1st Impressions: Silent Hill Downpour (PS3)

It’s no secret that the Silent Hill series has lost a bit of it’s luster in the 10+ years since it’s initial release. While the last two big console releases, Silent Hill: Homecoming and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, took steps to revitalize, revamp, and reinvigorate the series they both had aspects that left more to be desired. In comes Vatra’s entry into the cherished series with Silent Hill: Downpour. While I’m not going into a full blown review of the game I did feel compelled to voice some of my thoughts about the game.

To compare this game to any of the first four games in the series that was made by Team Konami is usesless. No current SH games will even come close to being as good as those games became so instead I will compare Downpour to the last games released recently (Origins, Homecoming & Shattered Memories). Right off the bat, Vatra has wisely decided to bring the fight back to the game by putting in a combat system, unlike Shattered Memories that was devoid of any combat. While the main character, Murphy Pendelton, can fight back against the creatures in that gods-forsaken town he’s not a combat veteran like Homecoming’s Alex Shepherd. Murphy, as far as I can tell, is a regular guy who’s ended up in prison for some reason (reason I’m sure will be told later in the game). The weapons, similar to the PSP game Silent Hill: Origins, are breakable and you can only hold one mele weapon on you at a time (you can put a handgun in your waist but when you use it Murphy drops the mele weapon). This aspect of the combat makes you think twice about fighting enemies, especially when a group of them are coming after you because sometimes a certain type of weapon will not make it past two or more enemies. While it sounds like this could be a real nightmare there are plenty of things to grab and defend yourself in the environment, and let me tell you if all you can find is a rock you will enjoy the satisfaction of beating down a monster with it. Although there are sweet fire axes and meat cleavers that I have used in the game my favorite weapon is a fire extinguisher. As hilarious as it sounds this thing is a beast! Using the guns in this game is good as well but I have hardly used it because the ammo in this game is scarce. I’ve only used the gun twice in the four hours I’ve played so far.

Speaking of the monsters they are tough as hell! As I mentioned taking one on can be a challenge but fight more than one at a time and you are going to want to run away as far as you can get because you can get overpowered very easily. Each creature has a different way of fighting so you have to pay attention to their “tells”  that will indicate when they are going to strike. But since you have the ability to block most punches, you have a basic fight pattern to follow which is to block until you see an opening to strike. As I said this is fine when only dealing with a single enemy, more than that you are not going to be happy trying to fight off a pair of crazy ass monsters. As with most of the SH monsters, the creatures have some kind of relation to the protagonist in some way. I have yet to see the connection of the types of monsters in this game in relation to Murphy, but if there is a connection then Murphy is one really messed up dude.

The game so far has really messed with my head, especially when Murphy gets thrown into the “Otherworld”. When I played the demo at the Konami event a few months ago I described the mind-bending section at the beginning of the game that had a vortex of some kind chasing me down hallways that kept stretching every time I would get to the end of them. Well I come to find out that was nothing compared to a different Otherworld section I encountered in the town’s abandoned mining caves. The best decription I could give for it would be a total mind-frak! Another element of the game that causes me the most frights is the audio, which is no surprise in Silent Hill games. The new composer, Dan Licht, has done a great job of stepping into the role of the game’s audio director, a position that was left vacant for the first time in the series’ history by SH vet Akira Yamaoka. While not trying to be exactly like Yamaoka, Licht’s approach definitely feels Silent Hill-ish and he’s done a great job of giving me chills while playing. Here’s a tip, play this game (or any Silent Hill game for that matter) with a pair of good headphones (and in the dark),  you will constantly try to rub the goose pimples out of your skin while playing.

So far I’m enjoying the game but if there was one or two little blemishes I’ve encountered with the game is that I’ve run into some graphic and frame rate slowdown which causes chugging at times. Another thing I take some issue with is the lack of the ability to hard save the game, which is something that was always present in the previous games. Even if there were physical save points in the game I would be happy but instead I have to wait and see if I come across a random autosave. This can be annoying when I’m really tired (or scared) and I want to stop I have to hope I come across an autosave point soon. Other than that I’m eager to get back to my TV, shut off the lights, put my headphones on and scare the living crap out of myself as I traverse further through Silent Hill Downpour. Stay tuned for my final review of the game in the near future.