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Silent Hill Downpour has been released on PS3 and been provided for us to preview/review by the publisher.
Believe it or not we are still playing it. Here are some extracts of what we made of it in chronological order:
"Silent Hill: Downpour continues Konami's unnerving psychological horror franchise. A twisted reality reflects the tortured hero's mental traumas, but perennially awkward controls dampen the terror of Downpour's warped evil..."
- Scared Gamer (Thu, 24 May 2012)
"Silent Hill Downpour 360 is an engagingly traditional survival horror game that tells a well-worn but workable story of sin, guilt, and potential redemption..."
- Story Gamer (Mon, 21 May 2012)
"Silent Hill Downpour will be criticised on quality and production grounds, but this is to miss an original and engaging game. Storytelling and character are winners here, and that is of utmost importance..."
- Family Gamer (Wed, 18 Apr 2012)
Silent Hill Downpour PS3/360 has been delayed into 2012. This may not be a bad thing, as a playable section demonstrated very little of distinction.
Although it seemed a little odd that such a high profile franchise should have such a minor presence, I couldn't really begrudge Konami only splashing out on a meagre four demo pods for Silent Hill: Downpour at the recent Eurogamer Expo in London's Earls Court.
After all, the hectic, loud environment of a games show isn't the best environment to try and involve yourself in an atmospheric horror game. Nevertheless, such a low-key presence hardly feels like a show of confidence.
With only four units, demand was constant, and so I stood back and watched. To be honest what I saw didn't really inspire any great desire to get my hands on a controller.
The playable sequence sees Murphy Pendleton exploring a mine. It's pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Silent Hill game on this hardware: third person exploration of a dimly lit, grimy location. The visuals were crisp enough, but lacked the eerie mist, or any other atmospheric flourish, that distinguishes Silent Hill from any old horror game.
In fact, what was being played could easily be from any old horror game, and in particular resembled the notorious 2008 reboot of Alone in the Dark. Not a terribly good sign.
As well as finding evidence of a haunting, tragic accident in the mine (no surprises there), Murphy also got to engage in some melee combat with a shambling zombie lady and, later on, a horrible long legged thing that scuttled across the ceiling before dropping on his head.
While these encounters seemed chaotic and challenging - I didn't see anyone come out of the latter fight alive - there was still a lack of anything new on display in Downpour. It's all terribly generic: stock environments, stock monsters, stock combat. Combine these generic elements with the competent but flat style of the game, and there's little reason to get excited so far.
Of course, I could be being terribly unfair here. I never actually got hands-on with the game (when I got to sit down with it, the demo pod had just crashed), and it was impossible to judge the story, characterisation and sound in the Expo environment. Nonetheless as first glimpses go this wasn't an inspiring one.
Silent Hill Downpour has reportedly been delayed until Spring 2012. Hopefully that will give Konami plenty of time to turn a competent survival horror game into something worthy of the Silent Hill name.
Silent Hill: Downpour, the latest in the venerable horror series, promises to take players to parts of the surreally cursed town they have never seen before.
For anyone tasked with creating a new Silent Hill game, the most menacing aspect of the series isn't a faceless nurse or creepy haunted school, but the towering reputation of the first three games.
While the first and third games are well-regarded, Silent Hill 2 in particular is widely lauded as the best horror game ever, with its strong emotional narrative, haunting atmosphere and pervasive themes of guilt and grief.
Although more recent titles like Origins and Homecoming have tried hard to recapture the spirit of those earlier games, they have received a generally lukewarm reception from fans and critics.
With a succession of emotionally damaged player characters finding themselves exploring the same locations, it's been hard to see the series as being in anything other than a rut.
Konami and Czech developer Vatra are hoping to provide a fresh take on the series with Downpour, but from early announcements it's a little hard to see where the big changes are.
While it is promised that Downpour will explore entirely new parts of the town, avoiding old haunts like the hospital and school, the plot and early footage seem like more of the same.
Player character Murphy Pendleton, an escaped convict, seems an obvious candidate for the Silent Hill series' most persistent trope, the driven man haunted by his own past. The screenshots and gameplay footage show a third person perspective as Murphy runs around a rain-sodden wood, fighting scary ghost ladies off with a chair.
So far, so Silent Hill. There are some intriguing gameplay elements - only being able to carry one, usually improvised, weapon at a time should keep the survival horror pressure on - but more than anything else the success of Downpour depends on its execution.
If it can rise above pastiche and provide an involving, tense horror experience, Downpour will be forgiven its derivative elements. If not, then it's back to the creepy, haunted school drawing board for Konami if they want to keep milking the franchise.
Silent Hill: Downpour is released for Xbox 360 and PS3 later in 2011.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: