Bad 3D is the scariest thing of all.
I've always been a fan of the Silent Hill series, even though I've also been long aware of its shortcomings. The mythology surrounding the franchise has gotten more and more convoluted with each game post-Silent Hill 2, and the gameplay hasn't evolved very much since the first few games in the series. Still, I enjoyed Silent Hill: Homecoming, and thought that Shattered Memories, a reimagining of the first game, was an underappreciated Wii gem. I was happy to have the opportunity to get my hands on Silent Hill: Downpour on the E3 show floor today, and jumped at the chance to see it in 3D. After all, a game as atmospheric and creepy as Silent Hill is bound to benefit from three-dimensional visuals, right? As it turns out, not so much.
The demo began with the crashing of a prison transport bus, leaving prisoner Murphy Pendleton as the only survivor. He finds himself on a foggy stretch of abandoned highway, muttering about how something just doesn't feel right. Of course, anyone who has played a game in the series before knows how this is going to turn out: he'll eventually find his way into Silent Hill, and things will get seriously messed up.
I didn't quite get that far, though. I spent a few minutes wandering aimlessly, finding a crowbar and a flashlight, typical Silent Hill tools of the trade. My fifteen minutes or so with the game were totally devoid of any enemies, and were focused instead on exploration. I used my crowbar to break a rusty lock and climb to the roof of an empty building, which looked like someone had recently been there. Even without deformed nurses jumping out at me, the game still had some creepy environmental touches to set the tone.
Unfortunately, all I could think about was how terrible Silent Hill: Downpour looked in 3D. Not only did 3D do absolutely nothing to enhance the game, but the textures looked messy and ugly, which was really distracting. A quick glance at the non-3D demo next to me assured me that Downpour does actually look better in 2D, but I was really disappointed by the tacked-on 3D on the show floor.
The Silent Hill control scheme is really showing its age, and sadly, felt a little clunky and unintuitive. Melee weapons have always been a bit clumsy in the series, and it appears that Downpour won't be an exception. Just like in previous games, it looks like a variety of weapons will become available throughout the course of the game, and eventually more accurate firearms will come into play.
Ultimately, longtime Silent Hill fans are going to play Downpour for the story, and I didn't get far enough into the game to get a glimpse of how it fits into the rest of the series' mythology. However, for those who have never cared about Silent Hill, I don't think Downpour is going to make a difference in how they feel about the franchise.
Silent Hill: Downpour will be available in late 2011 for the Xbox 360 and PS3.