Silent Hill: Downpour
|Silent Hill: Downpour|
|Publisher(s)||Konami Digital Entertainment|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
Silent Hill: Downpour (サイレントヒル ダウンプア Sairento Hiru Daunpua) is a survival horror video game developed by Vatra Games and published by Konami Digital Entertainment. The seventh 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.
The objective of Silent Hill: Downpour is to guide prison inmate Murphy Pendleton from a third-person view through the monster-filled town of Silent Hill, after the transport vehicle carrying him crashes there. Gameplay focuses on exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat. Side quests involving the inhabitants of the town also appear in the game. The player can shape Murphy's character through several moral choices presented throughout the game, by allowing him to act on or refuse opportunities to save non-player characters. For combat, he can only carry one melee weapon, which will gradually deteriorate and break. Firearms and ammunition are scarce, and Murphy has difficulty aiming a firearm. As his "health" (a measure of the amount of damage he can endure before 'dying') declines, his clothes take on a bloodied and torn appearance to reflect this. The game features a real-time weather system, in which rainfall will periodically occur; during this time, monsters appear more frequently and stronger.
The game takes place in and near Silent Hill, a rural American town existing in a parallel universe consisting of the real world, a mysterious "Fog World", and a dark and nightmarish alternate dimension called "Otherworld", where a partial lack of application of physical laws occurs; both the town and the Otherworld are mostly uninhabited save for the presence of monsters, and some minor NPC characters. The Otherworld's form varies, but frequently assumes the form of Silent Hill, and the series' characters experience delusions and encounter tangible symbols of elements from their unconscious minds, mental states, and innermost thoughts when present in it.
The characters of Silent Hill: Downpour are Murphy Pendleton (David Boyd Konrad), a prison inmate who has been incarcerated for several years in a prison for stealing a police cruiser and crossing state borders; Officer Anne Cunningham (Kristin Price), who holds a grudge against Murphy; corrections officer George Sewell (Joel Bernard), a corrupt man who uses his position to get away with murder; Corrections officer Frank Coleridge (Leer Leary), an honest man who sees good in Murphy; and Patrick Napier (John Grace), Murphy's former neighbor, and a pedophile and child killer.
In the town of Silent Hill, Murphy meets JP Sater (Andy Hendrickson), a man who feels guilt over his indirect responsibility for the derailment of a train and death of eight children; a Nun (Bethan Dixon Bate) at St. Maria's Orphanage; Howard Blackwood (William Tate), a postman who provides Murphy with cryptic information; and DJ Bobby Ricks (Antoine L. Smith), a disc jockey trapped in Silent Hill to run the radio station. The game also features two prominent creatures: the Bogeyman, a hulking figure wielding a sledgehammer; and the Wheelman, a creature in a wheelchair who frequently appears to Murphy.
Murphy Pendleton makes a deal with corrupt officer George Sewell to gain access to sequestered pedophile, Patrick Napier and murder him. Later, Murphy is sent to another penitentiary under the supervision of officer Anne Cunningham, who has significant animosity toward him. The transport vehicle is forced to swerve off-road to avoid a chasm in the road. Murphy awakens in a foggy setting and attempts to flee, but is confronted by Anne. While approaching him, she falls into a deep pit. Murphy finds Silent Hill's outlying districts to be abandoned except for postman Howard Blackwood. While exploring, Murphy is transported to Otherworld, encountering a formless void that pursues him until he is returned to the foggy dimension. Murphy uses a sky tram to travel to Devil's Pit, a tourist attraction. He meets park ranger JP Sater, who dismisses Murphy's strange experiences. After Murphy learns that Sater is indirectly responsible for the deaths of eight children, Sater jumps to his death. In downtown Silent Hill, Murphy again encounters Anne. She accuses him of a past crime, but is unable to shoot him and lets him go.
Murphy explores the town, encountering monsters, apparitions and the periodic radio broadcasts of Bobby Ricks, who plays songs dedicated to Murphy. Murphy eventually locates the radio station and Ricks. Ricks requests Murphy's aid in escaping the town, where he has been trapped by unknown forces. Ricks suggests using his boat, but he has lost the keys. Anne interrupts them before all three are attacked by monsters, and Murphy is knocked unconscious. He recovers to find himself alone in Otherworld. While escaping the pursuing void, Murphy encounters the Wheelman creature.
Upon escaping Otherworld, Murphy is greeted by Blackwood with a letter asking him to come to St. Maria's orphanage. There he meets a nun who informs him that he is there to claim a deceased relative. A young boy forces Murphy to collect a poem to ward off "the Bogeyman" before he can gain access to the Morgue. Murphy returns to the boy with the poem, but the Bogeyman appears and snaps the child's neck. While exploring the orphanage, it is implied that Murphy's son Charlie had been abused and murdered by Napier. After reaching the morgue, Murphy finds that the awaiting corpse is the Bogeyman. It attacks Murphy, but he successfully defeats it. Finding Ricks' boat key on the Bogeyman, Murphy goes to the craft and sails away from Silent Hill.
Anne appears on the boat and shoots Murphy when he refuses to return to the town. Murphy wakes in Otherworld and eventually confronts the Wheelman. He disables its life support systems, killing it. Murphy relives the favor he had to repay Sewell requiring him to kill Frank Coleridge, a corrections officer who was planning to testify against Sewell's corruption. Anne appears and discloses that Coleridge was her father. Left for dead by his assailant, he survived and was confined to a wheelchair in a vegetative state, until his death years later. The Wheelman was a representation of Coleridge. Anne had arranged for Murphy's transfer to her prison, blaming him for Coleridge's death and intending to exact revenge on him. It is shown that Anne sees Murphy as the Bogeyman: he 'transforms' into the Bogeyman and attacks her.
There are six endings available, which vary based on choices made by the player throughout the game, including the final battle with Anne where Murphy is the Bogeyman. 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 with Sewell taking charge of the execution. 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, the sixteenth edition of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo trade fair, which focuses on the video game industry. 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.
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 split on the game's story and atmosphere yet criticized 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".
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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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