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Silent Hill: Homecoming review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • Suitably atmospheric
  • New twists in the Silent Hill story
  • Gets increasingly better
  • Combat is too easy
  • Dull first few hours
  • A million locked doors

"Things have changed around here, and not for the better,” utters one of the first characters Silent Hill: Homecoming protagonist Alex meets upon returning to his hometown, Shepherd’s Glen. He’s right. Or rather, half right, for while there’s some cause for complaint here, many of the series’ standout signature features are present and correct.

Positives first. Despite our initial reservations, SH: Homecoming’s environments range from creepy to disturbing to absolutely bloody terrifying, despite the parody-verging familiarity of foggy streets. Current-gen’s power has been used well, with jumping shadows and flickering illuminations making exploration a nerve-shredding affair. The locales you visit in both the real world – which, like earlier games is enveloped in thin fog, giving an almost sepia effect – and the infamously horrible Otherworld are rendered nicely. The selection of monsters is fairly imaginative, with their disjointed limbs, zipped faces and hooks for hands.

As ever, it’s the audio that really ramps up the tension. Akira Yamaoka’s score is delightfully eerie, while the wailing of babies and ghostly whispered chatter – along with the radio static that signals impending nightmare creature discomfort – is suitably haunting. The narrative builds on the series’ mythology, with the first act of the game taking place in the aforementioned Shepherd’s Glen, a town that borders Toluca Lake, which fans will remember from previous games as being the lake next to Silent Hill itself. Without resorting to spoilers, the fates of the two towns prove to be inextricably intertwined.

How they’re connected, and how his family comes to be caught up in the Otherworldly events, is the mystery that Alex must unravel. In traditional fashion, discovering and reading notes, letters, diaries, pictures and even recordings on cassette tapes pushes the story along. You’ll also chat to the occasional supporting character and there are plenty of flashbacks too. It’s all rather standard psychological horror fare, but we’ve no real complaints in the narrative department. Sadly, Homecoming’s game mechanics are where things deteriorate.

Whereas previous lead characters were vulnerable (Harry in SH on PSone didn’t know how to shoot a gun, for example, hence his aim was woeful for the first few hours of play), Alex is a discharged soldier who, understandably, knows how to fight. He can execute light and strong melee attacks, which can be melded into combos, and he also has the ability to dodge. As such, even when you’re only armed with rubbish weapons, you never feel particularly threatened in a fight and the monsters are easy to overcome whether they attack alone or in groups. Later in the game you get access to firearms. As befits a soldier, Shepherd is an excellent shot and with melee attacks being effective against all the standard monsters you can save your bullets for the bosses, who become relatively simple to defeat.



While the game establishes a palpable sense of tension and fear, it’s betrayed by the hero’s relative invulnerability. The other core element is puzzle-solving. The conundrums start off as dismal affairs – find item A, take to location B, use on item C – but they do get more teasing. There are several complex slide puzzles where you need to move things about in correct order (books, for example), made harder since your choices don’t reset, and mistakes accumulate.

SH: Homecoming improves rapidly after a dull first few hours, but you can’t escape the feeling that it’s a pseudo pastiche of Silent Hill 2, with clunky cameos from Pyramid Head and nods to previous events. EA’s Dead Space offers similar slow burning tension, but with a relatively fresh setting and punchier visuals. If Konami can preserve the psychological chills, emerge from SH2’s shadow and subvert the gameplay template they mastered, our favourite horror series will be essential again.

Oct 14, 2008

More Info

Release date: Sep 30 2008 - Xbox 360, PS3
Nov 06 2008 - PC (US)
Nov 06 2008 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Konami
Developed by: Double Helix
Franchise: Silent Hill
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes

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8 comments

  • Signofthezodiac - November 19, 2008 2:55 a.m.

    I thought it was a pretty fun game, not as fun as the others though
  • octagons - October 27, 2008 11:54 p.m.

    i am not saying that i did not enjoy it though
  • octagons - October 27, 2008 11:53 p.m.

    i the combat annoying due the lack of a block button and the general drought of healing items
  • statuslegendary - October 17, 2008 8:07 p.m.

    This game was pretty fun, I stopped playing as soon as Dead Space came out. DS makes this look like a rushed out, steaming pile of shit.
  • alectl - March 23, 2009 9:51 p.m.

    this game looks pretty sweet but all the silent hill games scary and realy weird
  • Danomeon - July 9, 2009 5:29 a.m.

    I liked this game quite a bit, mainly because it actually scared me. With Dead Space, I played through the game in the middle of the night with all of the lights turned off, but it still failed to frighten me. Then I rented Silent Hill, and had the living padooples (I completely just made up that word)scared out of me. The settings for the game are much eerier than Dead Space's (stereotypical, alien-invaded space ship, or stereotypical freakish and twisted demonic hospital?) I also found that the mystery clouding what is going on in the otherworld kept me gripped and frightened. In Dead Space, I always felt like I knew what was going on. There were evil neccromorphs on the ship, I have to get them off. I already know what they are and where I am. But in Silent Hill, I was constantly wondering what was going on. (Spoilers) Why was the doctor cutting himself? Why in the hell was mayor Bartlett with that freakish heart-thingy? What in the HELL was up with that twisted hospital from the chapter, "Hell Descent"??? The music was incredible in Silent Hill, and it truly frightened me as well. The lack of trustable characters made it slightly disturbing as well (You were constantly talking to characters in Dead Space, so it didn't have the disturbing feeling of isolation. Sure, you were betrayed by one crew member at one point, and one of those people (MAJOR SPOILERS) didn't really exist, but at least they were still allies for most of the game.) It is obvious that Dead Space is (In the opinions of many) an incredible game, and much better than Silent Hill: Homecoming (Again, total opinions, please don't rant at me fanboys.), but I still have it written that I find Silent HIll scarier than Dead Space in my book. Also, I think they are both awesome, and Dead Space is more exciting and has better gameplay overall. (but less of that fear factor.) And, at the risk of being called a fanboy, I have only played Homecoming in the Silent Hill series, and I have throughly completed Dead Space. I loved both games, and while I enjoyed Dead Space more, I found it to be more of an action game than horror.
  • beanerman911 - June 6, 2009 4:10 a.m.

    this game wasnt as bad the combat gets better with each weapon the endings are bad ass especially (spoiler) the ending called bogeyman ending where u get the pyramid head mask and also theres an ending with ufos which waqs hilarious but there was alot of complaining about how it wasnt part of the story o boohoo it was funny and when u beat it the next time u play u get the laser pistol which kills most monsters in about 2 or 3 shots and beats the hell out of boss battles i think the game is way cool and deserves a good rating i thaught it was a good instalment in the grand Silent Hill Masterpiece
  • Ashb1988 - March 1, 2009 12:45 a.m.

    ive only been playin the game a few hours it is a fun game but the combat side is a bit easy thow :-( and am tendin to just run past fights out of boredem of them been to easy the story line is good but is it just me or does shepard seem a bit to none fashed by what is goin on considerin he has jst come home and ended up what could be called hell????

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