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.
The biggest problem with Downpour is that it’s just not scary. It does have its fair share of disturbing moments, and the whole rainwater and prison motifs certainly try to give the town of Silent Hill and its surrounding woods a foreboding atmosphere, but Downpour doesn’t come close to meeting the bar set by earlier titles in the series. You never really feel all that vulnerable, or experience a sense of dread about what’s hiding around the next corner. Maybe I’m just kind of jaded, but personally there were only a few times that I felt Downpour was able to genuinely creep me out, and even then the feeling didn’t last. At most, there’s only the occasional jump scare to keep you on your toes, and even then the adrenaline rush is over way too quickly once you realize you can defeat or escape from most monsters fairly easily once you get the hang of the controls.
Combat is pretty much the only thing that thing that Downpour does right. Centered on melee combat, you’ll find yourself using all kinds of hand-held items to defend yourself from the not-so-scary horrors. Knives, lamps, chairs, axes, and pointy sticks are all at your disposal, though you can only wield one of these at any given time and they will break after some use. Thankfully, Downpour treats this mechanic realistically, as a solid metal crowbar will last longer than an empty beer bottle and will let you cave in quite a few monsters’ heads before it becomes unusable. You do get access to firearms later in the game, but they’re hard to find, and ammo is just as rare. The scarcity of powerful weapons instills a little bit of fear as you end up treating each bullet like gold and deciding just when you should risk expending the ammo.
Telling a fairly intriguing story, Downpour has some engaging moments, and tries to treat the town of Silent Hill as its own character in contrast to the last few games in the series. Sadly though, it does a horrible job of maintaining a tense and scary atmosphere, and just can’t seem to build up steam in the handful of parts where things get really interesting. Downpour‘s not a horrible game, but it could’ve been so much better.
Bottom Line: Silent Hill Downpour is an average survival horror game that has a few good ideas, but doesn’t live up to its predecessors.
Recommendation: Hardcore survival horror fans might find a few things to like about Downpour, but if you really hoping for a good scare, look elsewhere.[rating=3.0]
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version game.