03 April, 2012

Silent Hill: Downpour

At the time of this writing I've almost completed my second play through of Silent Hill: Downpour on the PS3. I'd heard that it got bad reviews & negative feedback, but that doesn't add up to feedback I've personally got from it. People I know who've played it really enjoyed it & I'm no different. Silent Hill: Downpour has now replaced Silent Hill: Homecoming as my favourite game in the series. A big claim, I'm sure, & it comes from having played all the Silent Hill games there are, excluding Arcade, which I can't find for the life in me. So what makes this game so incredible? Let's move on to the review with a warning that I'll be including some spoilers here & there, but I don't think anything massive. The game play of Silent Hill has always been one which manages to suck me into it & Downpour is no different. It took me a little while to realise that as you got hit, the amount of blood on your outfit showed how damaged you were. You can check on the Statistics screen about your health %, but I found that just paying attention to the state of my clothes was easier. I didn't realise it at first because I automatically assumed that my clothes would always be drenched in blood or tattered.. this is a Silent Hill game after all. Moving around Silent Hill is a chilling experience which is only heightened 
Creepy fog & unnerving drizzle
by the dismal weather; rain & fog. If it's not foggy & wet, it's drizzling or even a full on thunder storm with bizarre lilac lightning, reminiscent of a screaming ladies scream, but we'll get to that in a few. One thing that usually annoys me in games is being able to hear your own footsteps, but I didn't mind it too much in Downpour. It sort of fit & the footsteps made sense. Like on grating, it would sound like walking/running on grating, & puddles splashed. It became natural & part of the background noise, which is nice. Doing tasks & moving through inventory was also done well as I never felt aggravated at a move I had to do or something I needed to get from my pockets. It was handled really well.

I'll move right into the combat now & say that it was miles better than Homecoming. Whereas Homecoming has good combat ideas, they came off a bit awkward at times; especially with jumping back up or dodging. Downpour doesn't let you dodge or jump back up, but it does let you block & something I found awesome about that is your block is dependant about what item you have as a weapon. Like if you block with just your hands/arms, you take damage, as you're blocking with your body, but it's less. If you block with a frying pan or something, then you can block a little damage, but it will probably break. Blocking with things like chairs or harpoons or fire extinguishers will prevent damage for several blocks. The monsters have patterns you can follow if you pay attention & that is a key factor in beating them. You need to keep your eyes open & sometimes it's better to just run. Seriously. You need to run from some battles or you will die. This is a great thing they pulled over from Shattered Memories. All the monsters have names you can find at the awesome Silent Hill Wiki, but since I don't check anything the first time I go through a 
Beware the screams of the damned
game, I had to come up with names for them all & they sort of stuck lol. It will be easy to determine what I'm talking about though; the names are rather descriptive. You can use loads of things to attack with from guns as melee to rocks on the ground to rakes & shovels. One part which also belongs in the combat section is the Otherworld. In Downpour your trek through the watery Otherworld will, primarily, involve you fleeing from the Void, which I nicknamed Wtfisthatthingomgrunrunrunrun. It involves quick thinking, paying attention to your surrounding, & using every second in the best possible way as you run down halls & through obstacles without getting sucked into its disintegrating grasp. It's a little harrowing, actually.

Following the combat system is going to have to be the graphics. They are not the best graphics to have ever been & the monsters are the best graphics in the game. That isn't saying that the graphics are shit; they are quite good, but not the best of games out there. Silent Hill has never had the best graphics available to the gaming community, but it hasn't needed to. The only real issue I have in the game is the FPS issues that are hindering it as you progress through the game; I actually attribute it to all the save files you can have as the game auto saves & doesn't delete the auto saves, but makes new ones, creating huge caches of auto saves that it searches through constantly. 
Puzzles have varying difficulty
We've seen this in other games & they will probably patch it, but for now, the graphics suffer a bit. That's more performance, than graphics, however. As I said, things look nice, not holy shit real, but nice. The water looks so real & the monsters are truly ghastly to look at sometimes. Especially the second to last boss you fight... wow, impressive in a very real way. The ambiance & dreary world permeates every move you make & it draws you in. This is also brought in by the sound & music. Together with the ambient tracks, & also the actual OST by Daniel Licht, Silent Hill eats your sanity away. The giggling, the echoing, the screams, the strange little noises here & there... together with imagery & sometimes lack of anything, unnerves you in a big way. Some of the buildings you head into are further creepified by the music that plays & it's not all original music... there are old songs, like Born Free by Andy Williams & Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen by Louis Armstrong, & some more modern sounding ones too that start playing & give the world a surreal aspect. I'll make a list at the end of all the licensed music, which I recognised, used in the game as I don't think there is a list out there that I can find. The music is amazing & I got the OST before I was even done with the first play of the game.

The story & side quests. I'll start off by saying that the side quests are a truly amazing addition to the world of Silent Hill. No more are we guided from start to finish, wondering about the town or wishing we could see more. These quests give you the chance to stray from the path & explore the town of Silent Hill. It takes you into the lives of people who lived there & lets you find out more about the inhabitants. It's often been said that the world of Silent Hill
that we see, is not the world that anyone else sees. Not only is it the world of our characters only, but it might be completely different than the inhabitants even. There is a part in Silent Hill 3 where Heather is speaking to Vincent Smith & she mentions the monsters she's facing & Vincent says 'Monsters? They look like... monsters to you? ' Even though he says he's just joking when Heather gets worried, he really isn't. The monsters being fought in the game are not monsters, they are people. Silent Hill bends reality, as Bobby says in Downpour, it does 'strange things' to reality. This is actually reinforced a little by the unseen scoring system in Downpour that determines your ending... if you kill monsters, your score gets worse, but if you just incapacitate them & go, then your score actually goes up; it gets better. I could talk forever about the theories around Silent Hill, but I'll stick to this game of course. This all comes into the side quest situation in that you can see how people are slowly going mad from Silent Hills invisible punishment system. As the people, who live in Silent Hill, become more obsessed with guilt or passion, or whatever, the town begins distorting their world & how they see life & it's amazing to go through the quests & take that journey into oblivion with them. The quests are done really well & give you a genuine creepy feeling. There are also quite a number of awesome Easter eggs pertaining to the other Silent Hill games; pictures of previous characters & locations, & also a room that looks exactly like Henry's from The Room. One quest in particular, The Gramophone, was so unnerving that even though I was in a well lit room with my nephew sitting next to me playing Halo multi-player loudly (this was my second run so I didn't mind the non Silent Hill noise), it was still so freaky that even he stopped his game, dying several times, his eyes glued to my screen as I controlled the slow, inevitable death that was occurring. It was all encompassing.
Henry's room from Silent Hill 4: The Room
The main storyline is not obvious at first. You're thrown into the game with blood on your hands almost immediately & you don't know why. You're told to do something that is much like skewering a pig, but to a person & the game wants you do to it for no known reason, brutally & without remorse. This sets a rather dark stage that ends up following you through the entire game. As you move through the story, you meet a few other characters, a few of them are not explained in the game, & their fate is unknown in every ending, with resolution only coming to two characters, & even then, it's left a little weird. I didn't figure out the entire canon story until close to the end & that's a good job on the game for keeping me guessing that long. It's a creepy story that opens you up to guilt & self delusion, & how that can become reality & the world you live in. You create your world by your actions & what you do effects how you see things. Living inside yourself is a big theme & the need to come to terms with that & accept truth instead of delusion is a driving point.

What is real?
In the end of all things, this game is not worth the disservice it was given. You can choose your difficulty for both gameplay & puzzles, each has its own setting. Silent Hill is a series that holds the award for being the only series that can seriously freak me the fuck out. It is entrancing, beautiful, creepy, & haunting, & if you're a fan of the genre of horror/survival horror, then you should pick it up. If it's not your style, then nothing I'm saying will really make you want to play it, & that's fine. I'll rank this game mighty high in my favourite games ever. 

Edit: 05 April, 2012: Silent Hill: Downpour is now my first platinum trophy. I love this game & the amazing ambience, voice acting, & story therein. I hope that the voice actors will return in other games, especially Murphy's voice actor. Amazing work on this fantastic game.

Now I will place the licensed music that I heard so you can check it out. Also, be sure to listen to the OST from Daniel Licht (he also did the music for Dexter).

Andy Williams – Born Free
Louis Armstrong – Nobody Knows The Trouble
James Vincent McMorrow – If I Had A Boat
Doves – Willow’s Song (Bury Version)
Anna Ternheim – Words of Love
Ed Harcourt – Here Be Monsters
Jonathan Singleton & The Grove – I’m Afraid of Storms
Highwaymen – Silver Stallion
The Coals – I Wanted A Lover, I Needed A Friend
Kris Kristofferson – Why Me Lord
Ed Harcourt – From Every Sphere
Anna Ternheim – Off the Road

Welcome to Silent Hill


  1. Strangely, I've not played any of the Silent Hill series since the first. Strange in that I liked it at the end - it scared the bejesus out of me.

    May have to look at this as I look for a new game following the whole Mass Effect 3 fiasco.

    1. I would recommend you give this game a go. It's not for everyone, but if you enjoyed the first, then it doesn't hurt to give the subsequent version a fair shake :)

  2. I like your review, however you said that silent hill has never had the best graphics available, that annoyed me because silent hill 2 at the time of release (very early in the lifecycle of the PS2), there was really not much that could compete graphically, shadows were awesome for the time and it had a previously unprecedented atmosphere, While downpour is amazing and leagues ahead of Homecoming, which was actually slightly appalling (lame rip off of Pyramid head, he was not supposed to be used again after SH2 I don't care what anyone says) and the shocking story and the amount of stuff they ripped from the below par movie. Bad Bad form. Silent Hill 2 and 3 are the best horror games ever, Homecoming kinda sucks in comparison, but Downpour is pretty good considering.

    1. Everyone is welcome to their own opinion of course :) Thanks for the input, though I still stand by what I said.