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Silent Hill: Homecoming - updated impressions

Home at last, Alex finds Shepherd's Glen blanketed in fog and deserted. The first person he bumps into is Judge Holloway, who says Alex should keep an eye open for her daughter Elle, who's also out wandering. Holloway comments that everyone's leaving town and she's not sure why. A few moments later, you're back home, it too seemingly empty.

After a heartwarming flashback about Joshua, Alex heads downstairs and notices a trail of water leading into the living room. His mom is there, rocking silently in a chair with a gun in her lap. She's pale, her hair is matted and she can't seem to make a complete sentence, only muttering things like "I miss your brother" and "You've been gone too long, Alex." He manages to take the gun away, then realizes she's soaking wet. Something shrieks in the house, and after asking what the sound was, his mother simply replies, "the basement."

Creeping into the flooded basement reveals a clawed monstrosity that's swimming around with bound legs and a face that's split in half. He topples the creature, takes the empty gas can for the water pump and heads back into town in search of fuel. Maybe once the basement's clear his mother will have something else to say. This is also a chance to enter a dialogue with her instead of heading out right away. Talking might open some doors or close others.

Not too far into town he finds a truck with an open gas cap. More lurkers appear, slinking across the ground with their tied legs, but Alex has little trouble knifing them to shreds. At this point we figure we'd start running past the enemies just to keep the story's momentum, but Double Helix was intent on showcasing the dodge-deflect-counterattack combo of the new combat system. Provided a few jumpy stutters are addressed by launch day (which they most certainly will be, it's not until September), battling the three to four extra lurkers now waiting by his garage door should stay interesting.

Alex fills the pump, drains the basement and finds an extra lock previously obscured by the water. Opening it reveals the family's back yard, complete with a disturbingly vacant clubhouse perched in a leafless tree. Alex ducks into an alley behind the house, still in search of Joshua, who could be in serious trouble if his dream from earlier was any indication of what's happening to Shepherd's Glen.

His next stop is the town cemetery, easily the most impressive locale we saw in our demo. Its high walls, countless coffins and uneven terrain felt totally new for a Silent Hill title, all while retaining the same sense of gloomy claustrophobia. After solving another puzzle (two slabs put together) he finds Elle, who's busy posting missing person signs on a bulletin board. She knows something's wrong too, that far too many people have turned up missing. She gives you a walkie talkie for communication (and as a radar for the monsters) and suggests you visit Curtis, a man who might be able to fix the gun you took from your mom. Huh, we didn’t even know it was broken.

Curtis doesn't even seem to care about what's happening. Oh, he realizes things are bad, but he's certainly in no rush to start helping out. He does appreciate the antique gun, and trades you a functional pistol. Curtis makes note of one riddle no one else has caught - all the town's clocks have stopped at 2:06 for no apparent reason. He's also not sure what happened to Joshua or your dad (who's among the missing), but thinks the mayor might know. Where's the mayor? Out digging up graves in his family plot, of course.

On the way to the mayor's plot, someone tries to contact Alex via the walkie. He can't make out the voice or the message because of incessant static brought on by the approaching smog monster, the aforementioned smoke stack with organs hanging out. A few well-placed bullets put it to rest, and now, finally entering the mayor's area, Alex finds a kid-sized casket with a sliding tile puzzle. Um, sure, why not, he solves it and the lid opens, revealing only a watch. It reads, "forgive me."

And then, another piercing noise, another wave of craziness and Alex goes down, blacking out in the middle of a graveyard for no apparent reason. To make things even worse, that's the last we saw, and have no clue what happens to him after - or even why he suddenly lost consciousness.

There's no telling how long it could be before we get another good look at Silent Hill: Homecoming. For the time being we'll just have to savor the few story bits we did see and of course enjoy our trio of exclusive clips, which we'll be debuting tomorrow with even more analysis. Check back for even more (including footage of a three-way knife fight with the sexy nurses) and then again Wednesday for our email chat with famed sound producer/director/superstar Akira Yamaoka.

Apr 21, 2008