'Silent Hill: Downpour' back in town
Eleven years ago a very odd thing happened to the Silent Hill franchise. Konami produced one of the most poignant and heart-wrenching games the survival horror industry has ever seen. The horrific story of a desperate and unhinged man searching for his dead wife was so vivid and nuanced there was very little, if anything, at the time could really compare.
Truthfully there still isn't.
Unfortunately, this means that Konami's greatest triumph was also its greatest disappointment. The reason is simple: the game was so damn good that producing something equally disturbing is nothing more than a fading dream for the franchise. Yes, they've tried; consistently put their best foot forward for an additional six games in the hope of recapturing the emotional grotesquerie that was 'Silent Hill 2'.
I wish I could say that their tenacity has paid off with their latest offering, 'Silent Hill: Downpour', but it would be a lie. It's not that the game is bad - and looked at in isolation it's a fun and wild romp back into that freaky little town - but like every other instalment since 2001 it is overshadowed.
You play a convict named Murphy Pendleton. As if having a name like that wasn't punishment enough, Murphy is also on the take from the prison guards and harbours a nasty secret held back from the gamer for the final big reveal.
His bad behaviour gets him transferred to another prison and, as is the nature of vehicles driving through the misty town of Silent Hill, the bus transporting him crashes leaving Murphy traipsing through the forest in an attempt to escape both his captors and, later, the town itself.
There is a lot to like here. Visually 'Downpour' is stunning and Konami can no longer be accused of hiding subpar graphics behind a veil of pea soup fog. No, the fog, the rain, the lurking shadows and nightmarish darkness are no longer just diversions to mask problems. They're firmly entrenched in the storyline as they deserve to be and you're guaranteed some genuinely creepy as well as shockingly gruesome moments.
As always the music is haunting and wonderfully atmospheric, creating the perfect tense backdrop for good ol' Murphy to uncover his demons.
'Downpour' makes use of a rather clunky system based on moral choices which affect the outcome. Not that this is new in this game or any other of the 'Silent Hill' instalments, it just feels horribly obvious. So do you save the annoying cop from imminent death or leave her to her fate? No prizes for guessing which option gives you the 'better' ending.
Combat is a bit hammy and, as always, the game favours running instead of fighting, so much so that you can really only carry two weapons at a time. To make up for this you can use pretty much anything to arm yourself including bottles, rocks and sticks, although how effective these are against the denizens of hell is debatable.
Most of the time you really are better off running. This is especially true when you come up against the Big Baddie known as The Void, which chases our hero relentlessly along his journey, sucking up everything in his way in its quest to drag him off to goodness knows where. It's a trippy ride, an interesting addition to the tiring storyline and the blandness that threatens from the sidelines.
Overall 'Silent Hill: Downpour' is fine - good even if looked at in isolation. But 'Silent Hill 2' this is not and I suspect that our chances of finding that perfect counterpart are getting slimmer by the day.
Date Posted : 14 Jun 2012