Silent Hill Downpour Review

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Y'know, I'm that desperate for survival horror that I might pick it up anyway.

If Konami ever ships a decent amount of copies to the UK. I haven't seen it ANYWHERE, and I could swear it was meant to be out by now.

And it really does look like alan wake. Seriously, watch the video again, and at the end, say "My name's alan wake, and I'm a writer." Fits right in, don't it?

Oh man, I can't get the hang of combat in this game. I read that the story itself is pretty good, but the gameplay is broken when it comes to combat. I figured people just didn't realize that Silent Hill is more about running than fighting, but then I fought my first monster. Ugh. I tried button mashing, then I tried timing attacks. Nothing seemed to work very well, so it's gotten to the point where I run every chance I get. I'm annoyed that one attack staggers and breaks my block, especially when enemies attack in combo moves. I do like that you can throw your weapon though.
Personally, I find the story to be a bit unnerving so far, but I agree with you--so far, it hasn't lived up to Silent Hill 2 and 3, but then what games can? I'm still enjoying it enough, but I wouldn't recommend it to casual players. I think you need to be a fan of the series. Of course, with the Silent Hill Collection out now, I'm sure many fans will have picked that up instead. I got them both.

Totally agree on the Alan Wake feel too. That might be why I'm more unnerved because I'm having flashes of that game.

Doclector:
Y'know, I'm that desperate for survival horror that I might pick it up anyway.

If Konami ever ships a decent amount of copies to the UK. I haven't seen it ANYWHERE, and I could swear it was meant to be out by now.

And it really does look like alan wake. Seriously, watch the video again, and at the end, say "My name's alan wake, and I'm a writer." Fits right in, don't it?

It certainly starts off that way. Takes a good chunk of time before you actually reach Silent Hill itself.

Decent review,Paul. For what it's worth I actually enjoyed Murphy's story arc in Silent Hill, and I enjoyed how vocal he was about what happened. In terms of atmosphere not being terrifying compared to Silent Hill 2, I figured that would be the case. I mean Vatra is based in the Czech Republic which has a lot of germanic influence when it comes to its type of horror stories, and it shows in Downpour. Best advice I can give is just accept that nothing will top Silent Hill 2, but Downpour definitely beats Homecoming in terms of quality. It could have been a lot better, that I know for a fact, but it's not horrible, either.

They really need to just stop making Silent Hill games.

By all means, make games *like* Silent Hill, that's a fantastic idea. But when you attach the words "Silent Hill" to a franchise you bring along so much baggage that it's practically impossible to live up to. Then fans like me come onto reviews of your games and say that they should really just stop.

(Note: I really liked Homecoming and Shattered Memories. They just had no good reason to be Silent Hill games)

I think maybe you were just hoping for too much. I havent finished it yet, but I think it's a nice change from the repeated formula they have used over and over again. Maybe they just wanted to try something different and who could blame them. I like the side quests but i agree with you that they could have been more informative to the story than they were. However I disagree on the subject of the fight system. I found it a bit ludcrious and boring. It was highly repetitive and makes fighting more of a nuisance than a joy. I was disapointed that they didn't at least somewhat build off of the block and counter system developed in Homecoming. All in all though I think that if you arent expecting it to be the best horror game of all time and give it a chance it's actually pretty good and unique compared to everything else on the market.

Nothing will ever really live up to the nostalgia of 2 and 3, so I'm not entirely surprised. I'm glad they got the whole "Silent Hill is its own entity" feel, though.

Hardcore survival horror fans and hardcore Silent Hill fan both, I gotta say that there's none of that good horror game meat that we crave. There's nothing shocking or disturbing in Downpour that isn't telegraphed way before it happens or has been seen before in other horror games. There's not a lot of blood or gore to make you feel that animal fear, and the environments are pretty well-lit overall. The heavy rain makes it somewhat uncomfortable but it's not hard to get back inside where it's safer, avoiding the screaming ladies on the way.

There's no health bar or even the health indicator of past games that gave you a basic idea of how close you were to death, so instead you'll have to make him run to see if he's slowly limping or not and decide accordingly. You could also go into your statistics to see the exact percentage, but that's just immersion-breaking... Murphy's high-pitched scream is kind of unneeded because if players were scared they would be providing the screams and gasps.

Continued...

As for those of us interested in the Silent Hill ongoing mythos, it makes some appreciated attempts to tie it in to the overall series, potentially ham-fisted as they are. Veterans of Silent Hill might try to figure out where this GIANT GODDAMN CANYON came from and how it could have possibly not been mentioned before (especially in tourist brochures, hello?), but they'll come up with no answers. It just shouldn't exist except to forcibly create a large area for players to visit.

Homecoming is considered a bad word by most of us, but the monster designs in that game at least attempted to match, if not the game standard, than at least something you'd see in the movie. Downpour's monster designs aren't hard to figure out, and it gets pretty ridiculous when the mannequin ghost spawners show up (I WISH I was kidding). They're all just white-skinned people and one white-skinned ceiling-crawling alien monster, which is disappointing. The exception is that pink disco ball that chases you for a while. It might have been somewhat creepy if it was just a black hole but instead we get a neon light show every time it shows up.

Nobody has yet agreed with me, but I couldn't get invested in the new weapon system. It's hard to get good and scared while you're futzing around with menus and context-sensitive commands trying to pick up that item without accidentally throwing it or something, especially when monsters show up. Even worse when it breaks and you're stuck punching them again. I dunno, I think an unknowable thing is much more knowable and less fear-enducing when you know you can FALCON PAWNCH it in the face. I can't imagine putting my hands on a Lying Figure from SH2 or those crawling Slurpers from SH3... I just think it was scarier when you were aware of how ineffectual each weapon was but it was all you had and you damned well better use it, rather than chucking it into the sky while you grab a fucking table leg or bottle to finish the job.

WMDogma:
snip

You know what grinds my gears?
When people say "Unless you're a diehard fan of "X", you won't like it."

That is one of the most nonsensical sentiments I could think of.
Honestly won't fans of the series or genera have a HIGHER standard for the medium? Not a LOWER one?

Why do you think that because I enjoy (and have presumably played better) games like this that I will be more likely to enjoy this mediocre one?

It's just food for thought when considering the diction you're going to use in your next review.

I'm kind of in agreement with others. They could just call the game 'downpour' and change the town's name to Hilent Sill or whatever suddenly we'd think it's a better game.

I probably will still pick this up... when the price drops.

I'm watching "Two Best Friends Play" LP this on youtube. Yep, they bring up the same points, as well as how obvious some of the puzzles are.

Sound like you could use some chicken soup, there, Paul.

Disjointedly, but man did this bug me, that is a long pickaxe. The arc of that pick and the length of that handle seems like it would put unwanted stresses along the shaft. No wonder it breaks. Nice to see that we can open doors with blunt force now, though.

If that's what you call good combat, the rest of the game must have been terrible. It honestly looked terrible.

PrototypeC:
As for those of us interested in the Silent Hill ongoing mythos, it makes some appreciated attempts to tie it in to the overall series, potentially ham-fisted as they are. Veterans of Silent Hill might try to figure out where this GIANT GODDAMN CANYON came from and how it could have possibly not been mentioned before (especially in tourist brochures, hello?), but they'll come up with no answers. It just shouldn't exist except to forcibly create a large area for players to visit.

Homecoming is considered a bad word by most of us, but the monster designs in that game at least attempted to match, if not the game standard, than at least something you'd see in the movie. Downpour's monster designs aren't hard to figure out, and it gets pretty ridiculous when the mannequin ghost spawners show up (I WISH I was kidding). They're all just white-skinned people and one white-skinned ceiling-crawling alien monster, which is disappointing. The exception is that pink disco ball that chases you for a while. It might have been somewhat creepy if it was just a black hole but instead we get a neon light show every time it shows up.

Nobody has yet agreed with me, but I couldn't get invested in the new weapon system. It's hard to get good and scared while you're futzing around with menus and context-sensitive commands trying to pick up that item without accidentally throwing it or something, especially when monsters show up. Even worse when it breaks and you're stuck punching them again. I dunno, I think an unknowable thing is much more knowable and less fear-enducing when you know you can FALCON PAWNCH it in the face. I can't imagine putting my hands on a Lying Figure from SH2 or those crawling Slurpers from SH3... I just think it was scarier when you were aware of how ineffectual each weapon was but it was all you had and you damned well better use it, rather than chucking it into the sky while you grab a fucking table leg or bottle to finish the job.

My only problem with Homecoming's monster designs were the people that designed them won't know a metaphor if it kicked them in the ass, but at least they were an attempt to be terrifying.

As for Downpour, I agree completely. I played it at a friends house and I spent more time cursing at the weapon system than I did actually fighting the monsters. I found the white face paint lady to annoying after a while and her screeching made me want to rip my own ears off. I miss the days where all you had was a plank of wood with nails in it and you were stuck with it's shitty-ness until you got the pipe or whatever.

I've been tinkering with this and my major thoughts on the subject is that they decided to play up the surrealism a little too much, and were a little too quick in bringing up the otherworld. See, the trick to Silent Hill is that it was grounded enough in reality that when the surrealism kicked in it was more meaningful and creeped up on you, the monsters also genuinely felt like they just didn't belong in the earlier games and were creepy for that reason, compared to how the ones in later Silent Hill games look like fairly high budget FX, I guess you can say their attempt to look realistic made them less creepy.

Likewise the whole "personal nightmare" thing was a point of debate for a long time, with a lot of people theorizing about meanings. Spelling it out this clearly, especially seeing as the analogies are oftentimes "beat you over the head obvious" sort of ruins the mystique.

Unlike some horror fans, I'm not really done with Silent Hill as a franchise yet, but I admit I am growing tired of a lot of the failures. Oddly I think the problem is that we seem to switch between developers who all want to make the property their own while they work on it.... and that really doesn't work. Silent Hill works with a very specific style and formula and developers need to realize that this isn't their world, but someone else's that they are kind of a guest in and being allowed to use. The developers need to approach these games with the same kind of reverance and attention to detail and lore than the fans do, even if they don't directly take all the ideas from the fans.

While it's a minor spoiler, I think the problem is kind of summarized by the beginning sequence where you walk into the diner and deal with the fire/leak/otherworld transition which leads to you walking around something that looks like a steampunk arthouse prison rather than the portrayal we're used to, and involves chases with some "force" in a sequence that seems very much like an "Evil Dead" movie. Then we've got some kind of booby trapped water slide thing, and an endless staircase. My initial thoughts were that it was too much, too quick, and the style seemed a bit off. The waterslide for some reason made me think of an amusement park ride (or oddly, the old "Goonies" movie) where the apparently dangers were just FX and no real threat... and that was paticularly off.

That said I think this game and Homecoming are better than most reviewers let on, especially given the general drought of horror games. I mean right now all you have up against them is "Resident Evil", and maybe "Saw" even though it's dead. I think their biggest failing is being unable to live up to the high standards set by previous games in the series, and honestly I think a lot of that has to do with so many developers shuffling in and out, none of whom really want much more than the "Silent Hill" name and a basic framework to do their own thing.

I kind of have a wierd daydream about all the lead developers from a Silent Hill game not developed by Team Silent, driving along in seperate places where it's suddenly very foggy and winding up in the REAL Silent Hill (muhwahahaha) together, with the town itself intent on teaching them the error of their ways and how it's really done. :)

You know, maybe I'll actually write that as a "fanfic with a point" and hope the actual people I decide to use don't get slotted off at me. :)

Disappointing, but not surprising. I'm just gonna come out and say it but I haven't enjoyed Silent Hill since the very first game. It had a better hook for the main character and myself. I wasn't wowed by Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3 had some okay moments too and the controls were half-decent, and Silent Hill 4, while only barely connected to the rest, had great music and atmosphere. After that the game just went downhill, trying to be a mediocre Resident Evil without the "evil corporation" angle.

I like the concept of certain weapons getting destroyed with a few uses, but weapons degrading has never been a good idea. Better to let the main character have a single solid weapon, and then plenty of disposables for throwing and weakening enemies.

ritchards:
I'm watching "Two Best Friends Play" LP this on youtube. Yep, they bring up the same points, as well as how obvious some of the puzzles are.

I'm watching that as well

compare to homecoming these monster design look like shit. In Homecoming you have pyramid head,nurse,demon dogs,order members,split-head monster and smog one.

The monsters in this game looks like a bunch poor Eastern European women covered in dirt and have pale skin.

PrototypeC:
I dunno, I think an unknowable thing is much more knowable and less fear-enducing when you know you can FALCON PAWNCH it in the face. I can't imagine putting my hands on a Lying Figure from SH2 or those crawling Slurpers from SH3... I just think it was scarier when you were aware of how ineffectual each weapon was but it was all you had and you damned well better use it, rather than chucking it into the sky while you grab a fucking table leg or bottle to finish the job.

I agree with you on most points. Its seems that they have forgotten that combat with a monster will make it less intimidating, especially when you can defeat it fairly easily. The scariest monsters tend to have a trait in common, you either cannot kill it, or it is extremely hard to do so.
Monsters are at their most frightening when you know that they are after you and you are powerless to stop them. That is why Pyramid Head was scary, why Amnesia's monsters, especially the water creature, was scary. And why Homecoming's were not (comparatively).
Horror games must go out of their way to make the player feel vulnerable. Making a player able to fight monsters effectively only empowers the player and works against making a player vulnerable.
This of course all opinion, fear is different for everyone after all.
I will probably try downpour out anyway, I really need my survival-horror fix.

PrototypeC:
Snip

Just wanted to agree/dis-agree with a few things

1) in regards to the health system, only really 4 and Homecoming had health bars (Origins didn't either, but it had the limp system), while the original 3 didn't even have health bars or signs they were damaged. You could only tell ther current state by looking in the main menu. Further, I'm not sure where this "No sign of injury" thing comes from, since the intensity of blood on Murphy's clothes show how much damage he's taken. True, there is no indication on precise amount of damage, but than neither did the previous games, it was more of a best estimate thing

2) the lack of blood didn't bother me. True, I found Silent Hill 3, a game that brought a whole new meaning to "bloody", to be the scariest in the series so far, but I felt that the lack of blood and more "blue" tone was in line with both SH 2 and 4. I wouldn't say there was "nothing" creepy or scary, but admitadly in this day and age it's a little disapointing to see it lacking. I do however completely agree that the game did feel too bright, and would've loved it if during the rain sections it also became really dark outside (like the otherworld section in SH 2)

3) I'm mixed on the location thing. On the one hand it was odd that there seemed to be an entire other area that didn't seem to fit into the main map, but then again I still preferred it to either a) the Homecoming route where parts of the area are spontaneously changed for no reason or b) visiting the same areas we've already visited and explored in previous games

4) I'll be the first to agree that Downpour droped the ball on the monsters. They could've worked if the designs weren't too similar. I appreciated what the monsters symbolised, and did think that the Dolls were unnerving on a high level, but it just seemed like so much could've been done. The Void is further disapointng, because in earlier builds it did look like a black cloud with faint siren lights, which was a hell of a lot scarier than what they stuck with.

5) I guess you're alone in the weapon system department. I thought it did add a certain tension not just because the weapons broke, but because it really felt like I couldn't just dick around with the battles and actually had to make a serious descision on whether or not to fight

Just a few things I felt about your thoughts

Back on topic:
Yeah the game isn't up there with the best of the series, but it certainly is leaps and bounds beyond the previous failed attempts. Better monster designs and a better atmosphere would've really helped, but as it stands its still a decent game, and certainly a relief compared to what everyone thought it was going to be. The two things I'm surprised you didn't bring up in the review was the sound (in that VA was good and the new composer certainly did a decent job) or the graphics (in that the frame rate drops and textures would sometimes pop in and out)

Therumancer:
Clever musings

This guy has the right idea, spot-on. I would add that the Otherworld, besides being a misnomer, is more or less the regular town but with a layer of confused malice. When a whole damn prison materialised out of nowhere in Silent Hill 2, it took me until the second playthrough to realise that there was not a literal prison that the Historical Society was built on top of. It was like the town trying to sneak in a place that doesn't exist anymore, slipping the supernatural circumstances past the radar. The huge "Otherworld"ly environments in Downpour are such big mindfuck kind of places that I lose all sense of human scale... the final boss in particular took place in an area that absolutely, positively could never exist in our own reality. In Silent Hill 2 the final boss took place in a burned-out shell of a building, not a magical space realm where there are no laws of physics.

Sometimes Team Silent were being somewhat facetious and not taking their own game super-seriously, like the haunted house in SH3 which Vatra seem to have adopted thematically for some parts (the Disco Ball chase scenes in particular). It's like telling someone a joke, but they don't quite get it, and then they try to tell someone else the joke. It's messy.

ritchards:
I'm watching "Two Best Friends Play" LP this on youtube. Yep, they bring up the same points, as well as how obvious some of the puzzles are.

You, I like.

Truth be told I am also watching them play Silent Hill: Downpour. Sadly I just won't get into this game myself because the monsters are really lacking 'horror' to them. I remember when I was playing Homecoming that when I first went into the protagonist's basement- that monster coming out of the water.. was, just... scary-as-crap. I ran from it and fought when I could but just wanted to run.

In this game I feel like there's no reason to run. Sure those chicks could probably kill me easily but since they don't look so threatening- I find no reason to feel threatened or in danger (as in wanting to run). Lack of monsters or lack of design to the monsters is a major no go with me. Reason why I really love Dead Space 1 and 2 is because they not only had a majority of different necromorphs but the fact even the same 'type' of necromorph looked differently making them stand out as actual people who are going to kill me if I don't- yea you know where i'm going with this.

Really want the people behind Silent Hill to spice it up or pause in making the series so they can come up with one really good Silent Hill maybe to release it in 2015. I'm that serious cause I miss the original Silent Hill games giving me that feeling but then again- that might be asking to much.

Eternal_Lament:
*Nuanced opinions*

The two things I'm surprised you didn't bring up in the review was the sound (in that VA was good and the new composer certainly did a decent job) or the graphics (in that the frame rate drops and textures would sometimes pop in and out)

I wasn't being totally in-depth with the damage thing. I was talking about that little TV screen in the corner SH1-3, letting you know how you're doing by how static-y or (god help you) red it was. The damage system in Downpour isn't actually a big problem, so just ignore that part as the old man afraid-of-change ramble that it was.

The main problem I had with the canyon is that I wanted to include Downpour into the actual canon of the series, but that location makes it very hard to do. I'd have to come up with some pretty wacked-out reasons why we've never heard of it before in order for it all to make sense. I'm letting it go though, because even other die-hard fans don't find it to be that big a deal. Homecoming tried to bulldoze half the town and Origins inserted new and nonsensical pieces, and that's way more distressing.

Since I've looked on The Escapist and elsewhere, it turns out that a lot more people agree with me about the combat system than I thought, but for lots of different reasons. It brought me out of the experience, but I don't think it will for everyone. When it comes to the whole "fight or flight" thing Vatra tried to make a selling point, I don't want to be the one to tap them on the shoulder and explain that mini-choices like that are being made by the player's mind anyway with every encounter. Indeed, generally that has been the case throughout the whole series.

As for everything else, well, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. As unfair as it is, I can't talk about all the good parts because I A) didn't notice most of them because they were overshadowed by my expectations and the bad stuff, and B) there are a whole lot more good things than bad things and explaining why all the good stuff's good would take about a hundred more paragraphs and I have a good essay and a half going already.

PrototypeC:
Snip.

The only excuse I could make as to why no one heard of the canyon would be because of "the accident" (in which case JP certainly took his sweet time brooding over the entire thing). I guess though its things like this that really show how precise and how in depth the original creators got in that essentially other teams would need to work around the town design rather than add to it. Makes me more convinced that a Silent Hll editor should be released someday, get all the experience without worrying about the canon.

Very true in regards to the combat. Even in previous games where weapons wouldn't break running away was still the preferred option. I guess it didn't bother me as much is what I was getting at. I'm curious to know what you would change, if only to get a sense of where things became problamatic.

I wasn't expecting to only discuss the good parts, and again the criticisms you brought up on the game were things I would've if you hadn't already said them.

Captcha: steam punk
As I think about it, a steam punk Silent Hill isn't out of the question. Just set it as the otherworld for some gentleman in the 1800s

Alan Wake was the best Silent Hill game since 3.

I think the survival horror genre is all one big failure. How can pixels ever be scary? No amount of atmosphere or monster closets can change the fact you are sitting on your lounge, holding a controller and playing a video game. You aren't in the game, it's not real and it all goes away with the flick of a switch. You can be as immersed as you like, but you are always controlling an avatar in a digital world that holds no harm for you; you don't feel the hits, you don't feel the cold, or the wind, you don't live in that world and you know none of it is ever going to happen.

/rant

OT: Silent Hill gets a lot of praise for the early games (really only 2 and 3) but I've never understood it. Sure, 3 had a great story--one of the best I've heard or experienced in any media, even--but the controls were shit, the camera sucked, the art was cliche, the voice acting was horrendous. These aren't things that save a video game from not sucking. Tell the best story in the world, but do it while punching me in the face and you will fail to keep my attention for long.

Not surprised they are still failing.

I'm loving the story so far, but by God, the combat is horrible. Homecoming was crap IMHO, but at least its combat system was pretty fluent (if not totally twitch-inducing; i.e. the fight with Scarlet).

I admittedly jumped a few times. The only major thing that scared the crap out of me was in one instance where I was in a basement before getting the UV light, and had to face a doll before even being officially introduced to the enemy. I could barely see (no normal flashlight either), had no idea that it had a "real" body, and had no idea what was attacking me throughout.

Anyway, just ignore me, because The Room was my favorite game in the series. Haters gonna hate.

Aphantas:

PrototypeC:
I dunno, I think an unknowable thing is much more knowable and less fear-enducing when you know you can FALCON PAWNCH it in the face. I can't imagine putting my hands on a Lying Figure from SH2 or those crawling Slurpers from SH3... I just think it was scarier when you were aware of how ineffectual each weapon was but it was all you had and you damned well better use it, rather than chucking it into the sky while you grab a fucking table leg or bottle to finish the job.

I agree with you on most points. Its seems that they have forgotten that combat with a monster will make it less intimidating, especially when you can defeat it fairly easily. The scariest monsters tend to have a trait in common, you either cannot kill it, or it is extremely hard to do so.
Monsters are at their most frightening when you know that they are after you and you are powerless to stop them. That is why Pyramid Head was scary, why Amnesia's monsters, especially the water creature, was scary. And why Homecoming's were not (comparatively).
Horror games must go out of their way to make the player feel vulnerable. Making a player able to fight monsters effectively only empowers the player and works against making a player vulnerable.
This of course all opinion, fear is different for everyone after all.
I will probably try downpour out anyway, I really need my survival-horror fix.

I tend to disagree because monsters that are totally invulnerable are kind of silly in most cases, they made more sense. Basically if something is solid enough to hit you, hitting it hard enough is going to hurt it. When you start forcing the player to react in an unrealistic fashion by say removing character options, the game ceases to be scary or immersive and instead turns into a very annoying forced stealth section.

The thing is that horror games have to walk a fine line here, it is difficult to create scary monsters that can also be fought, and really that involves a lot of good atmosphere, writing and design. So few games have done it right, that it's hard to find examples... but the early Silent Hill games are a good example, there were numerous cases where combat didn't work at all, but they were exceptions rather than the rule. Rather they game managed to create an enviroment where combat was a viable approach, but it was actually more effective, and easier to run away and conserve your resources for where you really needed them.

Jericho, for all it's failings, also stands up in my mind for being one of the few cases where a game has managed to definatly be horror, but involve protaganists who are themselves very tough monster killing machines (a whole squad of them, loaded with weapons and freak powers) by creating an atmosphere, and scenario that was just... amazing... even if the delivery was lacking.

I don't think that the combat in the later Silent Hill games can really be blamed, so much as the atmosphere and a game design that sort of made it so you didn't feel any compelling reason to want to avoid fights. In homecoming I rarely ran into situations that I couldn't handle with my knife, and they made it so it was more conveinent to dispose of monsters constantly than try and avoid them, which is sort of counter productive.

Of course again part of the design problem was making it so the monsters were hard to avoid so they basically had "you have to kill me" signs on themselves. If I'm caught in a really confined area with a couple of nurses there that I can't get around, and a bunch of weapons, of course I'm going to fight them, if it was more practical to run past them or otherwise avoid them I would, but I don't generally have the option. All of the games had their claustrophobic enviroments and tricky bits with monsters, but the last few suffered due to making combat the only viable choice turning the games into pseudo-brawlers. The combat shouldn't be removed, or made less effective and fun to use, just not be put in the forefront with so many situations where you pretty much have to fight.

To mention a couple of exceptions however, there is an excuse for you to not be able to fight ghosts and other incorpereal monsters. Not to mention I kind of thought the idea of possessed objects in Alan Wake was an interesting idea that could be followed through on, if you were dealing with encounters involving things that could possess anything and destroying the host object simply caused it to jump to another one, well that's a situation where your both going to defend yourself and be compelled to run. A bit of creativity and that idea could go a long way. "The Room" used the incorpereal monsters as a way of mixing things up, and honestly I was a bit surprised that despite the non-silent hill origin of that game's initial development plan that we haven't seen more of those in Silent Hill, including the eventual "pinning" mechanic.

I'll also say another game that had combat and managed to be totally freaky just the same was the "Fatal Frame" series which on a lot of levels I consider the best survival horror game series of all time... as goofy as a game about a cute Japanese Girl fighting ghosts with a Camera could be, the games managed to be anything but.

While the implentation was borked to an extent, I'll also say that the "Obscure" games deserve a bit more attention for breaking up the conventions, including having a large cast of playable characters with slightly differant capabilities that you switch between. Honeslty I think those, especially the one on the PSP, actually managed to get the whole "college kids in horror" tropes pretty much right while still being a pretty solid game with a varied collection of monsters compared to most.

I do not consider "Dead Space" to be much of a horror game, it's atmospheric, and the bad guys are gross, but even with the mind trippy stuff it still basically comes down to an Aliens clone to me. See, I believe fighting monsters belongs in horror, but Issac is so bloody good for it, walking around in a truely awesome looking soot of armor, with a collection of "tools" that are better than the military grade weapons in most games (and let's be honest, if a plasma cutter can do all that, why do the soldiers even bother with regular guns?) it gets really iffy really quick. I mean beating some nasty thing to death in a game can still be part of horror, but when you walk into a room with an Arc Gun that like rips 6 monsters apart per shot, and you have 3 other equally nasty weapons at most times, plus "tools" that can freeze time on things locally (statis) or allow you to perform feats of telekinesis on part with most Jedi Knights/Biotics/Psychics including the abillity to kill most monsters by throwing pieces of their buddies at them... and really all pretensions of horror are kind of gone. I suppose with brilliant writing it could have still pulled it off sort of like Jericho (where you had a dude with a pet Fire Elemental in his arm for example) but they never really achieved that. I basically went through the usual "aliensesque" interior space enviroments, following some very basic tactics for checking the enviroment and systematically wasted everything I ran into. Writing aside, I felt like I was on a search and destroy mission for them than I was their prey... excepting when I ran from the hunter in certain scenes, and that was less scary than annoying because it was less about running like a bunny than mastery of game mechanics to slow it down... and really I kind of just kept freezing it and/or blowing it's legs off when you get down to it.

I guess there's not much to say when the most captivating thing in the game is enjoying the landscape design & textures. Then again, I have ADD. That red vortex thing is f**king annoying.

I'm a sucker for good creature design, even the more recent and not terribly good Silent Hills have had plenty of surreal looking monsters. Downpour is really disappointing in that regard.

Its actually kinda funny how after SH3 most people say the series has gone downhill and just needs to end. To die with what little dignity remaining to it. I used to agree with that until I played Downpour.

I started Downpour with VERY low expectations. I was ready to hate the music since it wasn't (for the first time in the series) done by Akira Yamaoka. I ended up liking the music, it was rather unobtrusive and low key for the most part. I especially liked the smattering of all the licensed music they had on those radios and at the end. I was also glad that the Korn song was only ever played if you left the Press Start screen going for like 3 minutes and briefly at the end before 2 better songs played all of which you can skip.

I loved the graphics, and overall themes of the game. I loved the characters, easily more than any others in the series since SH2. The plot, in the end, is rather simple. However the journey and the few twists along the way were good enough that they were foreshadowed yet genuinely unexpected. As SH2's plot was spoiled for me before the game was out a week it was a good thing. I have only gotten 3 of the endings so far. Truth and Justice, Reversal, and Surprise! so idk if they other 3 endings totally mess up the story that had been laid out beforehand or not.

The pacing was great. Started off very linear then became very much like SH2 giving you most;y free reign to go where ever you want until an obvious PoNR where it gets linear again. You WILL find all kinds of hidden things if you explore. Even a nice easter egg for SH4 fans. I still haven't found all the mysteries (journal items/notes) yet. The side quests are optional but easily the best parts of the game. The one in the bank is kinda stupid though. Aside from that they are where most of the good puzzles are. Rewards are often a few health items or a gun, though one gives you a cool weapon I won't spoil. Another apparently gives you a tomahawk but I finished it and never found it. I was like...yay one first aid kit after all that.

The game is not overly challenging. You are given like 50 first aid kits which heal you significantly it you bother to look for them. Enemies on easy are jokes. On normal they are much more challenging. Haven't played hard yet (at least aside from the separate puzzle difficulty) but no matter what running is an option. You don't need to actually kill any enemy. You also find guns all over the place if you bother to look around. Ammo isn't as scarce as you might think either.

At the end you will have plenty of shotgun and pistol ammo to go around if you aren't blind. Also there are a few places where you end up loosing ALL your items. So saving up healing items and ammo is pointless. That being said its not like you won't find more shortly.

Other than frequent issues with drops in frame rate, the actual enemy design is the weakest thing about the game sadly. The ones listed in the trophy list are the only ones in the game so they are rather limited in variety as well. Not that any game in the series has had an abundance but 5 is kinda low. If its any relief they all can easily kick your ass one on one if you fail at blocking (which hurts your weapon even as it saves your health) and if you see 2 or more (you will) running is advised if you don't have ammo. Even if you have ammo, actually aiming and hitting them can be tricky if they get too close. Luckily you can use your gun as a melee weapon. Idk if guns can break if you keep doing that but they never did for me and I had to resort to that often. Basically you want to have a fire axe 90% of the time, as they rock and last well.

Now, its kind of bizarre. The fans for the most part after hating the series' last few installments seem to love Downpour. Sadly this goes right over the heads of many reviewers that are only too ready to write it off as another bad game in a mediocre franchise that is known for putting out crap games (see: anything Koei has ever put out). So there is now this following of people that for the last several years have been bitter about something they love going to hell (yes, I know) and now that its suddenly good again they have the uphill battle of trying to convince people that its good again. Or at least it doesn't outright suck like Shattered Memories.

Which is made all the more difficult due to 2 things

First, the prevailing narrative in gaming journalism of SH games being easy to review. "Oh, a new SH game?" "Its not as good as SH2. It didn't scare me." *obligatory 3 out of 5*

i.e. the cop out "I could be reviewing ANYTHING and have had ANY opinion about it, but I'll just waste your time by giving it a completely safe and mathematically neutral score devoid of anything resembling a human opinion regardless of what praise or criticism I may have actually written in the bulk of the review" review.

If you liked what you played, and think it had some real merit to fans and newcomers, then why not give it an arbitrary score higher than the fucking default? If you thought the opposite then give it a lower score. As long as you accurately justify either opinion you will still have a job I'm sure. I'm sure that not all companies out there get compensated based on metacritic scores like those idiots in that recent story.

And secondly Konami themselves putting out the completely inferior, and according to the former art director of the games in question, embarrassing SH "HD" "collection." I was actually really excited on getting the chance to play SH2 again. SH3 not so much. And in HIGH DEF. Whoooo! But after watching a comparison vid of the ports I immediately cancelled my preorder. Very glad I did as the games not only have graphical issues but control issues too it seems. Even beyond them being severely outdated, the just don't work for a lot of people wishing to actually make their character move forward on a continued and regular basis.

I thought SH4 was ok. At the time I liked it enough to get all the the endings (which I don't remember) and to the one weapon mode etc. To this day I'm not sure I could tell you anything about the plot other than Walter went to great lengths to see his "mother" again. The ghosts were annoying. Extremly limited item management blew as well.

Origins was good, I haven't played it in a while as my old ps3 died and I can't. Enemy designs were interesting, and due to the weapon system you felt a little on edge. Was also good that unlike SH4 you didn't spend the 2nd half going through the same levels in reverse.

Homecoming I made myself believe I liked it long enough to get all the endings. Enemies were cool looking. Best bosses in series I think. Was nice after there not being almost any in SH4. Best looking/animated nurses by far. What killed it for me was the combat. If you didn't have perfect timing with dodges and counters you basically get slashed up by those same nurses. Some enemies liked to turtle up for minutes at a time. Plot wasn't that interesting to me. I never gave a rat's ass about the main character whose name I can't even remember. I was more interested in Elle, but the last area from the moment you wake up in that chair till the end was just lame.

Shattered Memories was one of the WORST games I've ever played. Not just the worst SH game. I hated everything other than a few clever puzzles (the art room shadows) and the chase sequences in particular. Not because they were scary, or that a good chase isn't a nice thing from time to time, but because they went out of there way to make them truly awful. They aren't like In downpour where quick thinking and instinct will serve you well and you are in a somewhat confined area with some sembalence of a direction or 3 to go in. Unlike in downpour they aren't 1-2 minute affairs with a beginning middle and end.

No, in SM they let you loose in what is basically an ice level the size of one from a metroid game, with no way to look at a map to find your way out of the fucking labyrinth due to being chased by an endless wave of small pink monkies that run way faster than you and glom on to you totally unopposed as you go around in circles looking for the one unmarked door out of 14 that is indistinguishable from the icey background half the time so you can (after about 20 minutes) end the god damned chase. The plot and psych tests did absolutely nothing for me. The big surprise was made insignificant because the game leading up to it sucked so bad. I didn't even bother to play it a 2nd time. I got the good ending I think. Or at least the non pervy one. I kept the free soundtrack and traded it in practically the next day and assumed that the series was dead.

Now after playing Downpour I have to ammend that. The series is very much alive, despite that fucking rediculous Diablo-clone called "Book of Memories" they may or may not actuallly release on the Sony abortion called the Vita. Scion of a long line of Sony portables that failed to make anyone I know excited. If you can manage to get them off playing with their damn phones and FB for long enough to show them WTF a Vita is of course.

EDIT: There actually were several parts of Downpour that actually scared me. Both the jump out scares and also the more build up kinds. You actually get a little of both in the Dead Man's Hand side quest. And your gradual realization on the OTHER and perhaps MAIN reason you are in that town was handled nicely. For me at least.

Still not as scary as Fatal Frame's constant "I'm about to get jumped by every kind of ghost I especially hate annnny moment now" or siren's "wtf just happened?!" every other mission. At least it isn't like Kuon, where the only scary thing about it is how hard it is.

The latest Silent Hill series fails to be scary? Color me surprised; the last few new SH games totally didn't prepare me to expect that.

This reviewer claimed that he never felt scared because he could easily escape trouble or fight it. Silent Hill 2 was one of the best horror games of all time, and also one of the easiest videogames, period. You could just ignore most of the monsters and run past them in SH2. Killing them was also easy. Combat is much more challenging and difficult in DP than it was in SH2. And quite frankly, this game doesn't do combat right. This is one of the chief complaints on the Gamefaqs message boards. This is one of the worst reviews I have seen.

WMDogma:
It certainly starts off that way. Takes a good chunk of time before you actually reach Silent Hill itself.

Oddly enough, I like the sound of that. It gives the impression that Silent Hill is less of a trap-door spider that pulls you in when you get close enough and more of a Siren: it lures, and the people that it draws don't need to be imprisoned. Most SH protagonists have a very understandable reason for remaining in the town, whether it's lost family or simple despair, though nothing physical is stopping them from leaving.

But, more to the point. This game...damnit, I had such high hopes. The last prison-based horror game I played was The Suffering, which was a whole lot better than its popularity indicated. It had a wide array of enemies, and each of them fit the setting. Most of them were manifestations of the cruelties that took place on the island where the prison was located, and they were just as much in conflict with one another as they were with the humans who were still alive.

That being said, it placed much greater emphasis on action than on horror when compared to a Silent Hill game with similar goals. With that in mind, I expected Downpour to be a game where your background as a combat-hardened convict would be much less of an asset than you'd think. After all, Silent Hill has always been about tailoring its nightmares to each resident. Characters in the same room as one another won't always be seeing the same things. So for Murphy, I would've thought that the sort of nightmare Silent Hill would cook up would be one where his physical strength and combat prowess couldn't carry him like it did in prison. Enemies might be able to become tangible and intangible at will, creating very narrow windows in which you can attack them (and they can attack you), and this would rob him of the most basic element of combat: a reliable enemy. Punch someone and you expect the punch to hit him if it's on target, but what if it drifts right through? Pretty goddamn disconcerting.

But instead...corpses. Or at least corpse-looking things. I'm glad that they didn't bring back the nurses (finally), but Christ, the way most of these monsters look, you could pull off one of their 'faces' and reveal that it was just Old Man Jenkins trying to scare people away so he could sell the property for a massive profit.

It's a common enough trope, so why didn't Konami use it? A horror feature with a young woman or a child usually sets 'helpless protagonist' as par for the course, but compare that to 'Aliens' or 'Predator.' Assumed helplessness is never as effective as learned helplessness. In the former, you're weak from the getgo. In the latter, you're a stone-cold badass who gets hit with the realization that everything that makes you a stone-cold badass is completely useless in this situation. It's not that you're weak: it's that all your strengths can't help you.

Aphantas:

I agree with you on most points. Its seems that they have forgotten that combat with a monster will make it less intimidating, especially when you can defeat it fairly easily. The scariest monsters tend to have a trait in common, you either cannot kill it, or it is extremely hard to do so.
Monsters are at their most frightening when you know that they are after you and you are powerless to stop them. That is why Pyramid Head was scary, why Amnesia's monsters, especially the water creature, was scary. And why Homecoming's were not (comparatively).
Horror games must go out of their way to make the player feel vulnerable. Making a player able to fight monsters effectively only empowers the player and works against making a player vulnerable.

This is pretty similar to what I was trying to put across: the ability to fight with a reasonable chance of triumph deflates a scary atmosphere like nothing else. Enemies that are effectively invulnerable in the way I mentioned not only make each encounter dangerous and nerve-wracking, but it robs the player of the initiative. You can't throw the first strike, and you have to let it attack you if you want even a prayer of defeating it.

Therumancer:
I tend to disagree because monsters that are totally invulnerable are kind of silly in most cases, they made more sense. Basically if something is solid enough to hit you, hitting it hard enough is going to hurt it. When you start forcing the player to react in an unrealistic fashion by say removing character options, the game ceases to be scary or immersive and instead turns into a very annoying forced stealth section.

Not to bang my own drum unnecessarily, but it seems like making them phantoms of some sort would solve that problem. Note the child Crusader in the Jericho cinematic trailer. Sure, it's gruesome and horrible like plenty of other monsters, but when it ceases its attack, you can't do anything to it. It effectively turns the armory you've got on your back into a reminder of your enforced helplessness.

Therumancer:
The thing is that horror games have to walk a fine line here, it is difficult to create scary monsters that can also be fought, and really that involves a lot of good atmosphere, writing and design. So few games have done it right, that it's hard to find examples... but the early Silent Hill games are a good example, there were numerous cases where combat didn't work at all, but they were exceptions rather than the rule. Rather they game managed to create an enviroment where combat was a viable approach, but it was actually more effective, and easier to run away and conserve your resources for where you really needed them.

Jericho, for all it's failings, also stands up in my mind for being one of the few cases where a game has managed to definatly be horror, but involve protaganists who are themselves very tough monster killing machines (a whole squad of them, loaded with weapons and freak powers) by creating an atmosphere, and scenario that was just... amazing... even if the delivery was lacking.

I didn't even read to this part when I was pulling up that Jericho vid. At the risk of sounding like I just want to compliment myself, "Great minds think alike," I guess.

Therumancer:
Of course again part of the design problem was making it so the monsters were hard to avoid so they basically had "you have to kill me" signs on themselves. If I'm caught in a really confined area with a couple of nurses there that I can't get around, and a bunch of weapons, of course I'm going to fight them, if it was more practical to run past them or otherwise avoid them I would, but I don't generally have the option. All of the games had their claustrophobic enviroments and tricky bits with monsters, but the last few suffered due to making combat the only viable choice turning the games into pseudo-brawlers. The combat shouldn't be removed, or made less effective and fun to use, just not be put in the forefront with so many situations where you pretty much have to fight.

Yeah. Because when you force a player into combat, it almost inevitably ruins the horror of the situation. A game trying to be almost pure horror should never, ever put a player in a fight-or-flight situation and seal off the exits to force combat.

What did players do in Amnesia when they encountered the monsters? They ran the hell away, that's what. The monsters remained scary and felt unstoppable because players had absolutely no reason to stop and see if they could actually be stopped. It helped that there were no combat mechanics, but if you've got multiple terrors from your deepest nightmares bearing down on you, and all you have is a knife or, hell, even if you have a gun, your first instinct is to flee. Why should a horror game say otherwise? "Facing your fears" is probably the most quoted method of overcoming fears, and horror games that force combat are effectively destroying the scary elements of your foes while trying to make them scary.

The easiest way to make someone afraid of something is to let them keep running from it.

Therumancer:
I'll also say another game that had combat and managed to be totally freaky just the same was the "Fatal Frame" series which on a lot of levels I consider the best survival horror game series of all time... as goofy as a game about a cute Japanese Girl fighting ghosts with a Camera could be, the games managed to be anything but.

And a big part of that is the weapons, or lack thereof: the Camera Obscura isn't a gun or a sword. It's...just a camera. Alan Wake (which you brought up) does something similar with the flashlight and possessed objects, and it worked really well then, too.

Hand someone a gun and tell them to fight monsters, and they'll probably do it. But hand them something that isn't a weapon and tell them that it's the only thing that can defeat the monsters? Goddamn, that's scary. As animals with thumbs, we're practically hardwired not to consider things that aren't weapons to...um...not be weapons. We're really, really slow to trust something that isn't normally a weapon to be the object we rely on for defense.

Therumancer:
I do not consider "Dead Space" to be much of a horror game, it's atmospheric, and the bad guys are gross, but even with the mind trippy stuff it still basically comes down to an Aliens clone to me. See, I believe fighting monsters belongs in horror, but Issac is so bloody good for it, walking around in a truely awesome looking soot of armor, with a collection of "tools" that are better than the military grade weapons in most games (and let's be honest, if a plasma cutter can do all that, why do the soldiers even bother with regular guns?) it gets really iffy really quick.

I'll address your main points in a sec, but I might as well pause to address the plasma cutter > assault rifle issue, because it's a common (and valid) one.

Basically, the reason why a trained Marine couldn't beat what Issac could breeze through in a few seconds was training, and lackthereof, respectively. A trained soldier almost always shoots for the center of mass, which is next to useless against a necromorph. And since a lot of training is based around making that sort of thing second-nature, in a combat situation it's very, very hard to do things that basic differently. Similarly, guns are designed to kill people. Emphasis there is on 'people' and 'kill.' Trying to dismember someone with an assault rifle is marginally easier than trying to decapitate them with a laptop.

Issac, meanwhile, is armed with a wide array of devices that aren't designed to kill people, but if they're not working with safety protocols in place, can sure as hell take off limbs. A military armed with plasma cutters and rippers would be A) not a very efficient military and B) a walking war crime.

Therumancer:
I mean beating some nasty thing to death in a game can still be part of horror, but when you walk into a room with an Arc Gun that like rips 6 monsters apart per shot, and you have 3 other equally nasty weapons at most times, plus "tools" that can freeze time on things locally (statis) or allow you to perform feats of telekinesis on part with most Jedi Knights/Biotics/Psychics including the abillity to kill most monsters by throwing pieces of their buddies at them... and really all pretensions of horror are kind of gone. I suppose with brilliant writing it could have still pulled it off sort of like Jericho (where you had a dude with a pet Fire Elemental in his arm for example) but they never really achieved that. I basically went through the usual "aliensesque" interior space enviroments, following some very basic tactics for checking the enviroment and systematically wasted everything I ran into. Writing aside, I felt like I was on a search and destroy mission for them than I was their prey... excepting when I ran from the hunter in certain scenes, and that was less scary than annoying because it was less about running like a bunny than mastery of game mechanics to slow it down... and really I kind of just kept freezing it and/or blowing it's legs off when you get down to it.

But yeah, I understand your point: Dead Space wasn't the only horror story to give its protagonist a heavy arsenal, but it failed to give an environment and enemies that remained scary in spite of that arsenal. Dead Space might be horror, but it's sure not survival-horror.

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