INTRO: Silent Hill is a strange and storied series that's spawned a lot of games. Some of them have been great (earlier ones come to mind, I loved Silent Hill 2), and others not so good, although I didn't think any of them were truly awful.
And so we've got another entry into this bizarre and daring series of survival horror games. You're Murphy Pendleton. You're a con who winds up stuck outside Silent Hill when the vehicle transporting you takes a spill. You're stuck in the pouring rain and it's Silent Hill. Do you need to know much else about the plot? Well, to be fair to SH lovers, I'd like to say that I thought this plot made way more sense than many SH games in the past. It's a little hokey and has a lame twist late in the game, but it does indeed feature some solid linear logic.
This game pares down the control scheme and simplifies it. You block and melee using the X and Y buttons, and you get to finish them off in gory, nasty ways. You'll get to beat up the hideous deformed monster-freak-things with all kinds of fun objects that'll eventually break as you use them (which really adds to the tension, watching your weapon fall apart as you hack at a giant beast). There are guns too, but you don't rely on them as you think you might- they have limited ammo and aren't the star of the show, as this isn't exactly an action game. Plus, the aim for ranged weapons is pretty weak and shaky, sadly to say.
There aren't a lot of enemies (they get angry in the rain, you see- hence the title..and there's a lot of rain), unfortunately and you'll notice the repetition a fair amount. The camera also suffers when you're in combat, as the damn thing seems to go all haywire if you're ever trapped in a small space. Luckily, you can run like hell to avoid enemies. On the sad side, I sometimes found myself sighing as an enemy respawned again in the exact same form and just taking off to avoid having to fight at all.
Luckily, that isn't all this game is about. You do a lot of poking around and exporing in Silent Hill, and there's some cool stuff to do. I don't want to spoil it, but you get to the director of one nasty fairy tale production which was a real highlight. Environments are familiar (the dingy hospital and schools for example), but they literally change as things go along to unsettle you. Sometimes a hallway will extend itself to torture you and you'll find furniture on ceilings and other bizarre sorts of things. The world seems like an open one, but you'll notice all kinds of barriers and obstacles to really keep things more linear than they may seem.
You'll still have to deal with the puzzles, which are mostly well done. They usually center around the UV flashlight gimmick that allows you to find messages and clues to figure out where you're going. Some of these puzzles are super hard to solve though, so if you get frustrated easily (I did), be ready to search for clues and for the love of God you should write some things down because having that info handy can help when you least expect. There are without a doubt a few puzzles you won't get enough info to complete. At times, the game can feel a little aimless.
Plus, if you get bored with the main quest, there's some cool side missions that can reveal more about Murphy's past. Some of these are seriously nasty, although not always well executed. I was happy to see them included.
As a final note, I'd like to note that the ending to this game left me with a negative and contradictory vibe. It's pretty out there and not totally satisfying, although the last boss right is really awesome.
Graphics here are a bit of a mixed bag, but they're presented with a lot of style. The enemies are admittedly pretty disappointing at times, repetitive and they often looked a bit too human for my liking. Facial animation is pretty unimpressive, and textures can get muddy. Bosses are impressive though, and the environments look pretty good but are often shrouded in darkness. Rain effects look good too.
Music is quite good, but done by a different composer. This game's composed by Dan Licht, instead of Akira Yamaoka and it shows. Licht does a good job setting the mood impressively and the music is certainly unsettling, but the work from the previous games was top notch. Voice acting is good, as is the awesome effects from the creatures and other ambient noise in each environment.
This isn't a Silent Hill game that breaks the mold of its predecessors, but it certainly is worth playing. The whole thing is still strange, creepy and macabre but not altogether scary, unfortunately. I enjoyed playing this game but found it somewhat frustrating and bordering on "almost" but not quite there. Still, this is no stinker, and although it feels a bit familiar it's still worth a try.
Final Score: 7/10