MAJOR SPOILERS OF SILENT HILL DOWNPOUR
It's 1999 and I have a copy of Metal Gear Solid for the PSOne in my hands and I notice an extra disc in the case.
"What's this?" its a demo of Silent Hill, soon to be my favourite franchise.
Nothing could prepare me for that game, the first scene in the alleyway was a true sense of horror I had never felt even in the Resident Evil games. I was hooked.
As the franchise continued, it revolutionised (along with resident evil) new ways to bring horror to our consoles, and have stood the test of time when it comes to the genre especially Silent Hill 2.
Little did I know that once the series was given to western developers, the games would take a dramatic turn for the worse.
I know Silent Hill 4 was the weakest of the first 4 games but it was a minor misstep in regards to what we have today.
I'm not going to go into Homecoming, Origins and Shattered Memories, instead I'm going to go through my first play-through of Silent Hill Downpour. This is what I experienced.
Here we go...
So after playing the Downpour demo at the Eurogamer Expo I wasn't really expecting anything great from Downpour and after reading a few reviews such as IGN's review of the game let's just say I wasn't going to buy it..like..ever.
After going through the Silent Hill forums of various sites though,the fans seemed to have a different opinion of the game and most people said that it was better than the train crash Homecoming. In fact some people have said "the scariest silent hill game since silent hill 1!" and "the best silent hill since 2!" so after a while I gave in and decided to give it a chance.
Boy was that a mistake...
First off before all of you Downpour fans chase me with pitch forks I did actually enjoy the game, I had fun with it. Problem is though I couldn't help but feel that it was like some kind of parody game to the Japanese games.
Let me explain.
So we start off with the not so subtle scene with Murphy shanking some fat dude to death in all of its dated unreal engine, texture popping glory (I can't stand that engine) and that first scene was like some cheesy B-movie flick and already we are far, far away from the opening sequences of the past games, not necessarily a bad thing I know, but in this case it really really is.
Anyway, so after that we get all of the stern prison guard stares from 80's action films and we are onto the bus and on our way to Silent Hill.
So the first choice is the part where Anne Cunnigham is about to fall off the cliff and you get to choose to save her or leave her to fall.
I chose to save her and she fell anyway -_- that annoyed me a bit.
So I moved on and got to the gas station where I could hear a well known track playing from Silent Hill 2 and I thought to myself that's kinda cool but man does it feel out of place in this game. The best track I've heard so far though to be honest...
I will say this though, I thought the atmosphere was great. I really liked the moody, wet and dank feeling like the way the air goes just before it starts to rain. That was a big tick in my book, also the tension when it starts to rain was kinda cool because you knew the monsters were coming to get you.
So I moved on and saw the wheelchair on the roof with the wheel still spinning, nice touch but haven't we already seen this in a hospital basement somewhere?
Anyway, I must say I was never a fan of the screamers. I always thought they looked a bit silly, but my first encounter with one was unnerving as I ran away and turned my head to see, it looked really messed up as it chased me through the fog.
Then it did that lame scream soundwave attack and totally took me out of the game. It was like a guy stood next to me on the sofa and kept repeating "this is a video game! this is a video game! kill the immersion! kill the immersion!" (no I'm not crazy).
So that was my first real disappointment, apart from the god awful framerate issues which just to add, have STILL not been patched after 3 months.
After killing the screamer with a handy wrench I set out to find the ticket for the sky-tram and bumped into Howard Blackwood only the second black character to be in a Silent Hill game since Wheeler in Homecoming. Which was a stereo typical joke to be honest.
Howard is my favourite character in the whole game, he's subtle, mysterious and kind of charming in a very creepy way and he's never properly explained which adds to the mystery. I enjoyed the whole scene with him and to add we had a creepy wheelchair man staring at Murphy through the window of a nearby house. I love that kind of stuff.
I went off into the diner where I heard another old Silent Hill track playing (one track was enough for me) and entered the otherworld for the first time.
Wow what a disappointment this was, it looks like Alice in wonderland a far cry from the rust and blood of old. We now have a colourful fun waterslide world wheeeeeeee! down we go!
make sure you don't get sucked up by the giant enemy crab! I mean
vortex! black hole thingy! wheeeeee! okay, now were done.
That was my first experience of the otherworld, how anyone can call that scary I don't know.
Off to Devils Pit we go then. The worst area in the game in my opinion.
Don't forget we are in DEVILS PIT! whoaaa scary stuff.
This is where everything fell apart for me,this is where we are
introduced to the weeping bat creature which looks like it was taken straight out of ghostbusters or something else suitable for
children. Its just not scary at all, it reminds me of a marshmallow.
So I end up getting on a train ride near the end of the area, where something was included in the game which I thought was taken out for very good reason.
You guessed it! monocle man! where to start with this guy...."ENJOY THE RIDE MURPHY!"
mwahahahahaha! seriously? you guys seriously thought it was a good idea to put this in the game? "were going back to silent hill 2" yeah I remember the giant head wearing a top hat in silent hill 2 that was one of the most scariest scenes ever...-_-
So I get off the train and I am completely bewildered by what I have just witnessed.
It started off so well.Kinda.
I get into Silent hill finally and little did I know the enemy design was about to get a whole lot worse. I bumped into what is known as a prisoner enemy, the most uninspired enemy design in the whole game. The only thing scary about these guys are their massive manly pecks running towards you which I suppose is kind of scary in a comical way.
It started to rain all of a sudden and I was surrounded by these body builders with no shirts and the only thing left to do was run, so I ran, looked back and i burst out laughing.
I had a row of these prisoner enemys all chasing me down the street and it was all just a bit too comical, I never expected I would be laughing about enemys in a Silent Hill game.
Yet here I was with the YMCA chasing me down the street.
I carried on through the game trying to find the DJ Ricks guy that you can hear through numerous radios placed around most of Downpour.
I ended up bumping into my favourite enemy of the game the "Doll".They laugh, cackle and look disturbing. Exactly what I want in a Silent Hill game, something that was lacking up until this point. Some actual creepiness.
For me the best part of Downpour is how open world it is, I enjoyed exploring various buildings that in any of the previous Silent Hill games would of been cordoned off.
It's just a shame most of the side missions are rather boring and do nothing to enhance the story.
After killing some more Doll enemys I find DJ Ricks listening to some familiar out of place tunes again and oh for pity's sake...why does he have an afro? we are back to another stereotype again after doing such a good job with Howard. I don't know which is worse Ricks or Wheeler. Enemys smash threw the windows in a cheap B-movie scare again during the cut-scene and im back in the other-world but this one doesn't have a water slide in =( this one does have a giant Alice In Wonderland clock though! yippee! scary stuff.
The next area is the monastery, the best place in the game which
contains one of my favourite parts where you mess around with a stage set, where eventually you can walk straight into it like an alternate world *cough cough ORIGINS cough cough* but I still enjoyed it.
Then the hammer-man shows up....
with his super hammer attack that smashes the floor raaaawrrrrr!
Is this supposed to be a Pyramid Head equivalent? a dude in a gas mask and a trench coat with super hammer attacks? didn't I see this guy in Resident Evil 5?
I just can't get over just how lame it all is.
Im having fun with the game but at the same time its doing a big turd all over the Silent Hill legacy. There is nothing scary about this game.
I finished the game and I just thought to myself what on earth has happened here?
People are actually claiming this to be as good as Silent Hill 2, the greatest horror game ever made (or maybe that's Fatal Frame).
I got the reversal ending (I think its called) and I had control over hammer-man for a while swinging it around like I'm playing super smash bros and then the game ended.
It was so abrupt and before I knew it I was sat watching the credits listening to Korn thinking
just what the hell happened to Silent Hill?
Then I watched the trailer for book of memories......I saw terrible things....
I saw a giant rock monster throwing boulders, I saw enemy trees, I saw characters with goofy glasses. It all just looked like a joke.
I know people are like "yeah its a spin-off, get over it" but its so far from the source it shouldn't be called Silent Hill.
I went back to playing Silent Hill 3 on the PC just to make sure that those were the games that started this franchise and not some programme like Goosebumps.
Silent Hill used to be a great franchise.
It messed with your head and made you afraid to turn off the lights, now it has become a cheesy imitation of what it used to be.