The recent addition to the fabulous Silent Hill series is centered around a convict named Murphy Pendleton. He first wanders into Silent Hill because of a prison-bus accident much like the famed Fugitive scene. At first mention of this introductory plot, it seems like Silent Hill has finally lost its grip entirely on what the games were originally about. But that is really not the case at all.
The game starts out slow. Murphy goes through several tedious and somewhat lengthy locations before even setting foot in the main arena that would define the game’s feeling. Silent Hill, once he arrives, instantly feels like an old friend. “Where have you been Silent Hill? We missed you.” More on that later… The precursors to finding it are tiresome, but offer a good look at the new mechanics, monster fights, and puzzles, as well as start off the story on a confused, intrigued foot. The fact that the lead character is a convict, and he slaughters a helpless guy in the very opening scene, would make someone really question whether or not to be on his side.
That darkened look on Murphy’s face starts to lighten up, and slowly throughout the story, we find out he is not a bad guy. It isn’t entirely evident, but more of a sense. He cares for others and eventually parts of his family life are revealed. This is a good way to make a character. Technically, he’s the best SH main character since James in terms of dynamicy.
A characteristic of the franchise is weirdness. It’s something Homecoming did not utilize as much as it should have. I was afraid Downpour would be the same way. But, thankfully it was very weird. Not an obvious kind of weird, like a lizard with a bunny tail, but a more subconscious, confusing, or intriguing kind of weird, like a rabbit with a black foot in a third story window. You know what I’m trying to say? A perfect example of this is the police cars circling the first Silent Hill neighborhood. Clearly, since Murphy is a convict, the natural reaction is to stay clear. But when it does get too close, he doesn’t get arrested or meet any cops – the car disappears and turns into three monsters… So, the police car is just a manifestation of fear unique to Murphy. But… he can go to the police station and call each car back to the station so they are no longer patrolling… So, are the police cars real at all? Or are they just another unexplained phenomenon of the cranial world of Silent Hill? There are a lot of things like that. That’s something I enjoy most about the series – the idea that each of the “otherworlds” are unique to the each game’s main character. When something happens, you can bet it has something to do with the character’s own live-in demons.
During my playthrough of Downpour, I was all about the side-quests. They proved to be a very worth-while part of the game. Not for whatever item you unlock, but for the experience. They were often the scariest parts too. Here are some examples… In one of the apartments, the side quest is to return everything that a resident stole from other residents. Murphy goes to the thief’s apartment to find him hanging, and finds all the items, and then creepy sounds lead him to the place of the item’s original belonging. In another extra quest, Murphy found this tunnel that led to this deep system of sewer walkways. It eventually led to a switch. If forget what the switch was supposed to do, because as soon as it’s pulled, monsters start to swarm and pop out from the dark, and Murphy has to run quickly to get out of there and escape the horror. I also thought the Bank side quest was interesting. Everytime the alarm rings in the bank, monsters show up in the lobby. Defeat the monsters and a new door in the bank’s safe opens with a prize. There are four or five rounds of that… The side quests are one of the ways where Downpour innovated beyond the previous ideas of the franchise. This game innovated in other ways too…
The town has always been a foggy place. No one ever thought to bring in some other form of weather. When the developers reached the idea that there should be rain in this game, it was such a revelation, they named the game after it! lol The rain is a neat idea. Because it’s not just rain, it means something. Basically, the longer Murphy is out of cover and exploring the town, the heavier the rain will get. First comes heavy drops, then thunder, then lightning… and as soon as you realize that with a heavier storm, more monsters are out to get you, the whole experience of exploring becomes a fight! It’s exciting.
The monsters themselves, I thought, were kind of dull. The main two kinds you see alllll the time are the female screaming creature and the long-haired male creature with a shaky head. Both are quite zombieish and didn’t really reflect Silent Hill’s classically distorted take on monsters. The big, white, bony things are really weird, and scary sometimes, but overall not very cool. One thing I did think was a good decision regarding the monsters was the lack of noise. When a monster is in the scene, there is no special music, no radio hiss, no scary sounds of incitement – just the noise the monster may or may not make. That makes them frightening.
As for the deeper, deranged, dungeonous world Murphy visits on occasion, which I don’t have a proper name for, I think it is a bit of an overkill. Yes, this game is given the completely updated graphic treatment, (yet doesn’t have surround sound for some reason) and so the environments are intensely detailed with grit and machinery. But they went so fast. I’m sure that was the point – to further contrast the foggy scenes – but I would have liked it if they weren’t so rushed. Let’s not forget, Silent Hill is about subtlety. Downpour is in no way in violation of that… but it could have been pushed farther during the trips to the demonic world. And that light… sphere… chasing… monster thing… is… okay. I don’t really see what it has to do with anything. But! I could say that about a lot of other things I like – in any of the games. It’s just another one of those things.
As for the story, it went over my head honestly. I figured a second playthrough would answer most of my questions. I… don’t think it was connected at all to the story of Alessa. If it was, then I missed it. I guess she had nothing to do with Homecoming or The Room either, though. It doesn’t really matter. But, as I’m currently working on Silent Hill 1 and Origins, I want there to be ties to the original story.
Overall, Downpour is a step in the right direction. Homecoming wasn’t as big of a mis-step as most people thought… I still didn’t like it, but it had good moments. Downpour, however, continues the greatness and well-timed innovation that left off with Shattered Memories. The environments are good, the scares are surprisingly good, the music is good… even despite the loss of Yamaoka (R.I.P.) lol just kidding, he’s not dead! He just wanted to move on, I guess… But with Downpour under the belt of the franchise and what appears to be a promising new creative team and a promising new creative musician, I am excited to see where they go next… I really hope it’s somewhere go0d.
Advice for a player of Downpour: do not get on the boat until you are done with everything else! I made that mistake, and I will have to play it again to find out what side-quests I missed out on.
p.s. the room 302 easter-egg was much appreciated ;)