For a long time, Silent Hill fans have been waiting for a new title to recapture the chilling atmosphere that was introduced with the first few games of the series. Sadly, the latest game to venture into the fog-filled town, Silent Hill Downpour, is not that game.
Silent Hill: Downpour tells the story of convict Murphy Pendleton, who unlike previous protagonists who came to Silent Hill on their own volition, ends up trapped in the infamous town after his prisoner transfer goes horrifically awry. Murphy's main goal is to escape to freedom, only to have his way barred constantly by washed out roads, monsters and inclement weather. As he's pulled deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Silent Hill, Murphy ends up having to wrestle with dark secrets from his past that have been made manifest by whatever unseen entity haunts Silent Hill's streets. While this may sound like a great set-up for a Silent Hill game, Downpour does a particularly poor job of both being a good horror game and breathing some much-needed life into the series.
If there's one thing that Downpour does better than the past few Silent Hill games, is that it treats Silent Hill as its own entity that's brought Murphy to its borders with a sinister purpose in mind, rather than just a scary backdrop. Players will get the impression early on that the mutilated creatures and rusty, prison-like environments are a custom-tailored nightmare, and the other characters you encounter are also dealing with their own personal demons or are keeping secret just how close a connection they have with the town. Sadly, you don't really get the chance to explore Murphy's past as in-depth as say, Silent Hill 2's James Sunderland, as Downpour's story quests don't provide adequate development for Murphy's character (or any character for that matter) and are over far too quickly.
Something new Downpour brings to the franchise is the introduction of side quests, which you can discover once you reach the actual town of Silent Hill and the more open-world parts of the game. These side quests occasionally provide hints at the fate of other visitors to the town, and mostly involve solving puzzles or completing an item hunt. As a reward, they'll net you items like extra first aid packs or offer up a little more of the town's back-story, but they're purely optional. Unless you're a completionist, I found that you can skip most of them and not miss out on much, which is a shame since they could've been used to provide more detail to the main story.