Shadow of Phoenix

Respect for Games

Shade’s Review of Silent Hill: Downpour

Posted on this Site: Monday, March 28, 2022

Originally Published on Monday, January 26, 2015 at https://shadevideogames.blogspot.com/2015/01/shades-review-of-silent-hill-downpour.html

The last Silent Hill console release made by a western developer was Silent Hill: Downpour.
It was developed by Vatra Games, and released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012.
There was one last Western Silent Hill game that came out after Downpour called Silent Hill: Book of Memories.
Book of Memories was made by WayForward Technologies for the PlayStation Vita.
It was released in 2012, months after Downpour.
I don’t currently own Book of Memories so I can’t review it.
 
Downpour’s development members involved Devin Shatsky (producer), Tomm Hulett (senior associate producer), Brian Gomez (design director), and Daniel Licht (music).
The story of Downpour was written by Hulett, Shatsky, and Tom Waltz.
This was the first Silent Hill without Akira Yamaoka as the music composer.
Shorty after the North American release of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories in December 2009, Yamaoka left Konami, and began working at Grasshopper Manufacture in early 2010.
Licht, most known as the music composer for the Showtime TV series Dexter, was Yamaoka’s replacement for Downpour.
 
The main character of Downpour is Murphy Pendleton, an escaped prisoner.
He was being transferred to another prison when the transport bus crashed in Silent Hill, and his past comes back to haunt him as he tries to escape the town.
Controlling Murphy has some similarities with Silent Hill: Homecoming’s controls.
The left analog stick moves Murphy, right analog stick moves the camera, L2/L trigger (PS3/Xbox 360) makes him go into combat mode, and X/A attacks enemies.
The Triangle/Y button blocks enemy attacks, pressing R1/R bumper makes him run, and L1/L bumper to look behind him.
 
The camera usually stays behind Murphy, although there are times when the camera angles change.
It’s great that they were trying to bring back switching camera angles, but it’s not as well done as it was in earlier games.
The camera would change in the original Silent Hill games to give a cinematic feeling, to show an important item to pick up, to go through a certain door, etc.
There isn’t much of that in Downpour.
Most camera angles seem to be there just to switch camera angles.
There are times when the angle changes when Murphy is turning a valve or some other object to show what action it’s doing such as opening a gate.
That does help in seeing what it’s doing while you’re doing it.
Other than that, however, the switching camera angles don’t really serve much of a purpose in this game.
 
There are a few things about Downpour’s controls that can accidentally make Murphy do something that players don’t want him to do.
One is throwing an equipped weapon.
R2/R trigger has Murphy throw the weapon he has in his hand, and it’s usually lost forever.
It’s so easy to accidentally throw a weapon especially on the PS3 controller.
The L2 and R2 buttons on the PS3 controller are very sensitive, and they can be slightly pressed to perform an unwanted action in any game.
In Downpour, it’s one of the many ways to lose your weapon.
 
Another one is the fact that the right button on the d-pad heals Murphy by using a health item in the inventory.
Quick healing him can be nice so players don’t have to scroll through the many items in the inventory.
The problem, once again, is that it’s not hard to mistakenly press the button, and use a health item when he doesn’t need one.
This is especially true when the left button switches weapons, and players can accidentally press the right button thinking it will switch them back.
But, it uses a health item instead.
 
The last issue of performing unwanted actions is due to Murphy automatically implementing certain movements such climbing up and down a ladder when he’s near it, or ducking under an opening when he’s close enough.
In preceding games, players had to press the action button to climb up or down a ladder, duck under or over something, etc.
In Downpour, you can be walking towards an certain area, and Murphy climbs up a ladder just because you were walking passed it and got close to it.
 
Before talking about the combat, I would like to briefly explain the inventory system.
The inventory is similar to Silent Hill 4’s inventory.
It appears at the top of the screen when the up button on the d-pad is pressed, and it does not pause the game.
Murphy is limited to only holding one melee weapon and one firearm at the same time.
Unlike Silent Hill 4, Murphy can hold an unlimited number of any other items.
 
There is nothing wrong with limiting the number of items the main character can carry.
This is usually done by limiting the inventory space making players decide which weapons and other items they want to carry.
It’s a little strange that the number of weapons Murphy can have is limited, but other items he can carry are not restricted.
It’s also a pain when all weapons are breakable.
 
Combat in Downpour is very frustrating.
All weapons are breakable including firearms.
This is a lot like Silent Hill: Origins where players can pick up many objects to use as weapons most of which are breakable.
The difference in Origins is that firearms are not fragile, and that game has unlimited space for weapons.
Breakable weapons are more annoying than scary.
 
In games like Resident Evil, players rely on firearms to defeat enemies, but you’re always worried about running out of ammo.
The same is true for older Silent Hill games especially on harder modes.
And, if players use melee weapons to fight enemies then they are taking a chance of acquiring damage by getting close to them.
Breakable weapons do not make me worry about surviving.
It just makes me want to avoid combat as much as possible because I don’t want to deal with them especially when enemies in this game are very good at testing your patience.
 
Like Homecoming, there are some doors where you must use a weapon to open a door such as a wrench to break a lock, or an axe to chop wooden planks.
With breakables weapons, though, it’s common for the weapon you’re using to open the door to shatter before the lock breaks, or all the wood is chopped.
Then you have to search for another weapon.
There are also parts of the game when Murphy loses his weapons.
This usually happens when Murphy is walking across a bridge, it breaks apart, and the weapons fall off of him.
Yet again, you have to search for more weapons.
 
Speaking of enemies testing your patience, the enemies in this game are not scary.
They piss me off.
In past games, the monsters’ primary purpose is to put fear in the player.
Yes, monsters can harm the main character, but they are more about being frightening and disturbing.
Monsters nearby are often heard through radio static, and the noises they make as they come closer to the main character.
Many times you hear the monsters before you can see them, and you either avoid to them or attack them before they get too close.
Just hearing that the monsters are close by is very frightening.
 
In Downpour, they come running at Murphy, sometimes out of nowhere, and start beating the hell out of him.
It even happens once or twice when you’re trying to solve a puzzle.
Enemies running up to Murphy and beating him doesn’t make me afraid of them.
It makes me angry.
I also have to say that Downpour’s enemies are poorly designed.
In previous games, particularly Silent Hill 1-4, the monsters are ambiguous and disturbing.
The monsters in Downpour look kind of silly, and do not compare to the monsters of the originals.
 
The nightmare is not scary either.
In Downpour, water causes the nightmare shift, which makes sense with Murphy’s background.
The problem is that the nightmare itself is not disturbing or frightening at all.
For one, there are similarities with the nightmares of past games such as a red light chasing Murphy through most the game’s nightmare.
Silent Hill 3 has a small part where a red light chases Heather, and she must run away from it or it will drain her health.
Since the red light chases Murphy through most of the time the nightmare takes over, there isn’t much exploring in the nightmare a lot like the ice world in Shattered Memories.
 
There are parts where Murphy must balance on narrow objects like a tree, which reminds me of Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted.
A couple times, he has to turn an object to open a gate, and run through it before it closes.
I’ve only ever had to do this in platforming games like Prince of Persia.
A few times, Murphy gets on a water slide, and players move him from side to side to avoid objects.
I’ve seen something like this in action games like Binary Domain.
 
I don’t understand how the developers thought they were scaring players.
Reusing nightmare elements from past Silent Hill games is not scary to those of us who have played the older games.
It’s also not scary to use gameplay aspects of games that are not even a part of the horror genre.
There are also a lot of prison cages, clocks and monsters in cages.
It’s a very obvious reference to Murphy being in prison, and it’s not disturbing in any way.
Downpour’s nightmare is more like a Halloween amusement park than it is a nightmare.
 
Something else that makes Downpour not scary is autosaves and checkpoints.
I have no problem with autosaves and checkpoints in any other game.
In a horror game, however, saving manually is part of making players worry about surviving.
I’m guessing the Downpour developing team was thinking more about having modern video game elements like autosaves and checkpoints.
In making a horror game, on the other hand, they should understand why it’s necessary to require players to save manually.
The good thing about autosaves and checkpoints is that there are many glitches in this game, and you don’t lose a lot of progress if you have to restart it.
 
Downpour has freezing, stuttering, one of Murphy’s arms can disappear at certain points, opening a door and another is in its place, and many more.
The game loads a lot, and it stutters almost every time it’s loading.
The loading icon is exactly the same as the saving icon.
It even says saving when it’s actually loading so you’re never sure if it’s saving or loading.
 
There is something that I like about Downpour.
In Homecoming and Shattered Memories, there are button prompts to indicate actions to perform such as opening a door, and objects to pick up are highlighted by making them flash or having arrows point at them.
Again, button prompts and object highlighting is fine for any other game.
I just always liked how Silent Hill 1-4 made it obvious about which door to go through or which objects to pick through camera angles, and having objects stand out in the environment somehow.
 
Downpour has button prompts and shiny objects, but they can be turned off in the options menu.
This game is the only one that I know of that has the option of turning off button prompts and highlighted objects.
Objects do flash a little bit when Murphy is close enough to them even if the object highlighting is turned off.
It could have something to do with how the game is programmed.
The option to turn these indicators off is definitely a positive for Downpour.
If only the game didn’t have so many other issues.
 
Downpour’s replayability is decent.
Action and riddle difficulties are brought back from Silent Hill 2 & 3, and each has three difficulty levels: easy, normal, and hard.
The puzzles are not bad, but there is really only one that requires players to solve a riddle to find the answer similar to the riddles of Silent Hill 1-3.
There are six endings, and several objects for players to collect.
The game introduces sidequests, but there is not a lot to be gained by completing them.
Sidequests in Silent Hill is a decent idea, but good sidequests would be to add to the story, history of the town, character background, etc.
Sidequests in Downpour are mostly ghost stories, finding ammo and health items, rewarding players with drawings of the characters, and gaining a trophy/achievement.
For me, that’s not much motivation to complete sidequests.
 
In my reviews of Silent Hill 1-4, I said that the complicated storylines added to the replayability because it makes players replay them many times to piece the stories together.
In recent games, the stories are not very complicated, and not very good quality like the originals.
Sometimes they don’t make sense with the storylines established by the first four games.
Downpour continues this problem except this time the story tries to be intricate like originals, but there are no answers unlike Silent Hill 1-4.
The big issue is Downpour’s endings.
 
In previous games in the series, the story plays out, and each ending shows a possible outcome of that story.
In Downpour, each ending can change the story itself.
The original games always had specific answers with certain aspects that can be left to the players’ imaginations.
The specific answers had to be figured out through character dialogue, memos, and images within the game.
Downpour has players pick the ending they want, and find their answers based on that ending.
That would be fine if the developers did that with any other game, but it doesn’t make sense to do that with a Silent Hill game.
 
Out of all the games in the series, Downpour has the most issues.
I can see why it was one of the last Silent Hill games that Konami outsourced to another developer.
If you want to play the game, I would highly suggest to rent it even if you’re a big Silent Hill fan.
Both PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are currently available through GameFly if you have a membership.
I would only recommend buying it if you rented it and like it, or if you’re a collector of horror video games.
If you’re a collector, I would advise to buy it for around five dollars or less.