Silent Hill: Downpour is a celebration of gaming's most notorious ghost town. It taps into the madness and surrealism that has made this series legendary, and presents Silent Hill as a more robust location than ever before. Most of the fundamentals are still intact, but developer Vatra Games has not shied away from making some stark changes to this American nightmare. Some fit well into the Silent Hill formula, while others are a little off the mark.
6365426Murphy has a hard time finding an effective weapon to use against a crazed monster.480none
From the outset, Murphy Pendleton, the protagonist, is painted as a morally ambiguous character. He is a prisoner at Ryall State Prison, but the circumstances of his incarceration are unclear. When Murphy's prisoner transport bus crashes in the outskirts of Silent Hill, you're not sure if he is escaping wrongful imprisonment or just fleeing the long arm of the law. Occasional morality choices let you shape Murphy's character, and can give identical scenes an entirely different meaning.
Within the game's opening acts, it becomes clear that Downpour is a new Silent Hill game, rather than an imitation of an old one. It keeps some elements from series' history, but isn't afraid to change others. Fog is a good example: in previous games, it was thick and obscuring. Here, it's less prominent and is upstaged by the constant rain. While it's raining, enemies become more numerous and hostile. An element that merely enhanced the ambiance has evolved to include dynamic repercussions.
As in previous games, your time in Silent Hill is split between the normal world and the other world. The normal world covers most of the combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving, while the other world is reserved for specific encounters. Combat in Downpour borrows some from , though it is not as exaggerated. Often in combat, you face down a group of enemies in an open area. Large environments afford Murphy access to more weapons, while the monsters gain the advantage of flanking.
Downpour has solid voice acting which creates a more believable world.
In Downpour, Murphy can only carry one melee weapon at a time, so he is constantly cycling through them. Fire axes, chairs, lamps, and more are littered about, but they eventually break apart. This weapon degradation emphasizes how desperate combat encounters are for him. Murphy may start a fight with a garden rake but end with a puny stick. Unarmed attacks are an option, but they do almost no damage and you can't block while unarmed. If you're lucky enough to find a firearm, Murphy can pocket it as a secondary weapon. Guns are extremely powerful, but ammo is scarce.
Additional design choices add complexity to the combat, but in doing so, they call more of your attention to the faults. In early Silent Hill games, combat was deemphasized through simplistic controls and stellar sound design. With Downpour, there are more ways Murphy can attack--or be attacked--in a fight. You spend more time thinking about combat, and the weaknesses therein become more pronounced. Striking an enemy still feels stiff, and against most enemies, the fights fall into predictable rhythms. When monsters attack in groups, one usually hangs back and temporarily disables Murphy with a sound-based attack. It's a novel tactic, but it's recycled throughout nearly the entire game.
Of course, combat isn't all you do in Downpour. The town of Silent Hill has a touch of open-worldness and is filled with puzzles and side quests to discover. The side quests are well tailored to the game's setting and imply there was once life in this desolate town. They include investigating a domestic murder, searching for a missing child, and venturing inside a collection of historic films. These optional quests are a smart addition and encourage, as well as reward, exploration.
Murphy's clothes become torn and bloody to represent how much damage he has taken.