The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Like a fleshy mannequin creature emerging from a nightmare world, the
Silent Hill series has been trying to claw its way back to prominence
since the PlayStation 2 era. Silent Hill: Homecoming attempted to
empower players with a combat-savvy protagonist, while Silent Hill:
Shattered Memories removed fighting from the equation altogether,
pleasing few gamers in the process. Silent Hill: Downpour is a more
balanced effort, but an unfocused story, miserable combat, and general
lack of creepiness restrict the game to a limbo of mediocrity.
to other Silent Hills, Downpour ignores past storylines in favor of a
new tale. Players learn about protagonist Murphy Pendleton’s shady
prison stint through scattered files and vague flashbacks. The game gets
points for having the most coherent story in franchise history, but
fumbles trying to weave two narrative threads. The straightforward yet
clichéd tale of Murphy’s loss is cheapened by a tenuous surprise twist
in the third act. I saw two of the game’s four endings, and neither left
me feeling satisfied.
While I was initially impressed playing
early previews of Silent Hill: Downpour, in the end the combat system
leaves much to be desired. Enemy variety is downright shameful. I must
have encountered the same screeching banshee lady three dozen times.
Juking enemies in horror games is usually done to conserve precious
ammo, but I ran from the horrendous combat system. Attacking and
blocking with degrading weapons is boring and sloppy, made worse by a
camera that goes crazy whenever you’re trapped in a corner. Murphy must
have some debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome, because the man can’t
hold a firearm steady. Poor marksmanship may make for a believable
average Joe, but steering a quivering reticule is agonizing. The game
boasts one of the most interesting and well-executed final boss
encounters in the series, but that doesn’t forgive the core combat.
Hill: Downpour shines brightest when you’re exploring murky, poorly lit
buildings and solving puzzles. The best brainteaser in the game
involves playing stagehand for a macabre production of Hansel and Gretel,
in which you crank levers and provide effects. Another highlight
involves searching for clues in a workshop scattered with loud machinery
that enemies randomly activate, impairing your hearing and providing a
decent fright. Unfortunately, Silent Hill’s unsettling transformation
into the iconic, rusty nightmare world is reduced to lame chase
sequences in Downpour. Fleeing from an ambiguous floating void was
interesting the first time, but the thrill is gone for these formulaic
chase sequences. Don’t go into Downpour expecting scares comparable to
this generation’s great horror titles like Dead Space or Amnesia: The
Roaming the foggy streets is usually a staple of
Silent Hill games, but town exploration is mainly reduced to vague side
quests in Downpour. I spent a healthy chunk of time combing the ruinous
roads, but to my frustration I only found one optional task to complete.
I came across plenty of keypad-locked safes and other supposed riddles,
but never had enough information to complete them. Unless the idea of
knocking on every door in Silent Hill sounds like fun, through no fault
of your own you may come out feeling like you didn’t see everything the
town has to offer.
I don’t regret my time with Silent Hill:
Downpour, but mediocrity hung over most of my playthrough like a fog.
Vatra Games shows real potential for becoming a developer that can tell
great stories, but nurturing one narrative yarn would be better than
juggling two ho-hum tales. I left this Silent Hill with the same feeling
I have after walking out of most haunted houses near closing time – a
little annoyed at having cages lazily rattled at me.
Email the author Tim Turi, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.