Dinosaur’s Thoughts – Silent Hill: Downpour

Downpour

 

These days it’s gotten pretty hard to be a Silent Hill fan. And by “these days,” I mean since about 2004. 2004 saw the release of the last numbered Silent Hill game, “Silent Hill 4: the Room.” And while many (myself included) considered it to be nowhere near as good as the first 3 games, it was still pretty decent. My only real complaint was the re-use of every single dungeon/area, sans the hospital.

Unfortunately, we had no idea what was to come.

4 years later, in 2008, we saw the release of Silent Hill: Homecoming. The first next-gen Silent Hill game, it looked pretty decent. Unfortunately, beyond that, it wasn’t so hot. The focus on combat, which a Silent Hill game should never really do, really hurt the game in my opinion. Sure, it made sense from a story standpoint, as Alex, the protagonist, used to be a soldier. Or, it’s at least assumed that he used to be a soldier. This means that rather than the everyman that had been featured in every Silent Hill game up until Homecoming, Alex had experienced combat. He knew how to use all of the weapons he came across. Admittedly, even the combat was still super clunky, it at least felt satisfying to nail combos against enemies and dispatch them pretty brutally. Though I would still consider Silent Hill: Homecoming to be weaker than all of the games that came before it, I still don’t think it was terrible. I’d give it a 3/5.

And then… came Downpour. I was damn excited for Downpour. Now, before I hop into my thoughts, consider the following: Downpour came out in March of 2012. I am currently writing this blog post in August of 2015, having just beaten the game about a week ago. A number of times, I sat down to play Downpour, fully intending to play it from start to finish. And boy, did I fail every time. Finally, FINALLY, I managed to get through it, over the course of about 3 months. I played it with a friend, and boy, did we have issues.

First of all, I DO have some good things to say about Downpour. It looks great. Even now, comparing it to games that came out after, and even comparing it to current PS4 and XBone games, it still holds up pretty well graphically. And like all of the Silent Hill games before it, it still has phenomenal sound design, which is essential to any survival horror game. From there, however, it only gets worse.

I played through Downpour on the PS3, and it still looked pretty darn good. However, I experienced terrible frame rate issues, and I know I was not alone in this, according to many other comments I have seen on the game. Anytime I saw the Auto-Save icon pop up, I would stop Murphy from moving around because my FPS would tank hard, and the game would lag for several seconds. Unfortunately, this issue wasn’t only limited to when the game was saving. Several times when entering a new area, the screen would tear, and unless I stopped using my controller, I would end up somewhere I hadn’t intended.  This was very irritating, and really destroyed my immersion in the game at several points. I know that this was less of an issue on the 360 version, which, from what I can tell, also looked a but better graphically.

Hardware issues aside, I was still excited for the story of the game. Silent Hill games always play out the same, similar to an M. Night Shyamalan movie. There’s going to be a twist. You know it’s coming. Unfortunately, just like Mr. Shyamalan, the twists have been getting worse and worse. In Downpour, you play as Murphy Pendleton, a convict. What was he sent to prison for? Well, you have to play the game to discover it, but I also know that I had some issues with the game right off the bat. As Murphy, you enter the showers in what appears to be a setup from one of the (corrupt) prison guards. From there, you proceed to beat the everloving shit out another prisoner, Patrick Napier. Granted, you’re given the indication that Napier deserves everything he’s getting, but it’s still a very uncomfortable way to start off the game. From there, Murphy is supposed to be transported from the Outlook Penitentiary to another prison. While in transit, the bus he is on crashes, and in an attempt to escape, Murphy finds himself in Silent Hill.

Unlike a lot of the other games, Downpour really puts a focus on exploring the town of Silent Hill. Sure, you can just go from point A to point B, but there’s so much to explore, and the town is filled to the brim with side quests. The big problem is all of the side quests are obtuse as hell. Now, maybe it’s because we played on Hard puzzle difficulty, but barring the first puzzle from Silent Hill 3, I’ve always been able to muddle my way through Hard Puzzles in all of the Silent Hill games. But in Downpour, most of the side quests are made up of exploring random houses, finding random items, and then trying to find out where they go. By the end of the game, I had a ton of items in my inventory; paintings, film reels, candy, soul eyes… I even knew where most of them were supposed to go. The big problem was I never was able to find all of them. Scattered throughout Silent Hill were plenty of what my friend and I called “Nothing Houses.” Maybe they were there for the sole purpose for you to just go inside when it started to rain, to escape the increased number of enemies. Maybe there were things that I just missed. But I know that I only completed one side quest on this play through of the game, because without a walk through, I was stumped and frustrated trying to find where things were and where things were supposed to go.

But hey, side quests are just that, right? Side quests! They’re not necessary to the experience, and you can play through the game without completing any of them. I know that completing some of the side quests would give you some further backstory on Murphy and the situation he was stuck in, but we were able to glean enough information just by going to the main locations.

Unfortunately, this leads me to the largest problem I had with this game: the pacing. I am a dude who loves crescendos. I love them in my music, I love them in my books, my movies, and my games. There are definitely a few moments in this game that were compelling and had me extremely interested. Unfortunately, there were only a few. The first big standout is the Mine Cart Ride near the beginning of the game, probably the best scene in the game. The problem I have with any of these big moments is that once they’re completed, you’re dumped back out into Silent Hill to try and muddle your way around to your next destination. Any sense of forward momentum is killed when after a crucial scene to the game you have to wander around the town for 15 minutes trying to get to your next destination. This was made no more clear to me than after the orphanage, where my friend and I were convinced the game was 95% over. Not so. Instead, we were puked out onto the streets of Silent Hill once more, trying to find our way to what we assumed was our next destination.

And then there was one more dungeon. By this point, I just wanted the game to end. I felt as though the story had already been resolved and the game should have ended one dungeon earlier. Instead, we were treated to one more area. And one more boss which, to be fair, was actually pretty cool. From there, we were treated to the ending(s), which of course, featured a twist, which as soon as the first line was uttered, we were able to guess.

This is all a fairly big rant on a game which I felt could have been much more polished, and could have been much better than it ended up being. As I said, there were a few standout moments, such as the mine cart ride, the stage in the orphanage, and the final boss battle. Unfortunately, it feels as though the game was rushed out. It’s filled with hardware issues, pacing issues, static characters, and even plot holes.

We all know my feelings on PT, as I’ve spoken about it before. It’s unfortunate that it seems the Downpour may end up being the last Silent Hill game to grace consoles, with the way Konami seems to be running their business. A painfully average game, made even worse by the hardware issues.

I’d have to give it a 2 out of 5. It honestly starts off compelling, but by the end, I just wanted it to be over.

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