Murphy Pendleton has been incarcerated for several years, having had his sentence extended once already. Due to his history at Ryall State Prison, he is being transferred to nearby Wayside Maximum Security Penitentiary-but a freak accident cuts the journey short. Waking up in a forest next to the wrecked bus, Murphy has a clear shot at freedom. He makes his way into the sleepy town of Silent Hill where mysterious locals welcome him into a slowly developing personal hell.
Silent Hill Downpour is the latest Silent Hill game offering the familiar Survival Horror gameplay delivered in the most defined visual quality to date. The game also expands on the exploration theme of the franchise both design-wise and through psychological torture, ambient story, horrific enemies and self-evaluative questions of despair.
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True to the lore of Silent Hill, when beginning a game of the series you immediately sense that all is not as it seems, and that is true for your experience in Silent Hill: Downpour. Vatra, a development team from the Czech Republic have not only delivered, but outdone themselves in moving the series forward and in new, disturbing directions. Not every Silent Hill fan will take to this, but hear it from me: Silent Hill: Downpour has given me that sheer dread that I haven't felt since playing the second instalment. If you didn't know by now, the story revolves around Murphy Pendelton, a convict in transit on the outskirts of Silent Hill, who's bus crashes and gives Murphy his chance for freedom. Of course, freedom is something easily obtained physically, but mentally - deep down inside his psyche, there is a truth to face up to, as with all Silent Hill protagonists. The pacing of the story in this title is incredible and feeds you little and often, to the point of you not knowing what you are seeking within the game until over halfway through. And the whole 'why am I here?', 'what is going on?' stream of thought you experience is where the fear starts to manifest itself. Because so much of the game is brand new, to some degree it feels like playing the series for the first time. A lot of the really messed up things that happen in the game are seriously so technically smooth and impressive that those moments are still in my mind now. Some may make you feel nauseous, others will wow and disgust you at the same time. The downside of the game is mainly with the manifestations itself. The concept creature design (as seen in the strategy guide) is far more impressive than what is in game.. save for one - which appears to borrow from the Weeping Angels of Doctor Who, but are ultimately so comfortable in the world of Silent Hill that you will forgive the other enemies that underwhelm you. Of course, the major selling point of this game is 'pace' - and so it knows when to tease you into thinking something is there, when to let you explore and when to surprise you. Daniel Licht's score does a mostly fine job, but you come away not remembering a single piece of music, other than the winding crescendo strings that reinforce the terror at key points of the game. At first, the difficulty, even on normal may make you a little angry after your first couple of fights; but persist with that and you will then experience a Silent Hill title in full flow of confidence. Eastern European influences are of course rife, and give the game a great flavour. The great puzzles that the series was heralded for, make a fantastic, if not more spectacular return. The Hansel and Gretel House puzzle will leave you floored. There are still miles of fog in Silent Hill, but your fear this time round will be concentrated on rain. As soon as it starts to hammer it down, more enemies appear and become more fierce. This results in a desperate escape to find a house to take shelter in - but of course the flip side of that, is 'what on earth am I now about to encounter in here?' Combat is good. Weapons will break upon repetitive use and gun ammo is very very rare to come across - which, is a good thing. You will be rewarded for exploring your surroundings, in forms of finding better weapons, health, secrets, letters and new to the series; side quests. These are so enjoyable to seek out, but be warned - as soon as you progress the story, you cannot return to an area to explore again. So be brave and wander, because there are amazingly creepy things to see and do. As well as discover some very clever nods to instalments of old. Story wise, Silent Hill: Downpour does not reach the bawl-your-eyes-out heights that 'Shattered Memories' achieved. Depending on what decisions you make, you may feel a little flattened by the ending. The pay-off doesn't quite feel like it's done it's job, but perhaps this is where a Silent Hill fan is a headache and expects so much from a developer. I'm glad in that respect that Vatra didn't listen to the fans, and decided to do their own thing; because Downpour is ultimately something very special, and the scares that linger in your mind are up there - if not beyond - what I ever experienced in Dead Space, Alan Wake or even Bioshock. Silent Hill: Downpour is an essential title, not only for a fan of the series, but for gamers seeking a unique horror experience.