The first place I saw Silent Hill: Downpour was at the Konami’s booth at the annual E3 Expo in Los Angeles, last year, it was playable and it looked pretty good. As many longtime fans of series and after some serious departures from the original formula, I was of course skeptical of how the final product would turn out. In many ways, I am pleasantly surprised.
The survival horror genre in video games has been dominated by Resident Evil and Silent Hill for about the last 15 years. Resident Evil has generally taken a more action oriented approach where Silent Hill has typically focused on the more psychological aspects of horror. Unfortunately, starting with Silent Hill 4, the more recent entries have been significantly more combat-oriented. Luckily Downpour heads the series back toward its eerie roots.
Silent Hill: Downpour is the story of Murphy Pendleton a convict in Ryall State Corrections Facility. Downpour starts here giving you a quick combat tutorial. This tutorial and choice of protagonist doesn’t do much to encourage players of a return to its psychological roots but, the clunky combat and destructible weapons do somewhat foreshadow your character’s mortality. The difficulty of the combat and puzzles can be adjusted in the menu.
If the fighting wasn’t difficult enough, the return to fixed camera angles will also present its own challenge. On the PlayStation 3, L2 is used to lock on an enemy or aim, tapping Square will attack, while holding it will result in a strong attack. R2 throws or shoots the few firearms you will find and finally, the Triangle button is used to block. In the past, poor combat mechanics were justified with everyday protagonists but, you’d probably expect a convict to be a little better at fighting.
For some reason, Murphy and few other convicts are scheduled for a transfer to Wayside Maximum Security Prison and this where the story really starts. The bus crashes on the way near, of all places, the town of Silent Hill. Almost immediately after the crash, Murphy is faced with the first moral choice to make. These moral choices affect the story later and of course which of the five possible (on first play-through) endings you receive.
Downpour features a changing environment including weather and time of day. At night and during the rain the enemies are more plentiful and stronger and just because they’re down, doesn’t mean they’re out. It is also worth noting that there are not many different types of enemies to encounter and not many of the classics either. All is not puzzles and safety inside, however. It doesn’t take long for Murphy to encounter the "Otherworld" and deadly void. There is nothing to do but run and think quickly. Downpour does offer the ability to look back at your chaser but, when does that ever do any good?