Silent Hill Downpour PS3 review
At first I was afraid. I was petrified. Then I realised that sadly most of the fear came from the deep-seated dread built up during the glory days of Silent Hill. This doesn’t mean that escaped prisoner Murphy Pendleton’s jaunt into the mist is entirely without merit, but Downpour is a flawed and disappointing experience. New developer for the series, Vatra, is clearly passionate about Silent Hill, which is both a blessing and a curse as it surrounds an updated engine with a series of old game mechanics long past their sell-by date.
At first, environments are atmospheric and foreboding as our new protagonist attempts to escape Silent Hill after his prison bus overturns. In various shades of grey, the world looks like a classic addition to the series, with some nice touches as blood and rain spatter the camera. The soundtrack, too, is an impressively subtle mix of industrial tones in the style of Yamaoka and dynamic sound effects.
Initially, exploration is grand in scale without feeling like you’re lost as you travel in cable cars and through mountains. Sadly, this becomes muddled in later stages as random side missions come into play, leaving you wandering around in the mist with only an unhelpful journal that may or may not contain the map. It’s depressing, as the more linear locations are intricately detailed and thoroughly enjoyable to explore.
In the scares department, Downpour just isn’t consistent enough. An enjoyable door-opening animation cranks up the tension, with the camera zooming in over Murphy’s shoulder as he steps over the threshold, but all too often there’s nothing there. Even the descent to the Otherworld, although cinematically presented as layers of the world peel away to reveal fiery machinery, is largely made up of being chased by a big ball of light and knocking over boxes that apparently slow it down.
It all feels rather underwhelming, which isn’t helped by the crippling lag I experienced during entry to some rooms and during auto-save points. Unless Vatra was trying for some jerking ‘Nurse Vision’, it’s failed to iron out some rather important bugs.
Speaking of Nurses, Downpour’s enemies are a shambles. Pixellated sacks of flesh, the five varieties of monster may have looked at home in previous incarnations, but they’ve been left behind by the HD era. As though to match the quality of its monsters, Downpour’s combat doesn’t fare much better. Murphy isn’t meant to be much of a fighter, but his skills are horribly clunky nonetheless.
As inexperienced as he’s meant to be at smashing the skulls of screaming banshee women, the lack of control and sickening camera angles during combat make it a repeatedly frustrating experience. The Downpour of the title means that enemies are out in force during the rain as it goes from a spatter to a thunderstorm, but rather than raising tension, this only further fuels the frustrating lack of a satisfying system to take them down.
There may be moments of brilliance in there and an intriguing story to boot, but there are just too many flaws to wholeheartedly recommend this. Silent Hill fans will appreciate the atmosphere, but it’s bogged down in old-fashioned gameplay that just doesn’t cut it. Sadly, we grew up. Equally sadly, Silent Hill never did.