The lights are on
I strongly disagree with the Game Informer review. It was far too lenient.
Yes, I loved the Silent Hill franchise- especially the first three- but I say this strictly in regards to it as a stand-alone game: It needed work.
The graphics were barely decent. In every way, they felt dull and uninspired. While there was a great attention to detail, especially in Otherworld sequences, the ambiance in between such moments was flat.
The audio quality was poor, and the voice acting was as flat as the graphics. Enemies do little more than grunt- gone are the squelches, belches and wretching sounds of the earlier enemies. Who can forget the nurses of Silent Hill 4, which sounded like a pipe filled with jello falling down a staircase whenever they were struck? Don't look for such memorable sound bites in Downpour.
The combat was rough and seemed entirely focused on bringing back the awful, everything-breaks system used in Silent Hill Origins. What's worse, some of your weapons double as tools to progress through the game, another not-so-fun trick used in SH Homecoming. Put these together and one bad encounter will leave you backtracking through the misty streets to find a ladder hook or fire ax. Not even the bonus weapons hold up.
Downpour had originally roped me in by announcing puzzle mode was returning- I especially liked this aspect. I can't help but smile whenever I think, "Dead men, Dead men, swinging in a tree..." Regrettably, the "puzzles," if they can be called that, were little more than looking for a combination for a lock. They didn't require any of the higher-level intellectual thinking that impressed me in the original installments. For instance, one Downpour puzzle involves using Murphy's prison inmate number as the code. He's also wearing a prison jumpsuit at that time. All you have to do is LOOK AT HIM. You call that a puzzle?
The soundtrack was fairly good. I enjoyed that and can honestly say that the music did help make the atmosphere slightly tense. It's not something I'd go out of my way to buy, but it works well.
And, finally, the playability. While I enjoyed the joke ending (I got all of them), the others were woefully predictable. Combine this with a hit-and-miss combat system that made boss battles ridiculously easy and basic enemies a crippling challenge (on hard mode) and you have a recipe for one pissed off gamer. I'm sure others didn't find it quite so difficult, but when I have to deal with four screamers at once, I can't help but think that being constantly paralyzed is unfair.
This wasn't a scary game. It was an action game with a series of enemies that could either brutalize you or would stand there staring as you picked them apart. (I reference, again, the screamers) The main world wasn't creepy at all and the Otherworld was actually far more interesting than it was scary. Tragically, the designers felt it would be good to add an enemy that rushes you through EVERY SINGLE OTHERWORLD SEQUENCE, resulting in a hectic and rushed experience that doesn't give you a chance to appreciate the one aspect of the graphics that actually seemed to have effort invested in it.
This is harsh, I know, and I blame deadlines and poor budget more than I do the skill of the design team, but I can't seriously believe such a game would be released. I did enjoy playing it, but that doesn't make it a game that I'd recommend to my friends.
I've loved the Silent Hill franchise, but after Downpour, I'm afraid it might be washed up.
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