Being a fan of the Silent Hill series, I have to admit I found myself eagerly anticipating Downpour but at the same time I was very cautions and even somewhat sceptical as frankly the last few Silent Hill games left me a little disappointed. I was hoping Downpour could deliver a spooky Silent Hill game which would give me the same chills and thrills I had back when I played Silent Hill 2 on the PlayStation 2 over 10-years ago. So how is Silent Hill Downpour for the Xbox 360? Read on.
In terms of Downpour’s storyline, you play as Murphy Pendleton who has been locked up in the ‘big house’ for a number of years. One day he wakes up finding himself following a guard who leads him to a shower area. He then begins stabbing and beating another inmate that apparently has done something to you at some point in his past. Soon after the ‘shanking’ incident, he is taken from the prison via an escort bus and it is not too long before the bus finds itself in an accident. Murphy is then left to fend for himself in this creepy nightmarish world.
I have to say, this was an opening scene that captured my interest quite quickly and had me intrigued as to how the rest of the story would play out. It seemed like somewhat of a new direction for the franchise; however, once you jumped into the games many objectives and quests, Downpour still played out like so many other games in the franchise. Nevertheless, it is still not a bad storyline but I did find it a little drawn out. Perhaps this may be due to my lack of patience but honestly they could have developed the games storyline at a better pace and not held us in such suspense for long stretches. As you progress in the game, it slowly becomes more apparent why Murphy had become an inmate and some of the experiences he encountered throughout his life that had left a mark. I just wish some of the backstory was explained a little more at the onset.
Much like previous Silent Hill games, Downpour is a survival horror where you will be exploring, solving puzzles and fighting spooky looking creatures. It is played from the third person perspective and the gameplay remains very linear. Much like previous games in the franchise, you are limited in terms of weaponry and along the way you are forced to make many decisions, some of them moral decisions. As progress in the game you find yourself in the present and then in the Otherworld. The Otherworld is a demonic world where everyone and everything is out to get you in more ways than one. The Otherworld sequences are scary and did at some points have the hair on my neck standing on end. It reminded me of the feeling that you encountered when playing the first couple Silent Hill games in the franchise. While I found this world at times scary and “creepy”, there are other times I found it a bit pointless.
As mentioned above along with the games main story line, there are side quests that you can complete. Much of these quests amount to simple fetch quests but these quests provide you with some insights and new items.
Downpour remains a survival horror game so there is little in the way of a hud or health meter. I have to admit, I did not like that there was no health meter visual. Often I was unsure when entering combat or other scenarios as to what my health was and if it was necessary to use a first aid kit. The maps were also not as useful or necessary as we previously seen. I found myself actually missing the need to review the maps and find my way around. It was pretty obvious where you needed to go pretty much all the time.
The visuals caught my attention right away as you can see a marked improvement from other Silent Hill games. I was glad to see the thick fog that usually hindered your view gone from the scenes and you were able to explore the areas freely. Overall, the graphics are a refreshing change from other Silent Hill games. Some of the same core visuals from previous Silent Hill games are back and Downpour is by no means the most visually stunning Xbox 360 game I have played in recent memory. That said, I found the graphics were clear and actually added to the game. I found myself impressed with the mountains, waterfalls and other landscapes. Despite all the positives there were still many bland graphics that just didn’t seem to excite me; however, I know that Silent Hill itself is not a very glamorous city. There is only so much that can be done to an abandoned house.
In terms of the technical aspects of the game, I was annoyed with the lag time between various scenes. I also noticed some freezing and skipping that occurred a little too often during gameplay. Perhaps it may be due to my aging Xbox but regardless it never seem to run smooth for any long stretches. Load times were also an issue. I did like that there were gameplay hints while waiting for the game to load; however, they quickly became repetitive and left you feeling annoyed all over again.
The soundtrack in the Silent Hill game series is pretty much the same each time. I always find myself jumping at little noises that come out of nowhere. Silent Hill Downpour continues in the same vein and provided the “creepy” factor that makes Silent Hill games as popular as they have been. I do like how Murphy Pendleton speaks to himself while going through the different areas. Being a person that does a lot of “self-talking” I can appreciate the sentiment. I do think however that they could add a little more effort in terms of background music at times. I find that I can become easily distracted with noises around the house due to the lack of a sound track that keeps me engaged in the game.
Overall, it is safe to say the Silent Hill franchise has bounced back by the slightest of margins with this latest entry. Silent Hill Downpour does not match those great Silent Hill games from years past but it is a step in the right direction for the series. The enhanced visuals, the engaging storyline and spooky gameplay makes this entry into the Silent Hill franchise one that fans should consider purchasing. This being said, the game does suffer from some technical issues and the gameplay can get a little repetitive and dull at times. Despite this, Downpour has many positive traits and is considered an above average survival horror game.