Silent Hill: Homecoming Review
Silent Hill: Homecoming/ Publisher: Konami/ Platforms: PS3, XBox 360, PC/ Release Date: 9-30-08/ Rating: Mature/ Single Player
Who Says You Can(‘t) go home?
In Konami’s first Silent Hill release for the current generation consoles the goal was clear… add more action. Built primarily on scarce weapons and survival horror, Silent Hill has had trouble getting back on track since series highpoint SH:2. Konami and developer, Double Helix Games, thought it would be a good idea to move the setting from the terrifying town to Shepherd’s Glen. The move was made as a key point to the plot. Our protagonist in this title is Alex Shepherd, a discharged Special Forces soldier. He awakes in a panic at a hospital searching for his younger brother, Josh. After some interesting notes, a stranger posing for his little brother, and some unfriendly nurses, it’s clear that this isn’t an ordinary place.
When Alex awakes from the nightmare, he heads home to see his family. With his mother in a near catatonic state, along with a missing father and brother, it’s obvious something is seriously wrong. After a confusing conversation with his mother, Alex promises her that he will find his brother. Shepherd’s Glen is no longer the normal town he grew up in, it’s filled with monsters, fog, broken streets (sound familiar?), and missing persons. The story itself is entertaining, but has a few holes. Like past games, a few small decisions can impact your ending; and after that you’ll be wondering why it took Alex so long to figure it all out.
The gameplay is very different from past games. While we were popping a few caps in some enemies and running from others, Homecoming introduces a more action-packed display that can be frustrating at times. Regardless of how great of a soldier someone is, and Alex wasn’t the best of the best, they would still find themselves running from horrifying monsters rather than taking them straight on with a melee weapon, like a steel pipe. I could run away from some monsters in this title, but for the most part it required me to stand and fight. This would have been fine if it was more like what Resident Evil brings to the table, but it was a distasteful showing of a one man army. There was scarce ammunition that made bringing down smogs and schisms easier, but most of the fighting involved using a knife, axe, or pipe. And apparently these weapons are indestructible, because I was able to use the same afore mentioned melees for the entirety of the game. The gameplay engine also brought forward a combo system that did shine at times, and dimmed at others.
I wasn’t impressed by the graphics considering it’s a new generation title, however they are the best animations in a Silent Hill game yet, so that is a positive there. The cutscenes were average. Some of the voice acting was impressive, but most of the lines weren’t lined up very well with the characters’ mouths. At one point I went in for a finishing move on a needler, and a glitch in the frame rate popped the creature to the middle of my screen, and not on the ground where it was right before I went in for the kill. The environments were eerie and creepy, which is expected out of Konami; and at times the only difference between pitch black and barely visible was the Silent Hill norm flashlight.
I didn’t enjoy the soundtrack too much. Some of the music was terrifying at times, but due to the excessive amount of action put in the game, that sense of surviving didn’t feel the same. When I play a Silent Hill game I want the thought of being scared out of my pants to hit me, and the environment itself to make my heart sink. I don’t want monsters attacking me, knowing that I’m going to attack back. They should be able to sense my fear along with being extremely superior beings. Fighting some monsters is inevitable and I enjoy occasionally beating an enemy to a pulp. However, this should not be the case for every encounter I have with a monster.
First aid kits were placed at frustrating parts of the story. While I was stocked up in the beginning and end of the game, I was desperately searching room after room of every building to find even the smallest of health during the majority of the game. With as much action as the game requires, there should have been more health in more places. Using the inventory and weapon wheel also put a sour taste in my mouth. In one scenario I had to open up my inventory wheel and use a key to open a door, but my thumb slipped on the joystick and a serum was highlighted. After accidently letting go of the trigger, the serum was used even though I had full health (serum is the most powerful first aid btw).
Homecoming did succeed in several aspects that shouldn’t go unnoticed. I was petrified at certain points, and the boss battles were very entertaining. The story was as good as any in the series, but had that same feel of the older games (once you beat it you’ll understand what I mean). I did enjoy my time with this title, I was just hoping for a little more since it’s the only SH game released on the newer consoles, until Downpour hits shelves. It doesn’t compare with #2, but it holds its own as far as the series goes. The fact that they were able to have any success and still produce a thrilling environment outside of Silent Hill is a breakthrough. If you’re really wanting to play Homecoming but haven’t because of the bad reviews, I say give it a shot. If you’re looking for a budget game because you don’t have the cash to get Downpour, I suggest waiting the extra week and dropping the cash on the HD collection. Available at Gamestop used for $24.99 on PS3 and $17.99 on 360, it’s not necessarily the best bargain on the market.
What’s your favorite game in the Silent Hill Series?