Silent Hill: Downpour
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-04-04 Xbox 360 Survival/Horror M (Mature) Konami / Vatra Games

What I've always liked about Silent Hill is how uneasy it makes me feel, regardless of playing it in total darkness or in a well-lit room, or even just by watching someone else play, while clinging to a pillow like it is my only and certain defense from whatever will pop out of a corner at any given time.

Silent Hill: Downpour didn't hit me like a Silent Hill game right away. It was a strange and different type of beginning that didn't have the same impact I am used to. It DID have impact, since it was unusual and violent to be forced to beat and stab someone to death, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

You play as Murphy Pendleton, an inmate at Ryall State Prison, who is being transferred to another facility. Shortly after, the bus crashes. Some are killed, most disappear, and Murphy is left to find his way out of the woods. Soon enough you will find yourself in Devil's Pit, a seemingly deserted, foggy, rainy and isolated mining town that becomes the starting point of your trip.

And here the game begins to feel slightly more like previous titles, as I found myself peeking around every corner, slowly opening doors to see if nothing was going to rip my head off or something, inspecting everything in search of a weapon or any useful items and clues.

As you discover clues and mysteries, Murphy's journal becomes a scrapbook of information, containing everything from photos to maps, poem fragments and prison letters, among other things. Slowly, bits and pieces come together revealing the past and what was going on in Murphy's life.

Mysteries are basically your side quests, something new to the franchise, and there are plenty of them to be found around the town, if you take the time to snoop around enough to find them. Snoop around carefully enough and you will find mementos of previous games in the franchise, such as The Room, Origins and Homecoming!

Also new is the strange vortex that chases you in the Otherworld. This thing just doesn't give up and will chase you until it catches up and consumes you. There's just one thing to do: run. Oh, and throw obstacles in its way, or else you will watch as Murphy starts slowing down, screaming and burning (or so it looks like). The panic in Murphy's screams is so real that it makes ME panic. Many times I was just running around in circles not knowing where to go, or stuck in a never-ending hallway (I've felt that during a real moment of vertigo and it wasn't amusing!) and I was so tense and clinging to the controller so hard that my neck and hands hurt once I turned the game off.

Downpour has been playing on my fears since the beginning. The first time I had to balance across a fallen tree had me clinging to the controller so hard that my fingers hurt when I reached the other side. Eventually, crossing planks became less scary, except when there were things moving below or stuff happening all around to make me disoriented. Having the ground give way below Murphy's feet and helping him up by pressing and holding the triggers one at a time also made me extremely uneasy.

I can understand that Silent Hill isn't about combat, but if given the choice, I will turn around and kick the crap out of whatever is coming at me. Unfortunately, this didn't work as well in practice as I thought, especially when I figured that with so many available weapons (a bit like in Dead Rising, where you can run around with a frying pan, a chair, or whatever else you can pick up), it would be easier to defend myself.

As it turns out, weapons break a lot, and even a good, solid fire axe can't seem to hold itself together after fighting one of the new monsters that has two minion "pets" on a chain. Pistols and shotguns are also available, with ammo being scarce as always, but you can only carry one gun and one melee weapon, and switch between them. You can also throw weapons and objects (bricks, stones, sticks, bottles) or use your fists, but you can't block if you're just punching.

There are side quests that lead to better weapons though, the best I found were a tomahawk and a demon statuette that just about killed everything in two hits. But in an unexpected plot twist, I lost it all and found myself stripped of all the goodies I've been collecting.

Another different feature is the presence of choices. At certain points in the game, Murphy interacts with certain characters and is presented with a choice on how to deal with them. While the result of the choice is basically the same, and the gameplay doesn't seem to change based on that, these will have some impact on the ending you unlock (and there are several).

I do miss the usual presence of the nurses and their twitching, but I like the screamers - if it is possible to like a creepy creature with a disturbing face, that sometimes crawls around like the girl in The Ring when coming out of the TV. They are especially annoying since they stun Murphy with their screams, and from a distance that you would think safe, too.

I gasped a few times when opening doors that lead to chasms of certain death (well, almost), jumped out of my seat when images quickly flashed in the darkness, made up new combinations of swear words when something attacked me out of nowhere knocking me down ("son of a f***!" particularly amused my husband), and fled in terror when weapons broke at the worst of times. Silent Hill: Downpour is one hell of a ride. Or more likely, a ride through hell. And I liked it!