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Silent Hill: Downpour

Damp, dark, and dangerous

Following centuries of epidemics, cults, and prisoner-of-war camps, Silent Hill's history is steeped in misfortune. Dripping with death and wrapped in fog, it's hardly the ideal location for a quick weekend getaway. But it's not just the town that's haunted by an unfortunate past.

Following on from an undeniably strong debut, many feel the series has lost its way, swapping subtle psychological harassment for gory clichés and inexplicably buxom ladies. Having farmed the Japanese series out to a chain of Western developers, it looks like Konami's latest iteration of the survival horror franchise might finally be taking a step in the right direction.

Exploring an entirely new area of Silent Hill, Downpour follows the story of escaped convict Murphy Pendleton. Emerging from the wreck of an overturned prison transport vehicle, he's immediately confronted by a pistol-pointing law enforcer. Losing her footing on the crumbly cliff, she slips and falls into the ravine. Downpour immediately frames Pendleton in a wonderfully murky light, using choppy editing to create an intriguing sense of ambiguity: was he trying to save her, or send her plummeting to her death to ensure his own escape? Until we find out what our protagonist was locked up for, it's entirely plausible that we're jumping into the shoes of a bona fide bastard.

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Exploring an abandoned gas station nearby we get to grips with the game's streamlined design, picking up a crowbar to smash the padlock off a nearby gate. The weapon inventory system has been ditched for Downpour, encouraging you to improvise rather than hoard.

We didn't get an opportunity to test the game's combat in the demo we played, but that's not to say the journey wasn't eventful. After a lengthy period of atmospheric wandering, we eventually discover an abandoned diner. Detecting the telltale hiss of gas in the kitchen, we attempt to turn it off at the mains and inadvertently set the room on fire. Manually activating the emergency sprinklers the fire quickly fades away - taking reality along with it...

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Transforming before our eyes, the world erodes around us - shifting the creepy appearance of Silent Hill into something damp, dark, and rusty. Led to the top of a foreboding metal staircase, we meet our first foe - a dark vortex that seems to devour the world around it. We try to run away but, like a living nightmare, the corridor repeatedly extends itself every time we near the end - a Twilight Zone touch that acts as the unexpected highlight of the demo. A potentially murderous fugitive, being hunted by an intangible force? We're fascinated to see how this one pans out.