"In light of the innovations made by competing survival horror franchises such as Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark, it wasn’t surprising that the latest Silent Hill game would be pretty different from the rest of the games in the series. With that said, many fans are quick to dismiss The Room as a “true” Silent Hill sequel. Although the next game, Origins did much better, as it played more like a classic Silent Hill game, though with more action oriented and “3D” controls. Homecoming was the n..."
In light of the innovations made by competing survival horror franchises such as Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark, it wasn’t surprising that the latest Silent Hill game would be pretty different from the rest of the games in the series. With that said, many fans are quick to dismiss The Room as a “true” Silent Hill sequel. Although the next game, Origins did much better, as it played more like a classic Silent Hill game, though with more action oriented and “3D” controls. Homecoming was the next in line, with a completely new gameplay system and controls.
Silent Hill: Homecoming tells the tale of Alex Shepherd, a soldier wounded in combat. Having several nightmares involving his younger brother Joshua, Alex decides to return home to check up on him. After his recovery, he returns to his hometown of Shepherd’s Glen. Homecoming occurs possibly during the same time, or slightly before Silent Hill: Origins, as evidenced by the fact the Travis Grady, the main protagonist of Origins, drops off Shepherd in town, who apparently had hitchhiked his way home. Returning to his house, Shepherd finds that both his brother and his father are missing. He finds that his mother seems to be distraught and in a trance, and she begs Alex to find the missing members of the family. As he sets off to explore the town, Alex meets his childhood friend, Elle Holloway, and discovers that several people in town have gone missing. The town is shrouded in a thick fog, and misshapen, horrific monsters roam the streets. Meeting the few people left in town, such as the owner of the local junkyard and the only remaining police deputy, Shepherd sets off to uncover the dark secrets of the seemingly average small town, and ultimately, find out what has happened to his brother.
Although the game looks and controls differently, Homecoming is still, at its roots, a Silent Hill game. The player moves Alex around town, searching for supplies to keep themselves alive, meeting mysterious characters, and solving cryptic, creepy puzzles. That said, for those who’ve been frustrated with some of the downright random puzzles in previous SH games, rejoice. While Homecoming has a large amount of puzzles, most of them are quite easy and can be figured out without much thinking. While veteran horror survival players may be shocked at first at the lack of depth of the puzzles, they’ll quickly realize that this is meant to keep the flow of the action going. More importantly, Homecoming is one a step towards appeasing detractors of horror survival games that complain about the difficulty and “randomness” of the puzzles found in many previous games. Most of the puzzles in Homecoming are quite logical and players will be able to clearly see why Alex must complete the puzzles to advance, rather then solving enigmas because they are simply there. While not exactly a puzzle, players can now choose what to say during conversations with other characters. Unfortunately, it seems that all conversations seem to end the same way, although hardcore fans may choose to play the game again to hear the extra dialogue.
The latest in the Silent Hill series features a combat system not seen in the “classic” Silent Hill games, making Homecoming perhaps the most action packed in the series. With his military training, Alex can perform various melee weapon combo attacks, meaning that the player can get in more damage in a single attack then if a series of standard attacks were used. Melee combo attacks involving pushing the correct attack buttons in the correct rhythm. Homecoming features two different attack buttons, the “fast attack”, which allows the player to deal a small amount of damage quickly, or the “slow attack”, which deals a large amount of damage at the expense of speed. “Slow attacks” can be charged up in order to deal more damage, but Alex must remain still while “charging”. Players can press circle while locked in combat to dodge any attacks that monsters launch back at Alex. Homecoming boasts a variety of “quick time events”. When a certain button pops onto the corner of the screen, the player can quickly push the button on the controller, and Alex will perform instant kill, accompanied by a short, but brutal, cut-scene. Similar to this idea is when an enemy puts Alex into a death grip, and the player must mash a corresponding button to break free.
A vastly improved feature over previous Silent Hill titles is the completely separated inventory. Players simply hit L1 to access their items, and R1 to access their weapons, unlike in previous Silent Hill games, where one would have to dig through an endless list of useless trinkets, puzzle pieces, ammunition and firearms to find that trusty health drink. Another interesting aspect of Homecoming involving items is the inclusion of “upgraded” weapons. At certain parts in the game, if the player looks in certain areas, they will find upgraded versions of the weapons they already have. An example of this would be a custom crafted race gun as opposed to an old standard issue military pistol, or a crowbar over a rusty metal pipe.
Keeping with Silent Hill tradition, Akira Yamaoka returns to add his own unique musical touch to Homecoming. Fans of the series will immediate recognize his contribution. Words cannot describe what the music adds to the Silent Hill experience, which definitely remains true in this latest installment. The creepy atmosphere created by most of the ambient music contributes a large part of the psychologically-disturbing horror that Silent Hill is best known for. Homecoming features a larger variety of vocal tracks when compared to previous Silent Hill games, but lyrics definitely add to the dreary, depressing atmosphere created by most of the music. Homecoming features the usual blend of mechanical, fire and hospital sound effects featured so prominently in other Silent Hill games. Making an unsurprising return is the radio static effect that was introduced in Silent Hill 2, warning players of imminent danger. The voice acting in the game is excellent, although at times it can be a bit quiet. However, if players crane their heads closer to their televisions or decide to crank up the volume to near homicidal decibels, they’ll hear some excellent dialogue. Gun shots are loud and crisp, and serve to contrast the relatively quiet motions of melee weapons. The worst aspect of Silent Hill: Homecoming’s audio lies in the fact that the audio tracks and the motion of the character’s mouths don’t always line up, but it’s not really noticeable.
Coming home, looking good. While perhaps not the most impressive looking title this generation, Homecoming’s visuals get the job down. It is clear that most of the effort went into making the environments look unpleasant, rather then concentrating on detail textures. When examining textures on certain surfaces up close, they may appear to be blurry, while the same texture looks fantastic standing away from it. Unfortunately, although it is clear that a lot of effort was put into making Alex look good, several of the other characters he meets throughout his travels don’t look that great. Judge Holloway for example, has shirt and button textures that look like they belong on an early Playstation 2 game. While it is disappointing that the game didn’t take full advantage of the Playstation 3’s hardware in this aspect, it is worth noting that the fog and lighting effects are extremely well done.
In conclusion, although the game contains several audio related flaws and could look just slightly better, Silent Hill: Homecoming is worth checking out. Despite the lack of difficulty in puzzles and the linear aspect of the game, a trip back home is well worth taking.
Community review by Probester (October 15, 2008)
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