6 Ways “Downpour” Is Different From Previous Silent Hills
Team Silent, the Konami mini-studio responsible for the first four Silent Hill games starting in 1999, has long-since disbanded. All the key players that shaped the atmosphere and essence of Silent Hill—namely genius composer Akira Yamaoka–all those guys are long gone, having moved on to new projects.
Vatra Studios–now the third non-Team Silent developer for the series–has a tough job. Let’s be honest: there are beautiful, unique things about Silent Hill, and then there are amazingly bad things about Silent Hill. Getting the series properly dialed in from here seems like a challenge. In a behind-closed-doors interview at E3 earlier this week, Vatra Studios’ Devin Shatsky and Tomm Hollet walked us through a gameplay demonstration, and explained where they plan to take Silent Hill: Downpour.
Fittingly, here are six ways Silent Hill: Downpour seeks to differentiate itself, and four ways it’s trying to stay true to The Hill (do Silent Hill residents call it that, The Hill?) We’ve also got the complete video of the session below, broken down into four separate segments.
Ways It’s Different
We don’t know much about Murphy yet, or what he did to land himself in jail to begin with. However, in past Silent Hill games, the town usually finds ways to torture its captured with visions and demons from their past. Could water (i.e. the “downpour”) have something to do with Murphy’s crime? Perhaps a drowning?
He’s a convict, that much we know, but he’s no soldier. He’s just a guy who can swing a stick or throw a chair if need be, and he seems disturbed and terrified by his surroundings.
5. Open World
Yes, Silent Hill: Downpour will feature a completely open, explorable world. With side-quests even. Here’s the full quote from Devin Shatsky as proof:
One thing we should mention is the town of Silent Hill is fully explorable. It’s not tied in a linear fashion to the storyline, so you can actually explore. Whereas, in past Silent Hill games it was a series of locked doors. It was discouraging for players to walk around a lot, because there wasn’t anything to do. In our game we have a large amount of side-quests. If you explore around you may find something that you can interact with, and kick off a side-quest that isn’t directly tied to the story.
4. Brand New Area of Silent Hill
Downpour takes place south east of Toluca Lake, an area totally unexplored in the past games. If you’ve seen any of the Alan Wake-looking screnshots or trailers, you’ll know it’s a slightly woodsier region of the city.
3. New Composer
As mentioned before, long-time composer Akira Yamaoka has left the series. His replacement in Downpour comes in the form of Daniel Licht, most famous for his work on the Showtime original TV show Dexter. This seems like a good fit stylistically, but (no offense, Daniel) I’m pretty skeptical anyone can replace Akira. But I’m trying to be hopeful, and I’m eager to see how Licht gives voice to Silent Hill. We heard a little bit during the demo–it was subtle, dark, eerie. Also, Shatsky mentioned that Mary Elizabeth McGlynn may very well co-produce the game’s opening theme with Licht. So that’s cool.
2. No Inventory
The only things you can carry in Silent Hill: Downpour are the things you see in the actual game. This seems realistic, immersive, and I like it. The only exception is “quest items,” which you’ll be able to examine from a little drop-down menu in the HUD. Shatsky put the reasoning for this well. He goes: “You can’t pick up a TV and put it in inside your magic pocket.” Fair enough. His name isn’t Murphy Poppins, it’s Pendleton.
1. No Health Meter
You’ll know when Murphy is getting hurt, because he’ll look hurt. He’ll bend over, limp, and act…hurt. No fake health bars.
How It’s Kind of the Same
4. Homages to Past Silent Hill Games
Shatsky mentioned that they have strewn little references to past Silent Hill games throughout Downpour, which is pretty cool. Example: when you pick up items, it makes that same robotic “bloop” sound from Silent Hill 1. Also, in the demo I found a random radio, turned it on and it started playing the Silent Hill 1 theme. Lastly, those jarring fixed-camera angles from the 90s are coming back (sweet!). You’ll occasionally enter a room, and the camera will shift to a fixed position like in early survival-horror games.
3. Disempowering Combat
This is serious business right here, and it’s where I hope Vatra focuses all of their magic. Combat in past Silent Hill games has been terrible, but it’s also been a double-edged sword: weakness increases your fear. Tomm Hullet had a few things to say about this. Before I quote him, I’ll say that I played the demo, and found combat to be very difficult. These corn-row wearing zombie girls attacked near a cabin, and fighting them off with sticks and chairs was pretty tough. Even worse, they have a scream-attack that freezes you in place while they close in.
Our combat is very much designed to disempower the player, so you don’t feel very capable, or safe.
Fighting is not required. Running is a pretty good strategy if you’re surrounded. We don’t want you to be in a situation where not having a weapon makes you reload a save. You can punch them [enemies] without a weapon, but it’s not a viable strategy for killing them. It doesn’t do very much damage at all.
2. Puzzle and Combat Difficulty Levels
Yup, this is coming back. You’ll have separate difficulty settings for puzzles and combat, respectively.
Hut, hut Hullet:
We will have a lot of puzzles, and they will have three different difficulty levels. So, if you love puzzles and hate fighting, you can set the game that way, and just enjoy the puzzles. That’ll also effect the objectives that pop up on the screen. If you set it to easy puzzles you’re going to get more objectives. It’ll tell you, ‘you need to think more about this.’
1. Multiple Endings
They wouldn’t really talk about this, at all, but they did confirm it. Silent Hill: Downpour will have multiple endings. Hullet even said “lots of endings.”
Below are the videos we shot during our behind-closed-doors interview with Vatra Studios. The videos have lots of information about Silent Hill: Downpour, as well as gameplay footage.