Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Silent Hill Downpour (2012)

Genre: Survival-Horror, Action | Players: 1 | Developer: Vatra Games

As scary as it is, I have a needlessly long history with this game. A history characterized by allegations about the mechanics and dread regarding the future of the franchise. I finally faced those fears, however.

The new, titular mechanic is the rain cycle. Stay outside long enough and it will begin to storm. This is positively correlated with enemy spawns. Escaping into buildings will usually reset the weather and elicit an auto-save. I would complain, but we’ve always been at the mercy of save points, so it isn’t a huge deal. Side-quest accomplishments also grant saves, keeping this new “open world” take on the town tolerable.

Only one such quest requires you to have previously cleared the story, but there is no New Game+ feature to help you if you missed any others. The nature of Silent Hill would have easily justified spitting you back out just before the point of no return.

Several saves are held in memory and load easily for scumming purposes, as this isn’t Homecoming. No auto-circling, no dodge rolls. Your melee weapons can break, but it’s only noteworthy on higher difficulties. It should also be said that the method of choosing what guns to stash can be a little obtuse.

In general, Murphy needs to run to both fight effectively and advance the plot. Yes, Shattered Memories’ chase mechanic returns. The paths are much tighter and require both trial & error and observation to overcome being lost in a loop. I found it simply different, not better or worse.

Its return is actually telling of the game’s intentional design. This, and the lack of traditional boss battles, facilitate an optional mode of play that is appropriate for Murphy’s character. In the end, that’s a huge part of what a successful Silent Hill game needs to do: Atmosphere must be married to gameplay decisions that inform and correctly suit the protagonist.

Ultimately, Downpour’s only great crime is its tendency to stutter briefly on occasion. This can occur when the game is trying to micro-load, is preparing to award a trophy, or is switching to a rare, fixed camera angle. It’s a legitimate problem, but it never happened as I was fighting or during the chase sequences; it never got me hurt.

I’m playing apologist. I love this series. I might eventually need a PS4. Fuck.

Welcome to the fold, Murphy.

Buyer's Guide: Cheaply available on both PS3 and Xbox 360.

3½ Todd Manning Scars out of 5

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