Silent Hill: Downpour Preview

Silent Hill: Downpour Preview

Welcome to the town of Silent Hill where the air is thick with mysterious blue fog, flashlights have a tendency to flicker, and reality will sometimes dissolve and teleport you into a hellish realm that may or may not be real. We hope you enjoy your stay.

Silent Hill is no stranger to weird and crazy going-ons. Essentially Silent Hill is a quasi-dimensional, semi-real town where a zealous yet insane cult attempted to resurrect an ancient deity into the body of a little girl. The process split her soul into two halves and ruined whatever mystical mumbo jumbo the cult has worked up. From there it gets a bit convoluted. The Otherworld takes over, demons invade and a man with a pyramid on his head and a phenomenally huge sword takes up residence in the town. Throw in a motley crew of extremely flawed and psychologically damaged protagonists and blur the lines between reality and insanity and you pretty much can’t help but get interested.

Prison Break

Downpour follows Murphy Pendleton, a man who has been in prison for the last several years of his life. After a spell of bad behavior Murphy earns himself an extended sentence and a prison transfer to Wayside Maximum Security Penitentiary, but on the way a “freak accident” cuts the trip short and Murphy escapes to a quaint little town called Silent Hill. A downpour washes out the roads, trapping Murphy and forcing him to stay in Silent Hill as it slowly evolves into his own personal Hell.

Like most Silent Hill games, Downpour opts for subversive and chilling terror as opposed to shock scares. Through bleak environments, a surprisingly frightening soundtrack, and incredibly disturbing enemies, Downpour, like other Silent Hills, will have you feeling uncomfortable more than horrified. The aim of the game is to pull you in and get you invested in the world of Silent Hill, not repel you by being too terrifying to play.

Downpour will also attempt to pick your brain in order to most effectively get under your skin, similar to the psychological profiling system in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. In Memories the game would take into account almost every single decision you made throughout the game (dialogue choices, plot forks and so forth) and then alter some of the cut scenes based on how it thought it could best disturb you. While nothing has been official announced, through “self-evaluative questions of despair” Downpour will presumably do something similar.

Unlike most other Silent Hill games, Downpour will shy away from the mythos of the past games, instead focusing entirely on the main character, Murphy Pendleton. For the first time ever, players will be able to investigate Silent Hill’s southeastern region in an open-world, explorative manner. Like the other Silent Hills, you’ll be limited to where the town itself wants you to go. Try to stray off the path it’s chosen for you and all you’ll find are mysteriously flooded roads.

 Use What You Can!

Combatively, Downpour will be quite different from any other Silent Hill before it. With a weapon system based on improvisation and durability you’re going to have to use literally anything you can find. Chairs, two-by-fours and anything else you can get your hands on will be used. The weapons will be destructible as well and it’s not quite clear as to whether that destructibility will be explicitly known to the player. Weapons could shatter in your hands at any time…

Gone too is the inventory system. Instead of gathering permanent weapons to hang on to, players can pick up and dispose of weapons at will. Use a crowbar to smash a lock and then either hang onto it, or leave it. The choice is yours. Seeing as how this Silent Hill will have the strongest enemies yet, it may be a good idea to keep that crowbar with you.

Even the Camera is Against You

While traditionally players have had some control over the camera, Downpour is taking even that away. By limiting a player’s viewpoint to an on-rails or fixed position, there will be a ton of scary things that won’t even have to hide in the shadows, because you won’t be able to see them. What’s around that corner? Like a real-life situation, you’ll have to physically go around it to find out.

Maybe Keep the Lights On…

At GDC 2011 Europe, design director Brian Gomez provided some insight as to how Downpour would not only take you outside your comfort zone, but entirely remove said zone from the equation. While many games attempt to empower the player and allow them to perform feats they otherwise couldn’t, Silent Hill Downpour will be exactly the opposite. Downpour is about removing power from the player, taking away their ability to respond to challenges with ease, and then forcing them through the hellish Otherworld of Silent Hill.

While traditionally, Silent Hill has revolved around an insane cult attempting to raise an ancient god, Downpour aims to step away from that and put players through much more down to Earth events that hit way closer to home. During the GDC press conference Gomez commented “”We asked ourselves to evaluate the most traumatic moments in our own lives and put those moments straight into the game.”

 

Heavy Rain

While in past games the aesthetic has focused on rust, blood, or ice Downpour will focus on… well a downpour. The visual style of the hellish Otherworld will be dark, dreary, and rain filled. That’s not to say the rust and blood won’t still be there and with all the rain, it’s no wonder. A Silent Hill game without rusty metal would be, well, crazy. Symbology has been an ever prevalent force in Silent Hill games and Downpour will be no exception. As more and more rain falls, Murphy’s sanity will slip further and further away.

Silent Hill has always appealed to a certain type of gamer, one who doesn’t like to be scared per say, but likes to be uncomfortable. Survival horror is a very difficult genre to do right, but fortunately, Silent Hill seems like one of the series that manages to pull it off. So if stomach turning strangeness and anxiety causing situations are what you’ve come to know and love, Downpour won’t disappoint.

Silent Hill: Downpour is set to release March 13, 2012.

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