Platforms: Xbox 360
Release Date: Out Now
Silent Hill: Downpour is the eighth instalment in Konami’s psychological horror franchise, and it should help repair the damage which Homecoming did to the series’ reputation. Downpour follows the story of Murphy Pendleton, a convict being transferred to a maximum security prison only for his bus to crash, leaving him stranded in the nightmarish town of Silent Hill.
Murphy is one of the most interesting and compelling protagonists to appear in Silent Hill; while not quite as complex as James, he certainly makes Harry and Henry look bland. The opening tutorial is a brutal affair, as your first taste of combat is for Murphy to stab to death an unarmed man in the prison showers. Murphy’s Otherworld is also among the most personalised of the series, replete with prison cells, gramophones tauntingly playing ‘Born Free’, and the Void, an entity doggedly pursuing Murphy, threatening to consume him. The transitions to the Otherworld are both cleverly enacted and visually amazing.
Downpour encourages exploration rather than linearity, and intriguing side quests allow you to delve further into the tragic lives of the town’s inhabitants. Downpour also doesn’t simply try to ape its predecessors; rather than re-treading classic locations such as Brookhaven hospital or Midwich School, you explore an entirely new area of Silent Hill, a particular highlight being the hellish Devil’s Pit.
The horror is well-paced with an atmosphere of foreboding being established gradually, building to the shocks and scares; rather than just throwing a steady stream of enemies at you. Daniel Licht has proven himself to be a worthy successor to series composer Akira Yamaoka; fashioning an atmospheric and unsettling score. The Bogeyman antagonist contains as much symbolism as Pyramid Head or the Butcher; and the introduction of Downpour’s rain dynamic is an ingenious feature as the intensity of the rain affects how numerous and vicious the monsters you encounter are, making the game more unpredictable.
The only let-downs are poor facial animations and the lack of variety among the enemies you encounter. The game’s combat system has received some criticism, but this has been largely unfair. Downpour is a survival horror, not an action horror, and in a survival horror combat should be a little clunky and difficult, to emphasise the importance of flight rather than fight. Your inventory limits you to carrying only two weapons at a time and melee weapons degrade from use. This gives you a vulnerability sadly lacking in many other horror games. In Downpour you won’t be committing genocide like in Dead Space or Resident Evil 5; Murphy is an ordinary man with limitations, and the experience is all the better for it.
Silent Hill: Downpour is the nearest thing to a true survival horror experience to be released by a large developer in recent years and for this fact alone it should be applauded.