Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Silent Hill: Downpour and more

Today was supposed to contain a full review of Silent Hill: Downpour, but October has been an insanely busy month for me. Partially for personal reasons (I got a tooth pulled and it was a very painful recovery period) but also for fun, creative reasons (my very first acting role, the return of Strangers from the Internet, and a longer than usual Castle Rock Companion). So instead all I can give you are my initial impressions of the game. I thought I'd also include some thoughts on other Silent Hill related media to make this post more worth your while.

Silent Hill Downpour box art.jpg 

I was exceedingly nervous in the time leading up to the game's release for two reasons:  the first being that Konami themselves did not make this game and the second being that they mentioned breakable weapons.  After Origins, this was not a good sign.  But this was a different company and I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Disappointment number one occurred when I loaded in the game to watch the opening titles.  Other Silent Hill games play genuinely creepy videos, usually a mash of various FMVs throughout the game that don't give you enough detail to spoil anything, but definitely set the mood.  They're usually set to a song sung by the gorgeously haunting voice of Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.  This game, by comparison, has a theme song by Korn.  But more than anything, the video was neither creepy or scary or haunting in any way.  It just looked like a generic action game where you fight creatures.

Actually playing it, I feel slightly better.  I do find it annoying that they decided to go for a little more realism when it comes to items.  You can only hold one thing in your hand at any given time.  That means if you hold your flashlight, you can't pick up a weapon unless you attach your flashlight to your belt first.  If you don't do that, you'll drop your flashlight.  Similarly, you can put one firearm into a holster, but once you arm yourself with it, you'll drop your melee weapon on the ground.  Certain melee weapons work better than others, but sometimes you'll need a certain type for puzzle solving, and so you'll have to go searching for that one type which means you'll have to abandon that good weapon you prefer for fighting.  It's just a little too much of a hassle, though I'll admit that so far on the easy difficulty I haven't had much trouble escaping enemies.
Also so far, and this may change as the game goes on, the enemies are not particularly scary.  The first enemy that you run into is a screamer, which is essentially a girl with long black hair and white skin who screams at you.  Her screams are disorienting, which provides the right amount of challenge, but I think we've all seen images from The Ring and The Grudge too often at this point to be scared of this creature at all.  Also, I've heard that the number of enemies you kill makes a difference in this game,  but so far avoiding killing them has been difficult for me.

The puzzles have been a bit frustrating, and solving them seems to be mostly about trial and error rather than clues.  Murphy, our "hero," will sometimes mumble something to try to give me a hint, but they've been a bit vague to the point that they don't always help me.  I've had to use walkthroughs already to get passed some of them.  I've also had to run through a sequence reminiscent of the haunted house in Silent Hill 3 and the nightmare world in Shattered Memories where it's basically just running through a maze and not getting caught by an evil red energy that's chasing me.  I'm really hoping that doesn't pop up again, but I have a feeling it will.

I've reached the point where you finally enter Silent Hill, and it becomes a bit of an open world game.  Personally, I'm not really a huge fan of those.  I prefer to be told where to go rather than forced to explore the town on my own.  But as I wandered a bit I ran into things that gave Murphy goals to complete.

None of these details have been frustrating enough to the point that I don't want to finish the game.  The tutorial level forced me to violently attack someone in a dream sequence, and I'm very much curious what that was about and what our main protagonist was in jail for.  He doesn't seem entirely like a nice guy, though I've been given multiple choices so far whether to help people or not, which I imagine will also make a difference in what ending I get.  They come down to "be nice or be a dick" so it's not exactly a huge moral choice, but I'm still curious what the result will be in the end regardless.


Just released this month is Silent Hill: Book of Memories for the Playstation Vita.  I don't have one so I can't play it, and honestly, I wouldn't want to.  I'm still trying really hard to wrap my head around the idea of a multiplayer Silent Hill, and I just don't get it.  You've occasionally been tasked to protect an NPC character in the games, but co-op play seems better suited for Resident Evil than Silent Hill.  Plus to keep to the "personal hell" themes of the series, you would have to essentially have a "I Know What You Did Last Summer" kind of plot to keep all these characters together at the same time.  Apparently despite their heavy promotion of this being a co-op game, it's actually just a solo adventure with the option to host sessions with other players.  The problem is that it's a dungeon crawler rather than a survival horror game.  I think it's safe to say that even if they do eventually adapt this for PS3, I won't be buying it.

And Beyond

It looks like Konami is trying to bring the series back home by asking Hideo Kojima to design the next game.  Considering the fantastic things he did with Psycho Mantis in the Metal Gear Solid series, I am very much excited about this idea.  Here's hoping it actually gets made.

There are now two Silent Hill films, but I'm afraid you're going to have to wait a bit to hear about those.  They will be the topic of the November Strangers from the Internet episode!

Japan got both an arcade game and a couple mobile phone games, but in America the only other way to get your Silent Hill fix is through the comics.  I have not read all of these, but from what I can tell they are a mixed bag.  I plan to dig into these pretty soon to get a feel for them, but the art is a big deterrent for me.  What they call "dream-like" I call "sloppy and hard to follow."

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