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Why Silent Hill: Downpour could be the best since Silent Hill 2

It's not that Silent Hill games have been terrible since Silent Hill 2 by any means, but it's true that none have really lived up to its excellence. It's like Silent Hill 2 is to the Silent Hill series what Thriller was to Michael Jackson – it's a peak that's hard to match. Silent Hill: Downpour looks like it's headed in the right direction though, and so far it feels like a good mix of bringing back what made Silent Hill 2 great while still setting itself apart where it counts.

Silent Hill is yours to explore

In Downpour, protagonist (is protagonist the right word for a main character in Silent Hill?) Murphy Pendleton is trapped in an area of the town of Silent Hill that's southeast from where previous characters have been (careful observers can piece together the maps from previous games by picking up on clues within the game). From what we've explored so far, the town feels like the town in Silent Hill 2, but without all the locked doors and dead ends ultimately leading down a linear path. Silent Hill feels like a current-gen town now, and you're able to wander and explore its various buildings much more openly.

Overall, it seems like there's more to see and do in Downpour's take on Silent Hill than ever before. Dynamic weather, from cloudy skies to sprinkles to full-on titular downpours, indicate how much danger you're in at any given time, so you can seek cover indoors or stay out in the rain and fight if you choose. Sidequests seem plentiful as you explore too, and we hope that these optional tasks will gradually unveil story details and background. Then again, there's also the possibility that a less focused experience will water down the atmosphere, but we're still excited at the prospect of being able to explore the town freely.

Horror can co-exist with decent combat

Silent Hill 2's James Sunderland was just a regular guy, and the game reflected that by giving him terrible combat controls. That was part of the genius of SH2 though – because James couldn't defend himself very well, the player constantly felt the tension and suspense of being in mortal peril. Homecoming went in the complete opposite direction, making Alex Shepherd a battle-trained ex-soldier who knew how to fight. That was great for the combat mechanics, but it took away the sense of vulnerability and constant danger that made Silent Hill 2 so terrifying and tense. As a generic action game it might have been technically more playable, but that's not what Silent Hill is about.

Downpour hopes to provide the best of both those approaches, with a main character that can fight competently but who's up against even more menacing enemies. Murphy may be a hardened convict (we're still not what crime he's guilty of, but that's part of the mystery), but his version of Silent Hill isn't exactly stocked with powerful weapons, and its nightmarish inhabitants aren't exactly pushovers. Realistically, Murphy can only wield one melee weapon and one firearm at a time, both of which wear down with use until they break. Even though he could probably take on most regular people, Murphy will still have to run from many an encounter in Silent Hill. In this way, Downpour preserves the more playable mechanics of a typical action game but still maintains an atmosphere of fear.

No Pyramid Head

Speaking of enemies, we still haven't seen many of Downpour's monstrous inhabitants, but whatever grotesque surprises the new Silent Hill has in store, it looks like Pyramid Head won't be one of them. Pyramid Head the stuff of nightmares for sure, but he's specifically James Sunderland's nightmare, and because of that we're glad that Konami isn't trotting him out again for lack of other ideas.

Above: Our recent Downpour demo with commentary from producer Tomm Hulett

Expectations for Silent Hill: Downpour have been fairly low since it was announced that it was being developed by Vatra Games, a relatively unproven studio that isn't known for work in the survival-horror genre. From what we've seen so far though, it looks like Downpour is on the right track, although it's still way too early to say either way without seeing more. We look forward to plumbing the depths of this new take on Silent Hill when Downpour comes out this March – look for our full review then.

20 comments

  • baikal-bites-thechocolate - December 1, 2013 5:59 a.m.

    Are you fucking touched in the head?! No Pyramid Head therefore it is the greatest? You must be a fucking big idiot. Go back to Austin and impregnate a horse you fucking queer! _l_
  • A_True_Horror_Fan - January 29, 2012 1:49 a.m.

    I need to say this but everyone who enjoys Silent Hill and who hasn't seen this already should check it out. The Real Silent Hill Experience on YouTube. That out of the way, come on! Silent Hill 2 is a good game, yes, but it gets way too much credit. It's about a guy with amnesia, the most basic plot element ever. If you don't believe me, Silent Hills Origins, Homecoming and Shattered Memories, 'nuff said. Silent Hill 3 I agree gets wayyyyy too little attention. I believe it's because it had to stand up to number two, and it did that admirably, but no one cared because the critics had one big complaint, controls. Why can't people get that just because a game series hasn't changed much doesn't make it any less good? If the game's still playable, play it. And the controls were quite intentionally "bad" as many people say. Anyway, I'm ranting and if I keep going I'm going to get some people really miffed, so I'll end it with, go back, play the old games, and give the third a better chance. If nothing else, at least you'll be able to say, well, it was better than Homecoming on every level.
  • getjasonb - December 14, 2013 10:41 p.m.

    I completely agree with you. SH2 gets TOO much credit! SH3 scared the hell out of me. It still does. SH2 was a great game (for it's time), but as the industry has developed by leaps and bounds since the SH2 release, Silent Hill in general should also evolve. I remember distinctly waiting for a Silent Hill game to use modern character movement, utilizing all aspects of my controller and character views. So I was very excited with Homecoming. But then I was let down. Homecoming wasn't a bad game. But it definitely lacked the suspense. If it didn't carry the weight of being in the Silent Hill series, it would have been fantastic, because I would have not expected it to live up to the psychological horror I expect from a Silent Hill game. I just finished playing Downpour, and I got to tell you that it was the best Silent Hill yet! The scare factor was there, the eerie scenery, the awesome soundtrack, etc. The only complaint I have about Downpour is the lack of imagination regarding the villains. There were no creative monsters, like in previous games. The monsters were pretty bland. I understand that most of the monsters may have resembled deceased prisoners, but I was not too impressed. And the screamers were just annoying. I like the fact that Downpours combat system was mature and developed, but also very realistic. Weapons are everywhere as long as you don't mind using a stick from the ground. And Murphy is vulnerable. That said, after going back and playing Silent Hill 2, I just found the camera angle annoying! I know many people love not seeing what's around the corner, but for me, the scare factor doesn't come from the "unknown", it comes from the extremely eerie and discussing environment I am walking through. Downpour was pure disgust! And I love how I can explore more openly.
  • matto-rawlins - January 11, 2012 6:07 p.m.

    I didn't really like 2 that much, it was more dramatic than scary. I got more of a scare out of Homecoming. And that game wasn't too great either. 1 will always be the best to me. But one thing I will do with This Downpour game is give it a chance. Like I've done with every other Silent Hill Game. 3 was great too, it was still dramatic but only in the main cutscenes. and 4 well those victim's freaked me out. and the Final Boss with Walter really made my heart pound
  • Steve1985 - January 11, 2012 5:48 p.m.

    What is WRONG with the developers? SH1 was the best horror ever.SH2 is a love story,I really don't like love stories in horrors.SH3 is also very very great,and when they tried to implement something new,everything starts to become bad like SH4. Horror without great sound is zero.Hear the noise in SH1 and 3,audio effects instead of music.Shooting weapons instead of buggy hits with pipes (lol).This is funny,it's like:"Guide to how to NOT use pipe on your neighbors when they turn in some funny creatures,because you will look funny".Come on,don't be so REAL,give us ammo to shoot,give us invetory,do not limit us with weapons and ammo and all other limitations which are taking more and more in today games... Last SH also had atmosphere and great graphics like this one will,but where is the blood?Where is the shooting?I found a bug where enemies are renewing,it's like they wanted to release untested game...This is not a horror,developers must be trying to create something for new generation kids.I still scare on PS1 SH1 which has very very old limited graphics,but going in the sewers hearing radio and looking in the dark what is approaching is still scary...and of course,you can enter doors,you don't have just one way and all other locked doors...give us some puzzles,not just one easy kiddy way. It's hard to say,but I like RE4,it has new style,but it's interesting like those before (not like SH now)...if capcom is smart,they would do RE2 and RE3 remakes (like RE1 on GC/Wii).
  • Sheepishwolfie - January 11, 2012 5:23 p.m.

    Soooo, if Silent Hill 2 is Thriller, does that mean Downpour could potentially be Smooth Criminal. :D
  • CH3BURASHKA - January 9, 2012 7:06 a.m.

    Having not played Silent Hill (I only picked up SH2 about a month back, and am still too freaked out to get past the first enemy), I was under the assumption that the love for SH2 came from the story, not the mechanics or exploration. Hopefully I'll man up and finish 2 (and maybe 3) in time to get this. For Silent Hill fans, here's a video you'll enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqthNq5zDt0 (Paper Silent Hill 3)
  • DecoyOctorok - January 8, 2012 8:04 a.m.

    Silent Hill 3 doesn't get enough credit. Heather was a great protagonist and for the first time in the series, there was some actual coherent exposition and continuity.
  • Helo1985 - January 8, 2012 5:28 a.m.

    First of I want to state that survival horror is my favourite genre and Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil 2 and 4 are in my top 10 games of all time. That out the way I do believe it's time to let these 2 franchises to die, games have moved on and the genre in general has failed to move with them, I remember back in the day these 2 franchises would be big news and on the covers of gaming magazines as the years top releases. For the genre to move on it needs to create new IP instead of trying to get the popularity back from these old franchises. It's like WWE bringing out Hulk Hogan time and time again. Saying this I do hope Silent Hill Downpour turns out to be a great game and does well, but I do think the magic and (maybe more importantly) the mystery of Silent Hill has long since gone.
  • RedHarlow - January 7, 2012 10:44 p.m.

    As long as they keep up enemy design. The best part of the Silent Hill games is that the enemies represent the character's inner fears and conflicts.
  • usedforglue - January 7, 2012 2:08 p.m.

    No love for SH 4? I2 was the best but I really liked 4
  • vice02 - January 7, 2012 10:55 a.m.

    this might be silent hill's resident evil 4 (i never liked the sillent hill serie but this one looks great)
  • JohnDagger - January 7, 2012 12:35 a.m.

    I have decent hopes for this game, but the premise seems awfully familiar (the idea about a convict having to fight off supernatural demons and the demons of his past about the crime he may have committed). If it turns out to be a better and deeper version of The Suffereing I'll be quite happy as long as you don't turn into a monster physically.
  • mattwang - January 7, 2012 12:06 a.m.

    I feel like GR is talking about a completely different game. In what way does Downpour's combat even look halfway decent. If anything, it looks extremely clunky.
  • spencertucksen - January 6, 2012 8:32 p.m.

    Man, I want to see more of this. Can't wait for it to reach its completed stages.
  • ssjMrFord - January 6, 2012 7:11 p.m.

    The main theme of this game is being made by the band Korn. The SH series is done.
  • spencertucksen - January 6, 2012 8:33 p.m.

    I disagree. just because it's getting commercial attention by having a famous band do a song doesn't men it's going to tank.
  • darron13 - January 7, 2012 12:33 p.m.

    While I agree with you, it is without question that with Akira Yamaoka gone, the atmosphere is going to take a heavy hit. That's not to say it'll be BAD but it certainly won't be as good as the atmosphere in the older games.
  • scope7 - January 6, 2012 6:03 p.m.

    well playing SH2 for the first time when the collection comes out will keep it fresh in my mind for comparison. You, gamesradar may expect potential fist-waving.

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