Silent Hill: Downpour
|Silent Hill: Downpour|
|Publisher(s)||Konami Digital Entertainment|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360|
Silent Hill: Downpour[a] is a survival horror video game developed by Vatra Games and published by Konami Digital Entertainment. The eighth installment in the Silent Hill video game series, Downpour was released in March 2012. Set in the series' multiverse, which consists of reality and an alternate dimension whose form is based on the series' eponymous fictitious American town, Silent Hill: Downpour centers on Murphy Pendleton, a prisoner who enters the town, periodically entering the alternate dimension, and unlocks personal repressed memories. The game uses a third-person view and can be played in 3D.
Silent Hill: Downpour received mixed reviews from gaming critics.
Silent Hill: Downpour is a survival horror game played from the over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective, in which the player controls Murphy Pendleton, an escaped convict, as he navigates the supernatural, titular town. While the extent to which the game is an open-world environment is debated, Downpour allows for more environmental exploration than previous installments in the series. While Murphy explores the town on foot, he can use the abandoned subway tunnels as a short-cut to various parts of the town. At times, Murphy will need to directly interact with the environment to progress, pulling down fire escapes with hooks or destroying boarded-up doors, for example. He can take damage during his exploration; as his "health" declines, his clothes take on a bloodied and torn appearance to reflect this. Items to replenish his health can be found throughout the game. Parts of his backstory can be learned from in-game notes and flashbacks; secret messages can be uncovered through the use of a UV flashlight, while clues and maps are stored in his journal to access freely. The player also can shape Murphy's character through several moral choices presented throughout the game, by allowing him to either act on or refuse opportunities to save non-player characters.
While exploring, Murphy may periodically encounter monsters, either alone or in groups. Monsters may attack at close range or try to stun him. Murphy can obtain a range of melee weapons, including chairs, bottles, shovels, and axes, although he can only carry one and the weapon will gradually deteriorate with use and eventually break. Firearms and ammunition are limited, and Murphy has difficulty aiming guns. Murphy can also fight with his fists, although this prevents him from blocking attacks. Additionally, phantom police cruisers patrol the streets of Silent Hill; if one spots Murphy, a group of monsters will attack him. The game also features a real-time weather system, in which rainfall will periodically occur; during this time, monsters appear more frequently and behave more aggressively.
At scripted intervals, Murphy will find himself in the Otherworld, a supernatural, rusty location where he may have to solve a puzzle to progress, navigate traps, or complete a chase sequence with a travelling, indestructible light. The light causes him harm in close proximity, and being caught by it will produce a "game over". Murphy can attempt to slow it down by knocking items into its path. Other monsters can damage him as he attempts to escape, while the environment will often change during these sequences: doors may suddenly close when Murphy runs towards them, for example.
The game offers fourteen optional side quests, one of which is unlocked in a second playthrough. These are intended to replace the fetch quests in earlier Silent Hill games, which were necessary to progress in the game and often involved a thematically related side story. In Downpour, some of the side quests consist of investigating a local murder scene, freeing caged birds, or returning stolen items to the unseen inhabitants of a local apartment complex. The side quests often end in a tangible reward for Murphy, and after a certain point in the narrative, they are no longer accessible.
Silent Hill: Downpour focuses on Murphy Pendleton (David Boyd Konrad), who has been incarcerated for several years for stealing a police cruiser and crossing state borders. The game opens with his murder of the sequestered child molester and murderer, Patrick Napier (John Grace), in prison. After a riot, Murphy is placed under the supervision of officer Anne Cunningham (Kristin Price), who has significant animosity toward him, and is in the process of being transported to another penitentiary when the transport vehicle crashes near Silent Hill. Surviving the impact, Murphy finds himself unexpectedly free and decides to flee. Unknown to him, the town draws upon the psyche of its visitors, forming alternative versions of itself with symbols from their unconscious minds, mental states, and thoughts.
In his journey through the largely abandoned town, he encounters the cryptic postman, Howard Blackwood (William Tate), and travels to the Devil's Pit, a tourist attraction, where he encounters the suicidal park ranger J.P. Sater (Andy Hendrickson). Indirectly responsible for the deaths of eight children, Sater is eventually consumed by guilt and commits suicide. As the game progresses, it is revealed that Murphy made a deal with the corrupt corrections officer George Sewell (Joel Bernard), to gain access to Napier, who had abused and drowned Murphy's son, Charlie. Murphy eventually locates DJ Bobby Ricks (Antoine L. Smith), who has been dedicating songs to him to attract his attention. Although he has been trapped by the town, Ricks proposes a plan to escape by boat; his keys, however, have been lost. Before they can leave, Anne confronts them, and all three are attacked by monsters. Murphy regains consciousness to find himself alone again. Led to a monastery on the premise of collecting a deceased relative, Murphy encounters the Bogeyman, a sledge-hammer-wielding monster who murders a child in front of him. Murphy finds it again, seemingly lifeless, and learns that it is the relative he is intended to collect. Murphy confesses his guilt over Napier's murder and that his revenge did not bring him any solace. Spotting the keys to Ricks's boat around its neck, Murphy seizes them and is drawn into a confrontation with the monster.
After defeating it, Murphy tries to leave the town by boat, only to be stopped by Anne. She shoots him when he refuses to return to the town. He wakes in a prison in the Otherworld and eventually kills the Wheelman, a massive, mute creature in a wheelchair by disabling its life support. Afterwards, Murphy relives the favor he had to repay Sewell, which required him to kill Frank Coleridge (Leer Leary), another corrections officer who was planning to testify against Sewell's corruption and who believed in Murphy. Anne reveals that Coleridge was her father, and after the attack, he lived in a vegetative state until his death years later. Motivated by revenge, Anne had had arranged for Murphy's transfer to her prison. In the final sequence of the game, Murphy transforms into the Bogeyman and follows her as she attempts to kill him.
There are six endings available, based on choices made by the player throughout the game. If Murphy does not kill Anne, the "Forgiveness" and "Truth and Justice" endings show that Sewell assaulted Coleridge and framed Murphy after Murphy refused to do it. Anne forgives Murphy, and the pair are transported outside of Silent Hill where Anne reports Murphy's death, allowing him to escape. The "Truth and Justice" ending additionally shows Anne seek revenge against Sewell by confronting him in his office. If Murphy kills Anne, the "Full Circle" and "Execution" endings show that Murphy did kill Coleridge. "Full Circle" shows Murphy commit suicide out of guilt, only to awake in an Otherworld prison to relive the events again, observed by the Wheelman. "Execution" shows that Murphy also killed Charlie, and he is executed for the murders by Sewell. If Anne kills Murphy, the "Reversal" ending has her awaken as a prison inmate in events mirroring scenes of Murphy in prison, with Murphy taking Sewell's role. A joke ending can be obtained that shows Murphy tunneling out of his cell, to be greeted on the other side by a party in his honor, with various characters from the game and series present.
In April 2010, Konami screened its first trailer of Silent Hill: Downpour at a press conference in San Francisco, California, United States, and confirmed that the game was, at the time, being developed by Czech developer Vatra Games; it was given the working title Silent Hill 8 at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010. An online profile of Vatra by its video game talent agency Digital Development Management had led to speculation that Downpour would be a first-person shooter, which would have marked a dramatic shift from the usual gameplay format of the series, though the first-person perspective had been used in some segments of the fourth installment and in the rail shooter spinoff. At no point in the game's development, however, was the first-person shooter genre considered for it.
The narrative of Silent Hill: Downpour was intended to be a self-contained story in the same vein as Silent Hill 2: while in development, the only requirement was that the story should focus on "people who ended up" in the titular town, rather than being part of any overarching narrative involving Alessa and the town's cult. Early on, the decision had been made to feature a criminal as the protagonist in a Silent Hill game for its potential to surprise players who had become accustomed to the usual tropes and plot developments of the series, namely that a seemingly ordinary character is revealed to have an unsettling secret in their backstory or becomes entangled in the town's dark past. Murphy was intended to evoke a measure of uncomfortableness for the player, whether that was through his background as a criminal or the questions raised by his presence in Silent Hill. The concept of a criminal protagonist met with some objections when first suggested to the developers at Vatra Games, some of whom did not want the game to center around "a bad guy." Murphy's criminality also divided participants in early focus testing, with it having a negative impact on players who found "certain elements" of it to be off-putting, while others were unconcerned or enjoyed it.
After deciding on the concept of a criminal protagonist, the thematic elements of his Otherworld were considered, with water eventually chosen. Rain was decided on as a "scary" manifestation of water, because of the darkness that comes during a storm and that as a result, "[y]our eyes might play tricks on you."
According to Brian Gomez, design director for the game, the history of the town of Brno, home to the Vatra studio, led to the developers having an affinity for the macabre. A huge gorge nearby called Propast Macocha which can be literally translated as “Stepmother Abyss” was the inspiration for the “Devil’s Pit Aerial Tram” level of the game.
Downpour's soundtrack belongs to the industrial music genre, but to a lesser extent in comparison to the previous games in the series, which all made more prominent use of such music; Downpour emphasizes sounds produced by the use of objects made of organic matter as musical instruments. The soundtrack has been scored by composer Daniel Licht, who replaced the series' composer Akira Yamaoka. Regular series vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn announced that she would not be involved with the production of Downpour, but producer Tomm Hulett confirmed in June 2011 that McGlynn would be providing music for the game. Downpour's main theme is performed by American nu metal band Korn. A group of fans created an online petition for the removal of the main theme from Downpour. Hulett felt that Korn "made the most sense" when finding a new performer for its theme, and also said that the main theme is not "an integral part of Downpour's gameplay".
Licht studied the music from previous games:
|“||I familiarized myself with the style and history of the previous Silent Hill themes and musical cues. I wanted this game to have the same flow as the previous games while adding my own signature sound. It was important for me to understand where the music was coming from, the overall story, and the use of the musical themes throughout the game. It was then that I was able to create new themes that were consistent with the game, but had my original touch.||”|
Licht worked with McGlynn on several tracks, and called her voice an "essential component to the score." He avoided using water as a direct influence, instead opting for "distinctive sounds for the different locations, particularly the Otherworld, by using industrial noise and choir samples...I used a combination of industrial sounds and ambiences with overly processed voices featuring guitar, mandolin, and strings. I created an industrial rhythm with acoustic instruments that are heavily processed to add to its already dark atmosphere."
The soundtrack was released on 13 March 2012. Licht collaborated with Jonathan Davis for the opening title song "Silent Hill", while McGlynn contributed vocals on two tracks.
Silent Hill: Downpour received "mixed or average" reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic. In general, most critics were praised on the game's story and atmosphere but agreed in criticizing the combat and technical performance.
Game Informer gave it a 7/10, stating "I don’t regret my time with Silent Hill: Downpour, but mediocrity hung over most of my playthrough." Destructoid gave it an 8/10, stating "When it's not forcing a sub-par combat system on players, and when it allows itself to be as imaginative as it can be, Silent Hill: Downpour is a stylish, slickly produced, beautifully foreboding game." Games Radar gave it a 7/10, stating "In spite of its flaws, Silent Hill: Downpour does manage to be smart and imaginative in bursts...The actual gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, but as recent Silent Hills go, this is one of the better ones." GameSpot gave the game a 7.5/10, saying "Downpour makes some questionable tweaks to the established formula, but those decisions distinguish it from the rest of the series." Official Xbox Magazine summed up its review with "the game’s many puzzles and open-world areas did leave us aimlessly wondering and wandering. But varied gameplay, solid combat, and an effective mix of psychological scares and freaky encounters make Downpour a worthwhile trip", giving the game a 7.5/10.
One of the most negative reviews came from IGN, which gave it 4.5/10. The review said that "The most frustrating thing about Silent Hill: Downpour isn't the lousy combat, dull exploration, or even the technical gaffes. It's the fact that every now and then while playing through the game's story, you'll see signs of brilliance; sunlight hinted from behind the overcast sky."
Several reviews singled out the soundtrack for praise, although one criticized the overall sound design, saying dead silence too often made combat commonplace instead of terrifying. The Joystiq review stated Licht did an "admirable job" with the score, yet lamented that "the loss of longtime series composer Akira Yamaoka may be Downpour's biggest detriment."
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame, who is often vocally critical of past Western Silent Hill titles, reviewed the game more favorably. He noted improvements in the survival aspects of the combat, praising its fluidity in its use of random items as weapons and the ability to avoid enemies. He also praised the exploration as a step in the right direction. He was more critical of the monster designs, as well as describing the game as lacking horror. He was especially critical of how the protagonist's crimes are dependent on the multiple endings. Nonetheless, he described the title as his "favorite Western-developed Silent Hill thus far".
- Known as サイレントヒル ダウンプア (Sairento Hiru Daunpua) in Japan
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Silent Hill Downpour is scheduled to launch in Winter 2011 on the PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.
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