Saturday, 6 February 2016

Silent Hill: Downpour/ Xbox 360

My First thoughts upon playing this game....
I love that the Unreal engine was used for what is the 8th instalment in the Silent Hill series of survival horror games. Konami really do stay true to what makes a good survival horror and with Downpour and Vatra Games who developed it, the true elements stay, along with a huge improvement in how it looks. However, I couldn't help but think during the first 10 minutes of playing, that the graphics are so tidy that it has taken some of the creepy atmosphere away that I have been used to in the Japanese titles, which almost have a black and white feel to them; It does grow on you though. After a while I really began to appreciate the clean cut look that comes with the Unreal game engine. Secondly the movement of the main character Murphy appears at first to be very similar to the movement of characters from titles 2 to 4, although a lot freer due to being able to move the camera as well as the player, something that you couldn't do on the older generation consoles. So the game I felt is a mixture of old and new that gives a little something for both old and new players of Silent Hill.

Let's get stuck into the game.
I am beginning to get the feeling that a lot of the inspiration for Silent Hill games, if not in the beginning, then possibly in later years, has come from the series of films titled A Nightmare on Elm Street, as there has been an uncanny resemblance with a theme of child killing, paedophiles and burning. After a little bit of research I found out that there are many references to the whole horror genre in Silent Hill games, but none specific to the above mentioned films.     

The Plot 

Protagonist, jailed convict Murphy Pendleton, is transferred to another prison after making a deal with a corrupt officer that allowed him to kill a paedophile that used to be his neighbour. (Not quite your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman). On the way to the new prison, the bus transferring the inmates along with Murphy loses control and crashes badly. Awakening from the crash, Murphy finds himself alone and begins to make his way through the surrounding woodland only to be confronted by officer Anne Cunningham, who was on the bus (she hates him). Anne unfortunately slips and falls from a cliff edge whilst attempting to apprehend Murphy, leaving Murphy to continue on his way. Long story short, Murphy ends up tripping out (so it appears at first) whilst making his way through the woods, a diner and then a mine, before ending up in (you guessed it) Silent Hill, shitting himself and wondering about the other characters and monsters he has met along the way and in particular how it was possible that Anne showed up again, even though he had watched her fall to her death about 10 minutes prior to her second coming.


Ah....the disappointing letdown of being sucked into a game only for it to become a journey of frustration. So much so that it may be a game that ends up on the pile of games I may complete one day if I should happen to somehow run out of games to play. Quickly glancing at the ever growing mountain of games next to my games station, it isn't likely to happen anytime soon should that indeed be the case.

I have an unwritten rule that if a game, film or music album doesn't have me within the first 5 minutes of play, then it is likely to never be played again. Silent Hill, Downpour, sucker punched me after luring me in with the promise that I would quickly be victorious in completing the game. That sucker punch is the fact that once you get into Silent Hill the game becomes an absolute fanny on of having to play hide and seek every time that the rain begins to come down heavily, which happens to be the favourite time for the monsters to come out and it also happens to be for the monsters what spinach is to Popeye (crack cocaine). Coupled with the poor fighting mechanics, the monsters can quite easily get the better of you. Add to this the shoddy weapons that can be picked up everywhere and broken within a few hits of a monster or a few blocks of a monster's attack, you will most likely find yourself running and hiding more than actually attempting to progress in the game. Sure this is the idea of Downpour and the reason for the title, but it happens so often (the rain pouring down) that it takes the horror element out of the game, replacing it with sheer frustration instead of fear. On the plus side it does still have some creepy moments, but none as creepy as it's 360 predecessor, Homecoming.
It begins with great promise. Once I realised that it was made on the Unreal engine, I got super excited. It looks fantastic, a little similar in feel at times to Alan Wake. There is an early warning sign when taking out the paedophile in the showers at the beginning of the game (interpret that as you like), that the fighting mechanics are potentially going to be a little cack handed, but you can easily overlook this as you are mesmerised by how the game looks. My suspicions turned out to have some truth as I realised just how much time you can spend trying to defend yourself with a weapon, rather than use it to hit your intended target. In Homecoming, you didn't have a huge amount of weapons choice, but you did have lasting weapons and the ability to lock onto enemies and roll around them to get out of the way of incoming attacks. In Downpour, it just feels as though you are going to get done in every time that you fight and that no weapon is going to last long enough to be appreciated. My little snigger when prompted to escape Silent Hill upon entering, in hindsight was just. There is also the absence of regular composer Akira Yamaoka, leaving the usual haunting sounds that have accompanied Silent Hill games of the past a little flat, although Daniel Licht makes a good attempt and does have some horror pedigree, having worked with Clive Barker in the past. I can give the game the credit of being as close to an original survival horror as can possibly be these days, given that games such as Resident Evil are moving further and further away from their roots and even Homecoming was more action than survival. With this said, perhaps my frustrations lie with the fact that it has been a long time since I have had to play a game so cautiously and that all of the gun blasting Resident Evil titles of recent years have taken away some of my survival skills or perhaps the game is just pants, disguised by the beauty of the unreal engine or my ability to play this game is pants and maybe I need to go back to basics and relearn how to survive. Whatever the case may be, for now I am going to end the review on this......
I feel like the plus of this game, is that it shows what a really great new generation console Silent Hill could be like. In reality it doesn't appear that we will be getting a new one anytime soon (at least not from Konami). The downside of this game is that it is so frustrating to progress in that it makes me not want to continue playing. I haven't even spoken about the puzzles or the side quests, simply because I have been turned off so much by what I have played so far (I last felt like this when playing Dead Rising). In short, lets leave the horror games to the Japanese and hope that another great Silent Hill comes to us soon.

   Silent Hill: Downpour scores a 6 out of 10 for it's looks alone and may boost up another point if I happen to have enough patience to complete it. If I do, I will also update this review.