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‘Silent Hill: Downpour’ is a step in the right direction for the series

By Glenn Battishill

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Silent Hill is easily considered one of the best survival-horror franchises ever. At it’s best, “Silent Hill 2,” the series piled on the atmosphere, creepiness and symbolism to create a perfect hell for the player to fight through.

The series has notoriously declined since the Japanese developers left the series. The previous entry “Silent Hill: Homecoming” was playable but not very scary and definitely not memorable emphasizing the characters rather than the town itself.

The newest game is called “Silent Hill: Downpour” and it’s the most original entry in recent years.

Enter Murphy Pendleton, this installment’s troubled protagonist and a convict being transferred to a maximum-security prison when his transit bus tumbles off a cliff. He awakes and seeks help in the next town over, Silent Hill.

There aren’t very many characters in “Downpour” but the best has to be Howard, a postman who seems to have been in Silent Hill for way too long. The game makes the right choice when it comes to its’ portrayal of the town.

Previous games made the town seem like a malevolent puppeteer that manipulating reality to make the town a living hell for whoever wanders into it.

“Downpour” has no characters from previous games and acts as a stand-alone title.

“Homecoming” felt like it was a game desperately trying to be one of it’s older siblings. It even included fan favorite villain, Pyramidhead, who just seemed out place and lacked all the symbolism that made Pyramidhead so great.

Symbolism has always been a important part of the series and “Downpour” is no exception. “Silent Hill 2” for example featured mostly feminine monsters which symbolized the main character’s longing for his dead wife.

“Downpour” has a definite theme of prison and imprisonment. Most enemies contain visual references to prison garb.

The enemies in this game are diverse but seem to only have one character model per species. Most evidently when four identical dudes jump you on the street.

The game is nice looking and is never too well lit, a mistake “Homecoming” made. Many of the indoor environments are completely dark, forcing the player to rely on their pocket flashlight for illumination.

The atmosphere is great and props have to be given to the sound crew for this game. In one particularly creepy moment I was making my way through a pitch-black library and the only thing I can hear is the sound of whispers and scampering feet. Which makes things worse when someone leaps onto my shoulders.

But that’s where the game missteps slightly. “Silent Hill 2” was scary not because monsters popped out of cabinets but because the game had a way of making you feel like someone was right behind you. Then you’d wheel around and be confused when there wasn’t anything. But the game does have genuine creepiness and did a good job of creating an eerie atmosphere.

The combat, as usual, is frustrating. It’s made more frustrating by the weapon durability system. Nothing is more frustrating than fighting a monster when suddenly your baseball bat just shatters after three hits and you proceed to slap your opponent to death.

Thankfully you can block attacks, but so can your opponents, which usually results in riveting blocking matches. I also severely doubt a waterlogged monsters ability to throw a perfect haymaker punch.

Puzzles make a come back and I couldn’t be happier. Satisfaction is figuring out that the combination to the safe was written (in blood of course) in the previous room.

Most importantly, the game feels like a “Silent Hill” game without feeling like a shameless cash-in. Its’ motif and symbol of rain help it to really stand apart from the other entries in the series.

It’s not nearly as good as some of the better entries in the series but I really enjoyed it despite its’ occasional flaws. All in all, “Downpour” is a fresher take on the series and offers a solid story, great atmosphere at the cost of some shaky gameplay.

The game is available for Xbox 360 and PS3.

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