Silent Hill: Downpour PS3 Review

Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, March 23rd, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/Silent_Hill_Downpour/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

The horror genre is a pretty narrow field, with most fans focusing on either Resident Evil or Silent Hill as their series of choice. While Resident Evil fans are treated to multiple game releases, Konami has been careful in the past to not flood the market with a watered down product. The majority of Silent Hill releases have been a success, and die-hard fans are quick to snatch up any new releases.

It's difficult to continue to please longtime fans however, as many are finding later installments to not have the same feel and characteristics as the original. This is most likely due to the fact Konami has been farming out the series to otherwise unknown developers for the past few games, which is again the case here with Vatra Studios stepping up to the plate. Silent Hill: Downpour is definitely a different take on the series, and as such fans will need to approach it with a fresh perspective.

The Story

The game starts out in a prison where the main character Murphy Pendleton has made a deal with a correctional officer to allow him access to another inmate. When Murphy confronts the other prisoner in the showers, it's not for some cuddle time. After exacting revenge for a past incident, Murphy returns to his cell a changed man. Shortly after the confrontation a riot breaks out in the prison and Murphy, along with a few other inmates are transferred to a maximum security prison.

Along the way the prison bus is forced to take a sudden detour into a ravine after the driver notices the road breaks off into nothingness. Murphy wakes up with the bus empty, and his handcuffs off. With nowhere to go but up he begins his nightmarish quest through the town of Silent Hill.

Here we see a new side of Silent Hill with new areas to explore, as well as side quests to partake in. There is no intrusion into past iterations of the Silent Hill series, so even people who have never played the other titles will have no difficulty jumping right in.

Gameplay

It took me some effort to warm up to Silent Hill: Downpour. With heavy focus on puzzles rather than heavy combat, it takes a few hours for an everyday gamer to settle in and find their comfort zone. In the beginning of the game you won't find the puzzles too satisfying, and the gameplay eases you into a lull. I was ready to declare the game a dud, but a few hours into it I realized I was sucked in.

The puzzles aren't overly difficult at all, though you can actually set the difficulty to hard if you are looking for a better challenge. Even so, anyone who has played any type of logic or puzzle games won't find Silent Hill: Downpour too much of a challenge. Most puzzles center on gathering information and require some detective skills to piece the clues together. It's this type of mystery solving which captured my attention, and had me push forth regardless of the slow start.

Unfortunately when you do end up battling an enemy, the combat is really clunky. Wild swings go through enemies, while awkward camera angles can make you feel stuck in a box. The camera isn't nearly as bad in the open streets, but if you get attacked close to a building or a sign you'll likely find yourself feeling a bit claustrophobic as it zooms in on top of your head, limiting your field of view.

You can fight enemies with your fists, but you won't do much to harm them. Weapons ranging from from axes and hammers to frying pans and empty beer bottles are littered throughout the game. Weapons do deteriorate over time with use, so be careful not to find yourself with a broken weapon in the middle of a fight.

Damage done to Murphy is shown by the shape his clothes are in and how much blood is on them. Taking a health pack will bring you back up to 100% health, at which point his clothes miraculously patch themselves up. There is no HUD, but you can check your health percentage at anytime on the pause screen by looking at your statistics.

Graphics & Performance

The graphics themselves are pretty sharp. They teeter on the duller shades of the color spectrum, but it's to be expected in a horror game.

What I wasn't expecting from a Silent Hill game though was the amount of frame rate drops and full blown stuttering I experienced about 25% of the time, namely in the city proper, when entering a new area, or during auto saving.

I understand the need for load times when entering new areas, but the choppiness completely destroys the seamless feeling of what is perceived to be an open environment. Note this is all despite a 4.5 gig load onto the PS3 hard drive.

Audio

The sounds are great and help set the ambiance of the game. However, I can not stand the fact most doors slam shut behind you. The idea is to scare the living crap out of you, and it works well, but not for the right reasons: I had to crank up the volume in order to hear the people speaking, and the sound of the door slamming happens to be a few more decibels louder. When using a headset, this equates to a piercing sound in your ears, one enough to make them ring.

Final Thoughts

Silent Hill: Downpour is a decent game to play until you factor in the frame rate issues. The stuttering was so terrible I found myself wondering why the hell I'm playing the game when it seems as if no one in Vatra Studios quality assurance department took the time to do so themselves.

The overall gameplay is solid, mind you. Once you get past the slow start, the game opens up to an interesting and creepy experience. There were definitely a couple times I nearly sh*t my pants. Unfortunately, these high points do little to compensate for the performance.

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