Silent Hill: Downpour • Page 2

Puddle quest.

That's nothing, though. Wander onwards and you'll find a cable car that will take you deeper into town. The only problem is that the cable car is operated by tokens, and the token machine has been stolen.

A puzzle has clearly appeared, and while it's a simple variation on locked doors - and only a little more evolved than the locked door you had to smash open a few minutes ago - the detailing is wonderfully disquieting. Whoever took the token machine had to drag it behind them as they went, and it's up to you to follow the tracks out the back of the building, across a leafy stretch of deserted highway, and into what can only be described as the world's nastiest diner - and that's taking into account a place called Norm's that Sega once took me to in Santa Ana. Things don't start well at the Devil's Pitstop, as this establishment is called: after a quick chat with a friendly Silent Hill postman who turns out to be a ghost of the vanishes-when-your-back-is-turned variety, you head inside only to find yourself plunged into almost total darkness.

Downpour's lighting - or rather its lack of lighting - is beautifully handled, forcing you to head deeper into locations you'd really rather not go near at all, just in order to simply orient yourself. In the gloom of the diner, all busted tiles and smeary windows, you'll have to find your way to the kitchen using only the glow from a nearby jukebox: luckily there are chairs scattered around along the way for you to arm yourself with and, besides, it's hard to be miserable near a jukebox.

Once you're in the kitchen, those Czech designers reach for the slider marked "trippy". (It's next to the slider marked "sharks".) There's been a gas leak, by the smell of things, and when Murphy goes to turn off the ovens, the whole place bursts into flame. A kitchen fire in a deserted diner would probably be terrifying enough for most of us - particularly since the place is probably insulated with, like, asbestos or something - but Silent Hill's just getting, um, warmed up. First the blaze turns on the sprinkler system, and the room starts to flood - water is the game's dominant theme, incidentally, and it also happens to be Murphy Pendleton's greatest fear - and then the landscape starts to collapse inwards as that famous Silent Hill entropy effect takes hold.

For the last few minutes of the demo, Murphy's lost and terrified in a grisly dimension of rusting metal and mouldering horror: a place where half-eaten corpses are bound to bed frames by bonds of barbed wire, and where something unspeakable is intent on pursuing him as well as on acting like a tutorial to show you that the left bumper activates a kind of rear-view-mirror cam. Murphy's off and running, then, as you lead him down endlessly extending corridors and over sudden steep drops. Then, as quickly as it started, it's over.

As demos go, it's short and gorgeously incoherent, but it's enough to showcase a game that's being put together with a real feel for authentic scares. We'll need a longer glimpse of this to see how Murphy shapes up - and to see whether the developers' ambition to bring a more open-ended approach to puzzles has paid off - but for now, the sense is of a game that's filled with plenty of questions and plenty of sprightly shocks. And all that without a genuine horror game enemy in sight. Or a shark, come to think of it.

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