Silent Hill: Downpour (Xbox 360)

As if we didn’t spend enough time in our humdrum everyman existence in small towns and feeling trapped by our lives, now we get to enjoy that concept as skewed through the dim glass of Silent Hill’s fractured mentality.

I originally reviewed the latest instalment Downpour for the guys at SquareGo.

or you can read the full text below the cut.

Silent Hill: Downpour

Vatra Games

Konami Digital Entertainment

4/5

Silent Hill, that lovely town, with the beautiful lakeside amusement park, the quaint local shops, friendly if unusual local populace, sizeable hotels, with ample parking and no queues in the supermarkets. It’d be a wonderful place to visit were it not for all the horrific nightmarish hellions and the demons from inside your own head.

Stepping briskly away from the well drawn but unimaginative cheapness of the previous instalment, Silent Hill Homecoming, and Shattered Memories more abstract re-imagining of the original game, Downpour takes the concept back to the best-loved Hill with a story that falls into the mould of Silent Hill 2 whilst incorporating newer aspects of the modern gaming landscape, such as open world exploration, side-quests and hidden story points to flavour the more standard tropes of flawed humanity, redemption and self-loathing.

This time round it’s the story of state convict Murphy Pendelton, who turns out to be a surprisingly well formed character, considering he manages to elicit both the sympathy and affection of the player despite being introduced during a tutorial sequence where he brutally murders an unarmed man in a prison shower. As is hinted at here, there is far more at work than is first obvious. Who is Pendelton? Why is he in prison? What grievous hatred lay between the two men, and why does the young and pretty County Sheriff hold such anger toward him?

That Looks……..Safe?

Due to inevitable (un)natural events, Murphy is stranded in Silent Hill & finds himself assailed by the usual manner of semi-allegorical creatures including Banshee women, Pig-faced brutes, a hulking raincoat clad boogeyman and a constantly elusive wheelchair bound wretch.

The world of Silent Hill has never quite been so beautifully realised. Downpour is an  incredible looking game. The streets are realistically filthy, rooms cluttered with junk and there is enough variety of style and looks to ensure that it never gets boring looking. The effects of the mist and the titular downpour of rain, look great with Murphy’s clothes looking convincingly soaked through after periods in the rain.

Faces From A Nightmare

Instead of the now utterly familiar sight of Bachman Street and the centre of town, Downpour is set in the tourist attraction of the Old Mine, the piers and harbour, and unsurprisingly an island prison in Toluca Lake. The heart of the game is of course the town itself, introduced after a long lead-in through a mine cart ride and some cliff-top bouldering. In the town proper there are many open buildings to explore and to hide from the rain and the increased enemy presence it brings. There are also various characters to meet and chat with, albeit briefly. Each presumably living out their own hell.

Whatever good can be said, Downpour does still have a few flaws. The Xbox version was prone to freezing up for a second or two in large open areas. i.e. the streets of the town. Considering how much time is spent in such places this stuttering gets quite irksome after a while. Thankfully the other areas of the game are mostly unaffected by this glitch.

The other problem is that combat is woefully implemented. Murphy can only carry one ranged and one melee weapon at a time. Meaning that bizarrely he cannot manage a slung shotgun and a holstered pistol while having a spanner in his hand. This wouldn’t be an issue were if the weapons didn’t break with more predictable regularity than a B&Q own-brand tape-measure. Fighting itself is slow, sluggish and difficult making it a tedious chore if fighting more than one assailant. Luckily many fights can be avoided by running away, however sadly many scraps must be waded through, especially towards the game’s combat heavy finale.

That Classic ‘Just Licked A Toad’ Feeling

The irony of this being that the final moments of the game offer one of the more imaginative turns of the series to date, as the narrative gives the plot a measure of closure which has been often elusive from many more straightforward games. This is the sort of Silent Hill we’ve been waiting for since 3, it may have a few duff moments, but it’s more of a return to form than could have been hoped for.

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