We were both invited down to Konami HQ to check out the game (more about this in a future Vlog!) and I put my new video camera to use and recorded our play through. We are playing the Xbox 360 version and according to the Downpour Producers Devin Shatsky and Tomm Hulett it’s the newest build that’s never been shown before. I’m a little bummed we could only capture video of the playthrough with only my video camera, it really doesn’t do the game justice.
Now I must warn you the areas we played through are not completely polished and you will see that many environments sill needed lighting re touches (as noted by the developer notes on screen) and we ran into a variety of small bugs too (flashlight turning off, music continuing to play, etc) that of course would be fixed before the release. Even though the Downpour we played wasn’t completely polished it was still a thrill to experience and left us wanting to see more!
Our demo of the game started immediately after the prison transport bus crash, but we didn’t start recording until we met Howard outside the diner. There’s so rehash of area seen in previous gameplay videos but unlike the other demos our video will cover Murphy’s entire trek through the Devil’s Pitstop (“Best Price in the Area, Eat & Bed All in One) as he looks for a change of clothes and way out of town. Unfortunately for Murphy getting out of town is proving a lot harder then he thought…
Cj does all the actual playing during this video but I was able to try the game for myself for a bit once recording stopped. By the way If you can’t watch the video be sure to head over to read Cj’s amazing summary and review over on the Rely on Horror website as he gives a section by section review of pretty much everything we saw. Below I will only detail in general terms what I saw and experienced watching/playing and my thoughts on game in general after this playthrough.
The screenshots do not do this game justice
Seriously. I really wish we had this quality in the series first foray into next generation territory. The level of detail in the environments in just what little we played was just amazing and I can see myself spending hours just looking around at the environments in the game. The game in motion is spectacular and nothing compared to the screens we’ve seen to date. Not sure why there’s such a disconnect but Cj and I were wowed when we saw the game in person. I really can’t wait to see what the actual town of Silent Hill will look like, I bet it’s amazing!
Murphy…the devil really is in the details
Like the environments in Downpour, Murphy and the other characters we met were incredibly detailed as well. But the good looking graphics certainly isn’t the best part in my opinion. Really, for me it’s the physical changes Murphy’s character model undergoes depending on the game’s environment he’s in. When it starts to rain he’ll become drenched and when he’s attacked wounds will appear and blood will seep through his clothing he’ll even limp around in obvious pain.
Konami and Vatra certainly weren’t kidding when they promised the return of an ever day man fighting. Murphy is far from some action hero and will stumble on weird terrain and fumble when he fights and defends himself. I think what will set Murphy apart from previous protagonists is just how noticeably interactive he is in what he’s experiencing outside of cutscenes. I always loved Heather for her blunt honesty about how awful her situation is during Silent Hill 3 and how crazy the others were around her and it looks like Murphy will do much of the same.
Like Harry in Shattered Memories Murphy will often make comments and share thoughts on what he’s seeing however unlike Harry, Murphy’s vocal thoughts and observations are all automatic. For example, in the beginning of our playthrough video Murphy makes a colorful observation about all the roads being washed out, all we did is run over to check out the damage. I know it might bother some fans how often Murphy may talk to himself in game but I see it as a positive because it really helps us get inside Murphy’s head and makes him less of a stranger. I had a similar reaction to Special Agent Francis York Morgan, the protagonist of Deadly Premonition, who often voiced his thoughts and observations to the player. By the end I found I empathized much more with what York experienced in game because I got to know him through all the lovely conversations he had with his unseen friend Zach.
I’ve always felt a little disconnected with some of the previous Silent Hill protagonists in this regard because outside of cut scenes they were essentially just a player avatar with their fear or annoyance only shown when they had had either another character or a cutscene situation to interact with. So for me, I see getting to hear what Murphy is feeling or thinking moment by moment in real time is a real treat and I believe will do wonders in fleshing out his character. So far my favorite Murphy outburst would be when he shakily questioned his own sanity after his first trip through the Otherworld. I really felt bad for the guy!
Speaking of Murphy’s distress I also want to point out how we can see just how disturbed and scared Murphy is physically as he travels through areas by the subtle (and not so subtle) changes in his demeanor during gameplay. Murphy will move uncertainly and hesitant at times (there was one point he refused to run for me) and when he was surrounded by several Screamers we could see the actual terror on his face (above).
The Music and Sound
Music and sound have been two key elements in what makes Silent Hill… a Silent Hill game. So with Akira Yamaoka’s departure from Konami it worried me that Downpour’s sound design would pale in comparison with the previous titles. Turns out there was nothing to worry about in that department as Daniel Licht is a worthy successor. I know musical taste is subjective but to those still worried that Downpour’s soundtrack will somehow not measure up? Don’t be. Cj and I both loved what we heard of Downpour’s original score and the haunting vocals we heard on and off camera. It’s different but yet still retains that Silent Hill “sound” we’ve come to expect, including the ever favorite and nerve rattling bouts of complete silence. I really hope Konami will offer the soundtrack alongside with the game!
Now I know a lot of people are upset over Korn’s involvement in the game’s main theme song but they don’t seem to be the only artists being used in Downpour. In our own playthough we heard at least two other musical artists: Matt Monro is heard singing the Academy Award winning song, Born Free from a record player in the Devil’s Pitstop Otherworld. You can also hear Kris Kristofferson’s 1973 country/gospel hit, Why Me Lord, if Murphy turns on the radio in the office of the hotel and hears Sazh Katzroy-er I mean DJ Ricks personal shout out to him (Seriously how did he know we were here?!). Even though the songs are not original tracks they both fit the mood of the scenes.
Outside of the score the variety of sounds heard in any given area is amazing and really give the environments a true lived in and alive feeling. One example of a small sound making a big impact on my perception of an area is when heard the buzzing of flies around rotten food in both the hotel portion of Devil’s Pitstop and in some general areas the Otherworld. With how much rotting flesh and decay features in most of the other Silent Hill titles I was surprised this sound was never included before. It really gives you an idea of the stench of the area the protagonist must travel through. Yuck!
Additionally, the water sounds were also very well executed. Whether it’s a downpour of rain, a small drip or a large current it’s all very convincing. Considering we will see a lot of water through out the game it’s wonderful how many variations of water and other wet sounds there are such as the ping of rain on objects or just the difference of Murphy’s footfalls on a muddy ground or wet metal versus a dusty dry floor.
Fans should also be happy to know that Downpour utilizes some old school Silent Hill sound staples such as the original item pick up indicator and the rustle of pages when you look at a map/memo…heck even the original opening theme makes an appearance as a little Easter egg in the diner!
Menus, Maps and the Inventory System
I really liked the look of the Menu’s in Downpour unfortunately we were so focused on getting through the demo we didn’t spend too much time taking a close look at it. Generally whenever Murphy picks up a memo he will place it in a notebook. You can zoom in an read the text yourself which is really cool unfortunately there seems to be only two modes zoomed out or tightly zoomed in which forces you to pan to read often. Everything you would need can be found on marked tabs in the notebook: Your objectives, notes, tips, mysterious and maps.
Maps function like they do in the previous games with each searchable room ticked off in red. I love the design of the first map of The Devil’s Pit the creases, the grime and scotch tape really give it character.
As for item inventory it is accessible in real time during game play. You just press on the d-pad to select an item. You can quickly heal Murphy by just pressing right on the d-pad too which is very useful in combat. Speaking of health I was sad to see the Silent Hill health drink staple were gone and replaced by medpacks.
Enemies, Combat and the Shimmer effect
During the demo we only came across two enemy types Screamers and the Void. The Void, a red glowing vortex that sucked everything in it’s path, suddenly materializes chased Murphy twice during the Devil’s Pit Otherworld. It was and was definitely nerve inducing when it appear since getting caught meant instant death.
Screamers are female like creatures with scraggly hair and wrapped in bandages who once they spot you will attack really viciously. If one gets the jump on you and starts wailing away it’s very easy to find yourself overwhelmed. So if you are in a situation with more then one it’s probably best to try and high tail it out of there!
As you can see from the video there’s a bit of a learning curve with the combat. Murphy will use the weapons he picks up differently so it’s good to experiment and test out which works better. While Cj played he was pretty fond of the crowbar as it did some major damage to the Screamers we came across. Don’t forget to make use of the block feature as well. Finding the balance between when to hit and block against an enemy may take a little bit but I think in the end it would be worth the challenge.
I’m sure most of you guys have noticed the white shimmer effect in both this video and other gameplay videos around the net. To the observer these white flashes seem unnecessary but I got to admit when you are playing and desperate to find a weapon to use these little clues sure mean the world. It’s often hard to tell what sort of items you can use even when you aren’t fighting so I’m really glad the effect was put in.
Puzzles and Side quests
Unfortunately we didn’t come across too many puzzles in our playthrough. We solved a rotating environment puzzle after the waterslide during the Devil’s Pitstop Other World while later we played a water marble game called “Jail Break,” missing prize machine from the tram station, to win a ticket for the tram. Tomm said if you up the difficulty these puzzles do become more difficult, for example on a harder setting on Jail Break there are more balls and color holes to place them into. Neither puzzle was particularly difficult but I assume they were just the tip of the iceburg and as you continue with the game the puzzles will get harder.
Now we know there will be a bunch of optional sidequests in Downpour but when they occur is a bit hard to decipher. When we were done with our runthrough Tomm informed us we bypassed a sidequest related to a key Cj had picked up in hotel. Maybe if we explored more we would have found to door it lead to but it goes to show that you will not be alerted to these sidequests in anyway. It up to you the player to figure out the when and where which can be both a good an bad thing. Good because there’s less hand holding and forces you to aggressively explore and a bad things because it’s so very easy to overlook something that could be really cool.
Overall getting the chance to try Downpour has me even more excited for the game’s release. It was really hard for me and Cj to pull ourselves away as the plot sucked us in within minutes of starting, just like the Void did with Murphy in the Devil’s Pit Otherworld! It’s going to be hard to wait for the answers to all our questions: Who’s the mysterious voice Murphy hears? How did DJ Ricks know Murphy was in town? Who’s the hotel voyeur? Did any other inmates survive? Hopefully Konami won’t keep us hanging too long and nail down a firm down a release date real soon!
I just want to extend another thank you to Tomm Hulett, Devin Shatsky and the rest of Konami for giving me this great opportunity to check out the game! It really meant a lot and totally made my year.