid an entity known as ‘The Void’ while navigating a maze of corridors and traps. These areas also offer up some of the more complex puzzle sequences in the game, which combined with the aforementioned chase sequences, offer an invigorating and welcome change of pace to the formula.
Visually Downpour isn’t the prettiest of titles on offer, with dodgy lip-synching and bland textures serving as some of the most notable offenders. However, Vatra has excelled in crafting a truly atmospheric experience, thanks in no small part to the superb art direction. The fog-coated streets and dilapidated buildings make for an incredibly immersive package, playing on the unshakable feeling of isolation and despair, while the Otherworld’s maze of metal and machinery is equally disturbing, punctuated with blood-covered halls and wailing corpses. The music is also top notch too, with Daniel Licht doing a commendable job at replacing long-time music maestro Akira Yamaoka, while the voice acting is for the most part pretty solid.
Sadly this brings me to the topic of creature design, which fails to match up to previous installments. Silent Hill’s demonic residents have always been intricately designed and directly woven into the protagonist’s tale, making you feel like you were facing your own personal demons. Downpour’s cast of creatures feel almost arbitrary by comparison, with the disappointing bestiary comprised almost exclusively of generic human foes holding little narrative significance. It’s almost if the creators ran out of ideas half-way through and cobbled something together as quickly as possible. The game also suffers from a rather choppy frame rate, and I’d frequently encounter distracting issues when unlocking Trophies or simply performing rudimentary gameplay tasks.
Overall, Silent Hill: Downpour is old school to the T. It’s clunky, and at times frustrating, but also incredibly compelling and thoroughly challenging. Long-time fans are likely to feel right at home with the superb blend of atmospheric tension, puzzle solving and exploration, though newcomers are likely to be put off by its perfunctory combat. Nonetheless, if you stick with it, you’ll find that Downpour has a lot to offer, and I for one would love Vatra to have another stab at the ... (continued on next page)