Author’s Note: This review was originally published on October 21st, 2008; just in time for Halloween. Like other reviews of the time, it features “witty” taglines for each section.
Silent Hill has entered the next gen era and is hopefully here to stay. Silent Hill: Homecoming is the sixth installment in the best survival/horror series and lets players experience an all new, bone-chilling tale that brings aspects new and old to the series. As expected, some aspects are good while others could use some improvement. However, I was satisfied with the game as a whole and recommend to anyone who enjoys games that will scare you.
Shady Shepherd’s Glen.
Our story begins with Alex Shepherd, a discharged army soldier, being rolled on a gurney in a dark hospital. After some mysterious events occur, it turns out to be a bad dream in which his little brother, Joshua, has gone missing. Alex returns to his home town of Shepherd’s Glen, only to find that the town is covered with thick fog, most of his friends missing, and his mother in a catatonic state. Even worse, the nightmare about Joshua turns out to be true as he is no where to be seen. Unsure of what the hell is going on, Alex investigates further to find his missing brother and escape the horror that happened to the once peaceful city.
While the game starts you off in a new city, you will soon find yourself entering the infamous town of Silent Hill. Regardless of where you are, the story and setting are told brilliantly. Every time one mystery was solved, a new one appeared and it was up to Alex to solve it. The story also has references to previous Silent Hill titles that will make fans squeal in delight when they see them. Those playing on the Xbox 360 will see that the Achievements will have themes based on previous Silent Hills. However, if you are new to the series, you are still in for a treat. With a cast of new characters, a very cool protagonist, and horrors around every block, the story stands out as the best part of the entire game.
Gruesome, Yet Gorgeous.
Being on the next-gen systems, Silent Hill: Homecoming should look great, right? Right! The graphics in this game deliver the terror right through the television screen. Character models are expressive and detailed, showing off the abilities of the 360. I must say that Alex is probably the most handsome protagonist in a Silent Hill game. The environments, while a bit dark at times, look amazing with superior lighting, shadow, and physical effects. If you run into something, you will knock it over. The amount of detail is awesome, especially considering you can examine and learn about everything you encounter. Most importantly are the monsters you face. The nurses and swarms are back, but there are some new, horrifying looking foes that will stop at nothing at ending Alex’s journey. One enemy bears an uncanny resemblance to the writhing monstrosities that spew tar in Silent Hill 2. A new enemy looks like a hammer head shark on two legs that is made of pig flesh. Of course, there are amazing bosses to fight that not only look grotesque on the outside, but their representations are grotesque as well. Finally, for those who have played and enjoyed Silent Hill 2 and all it offers, you will be happy to see the return of a familiar “face”. Truly, the graphics are amazing.
Damn Good Dubbing.
When an event is playing out, it is given further life with the excellent sound and voice effects. Not only is the dubbing spot on, the actors are believable. Unlike Silent Hill 4’s Henry Townshed, Alex is very emotional and expressive when it comes to facing the terrors of Silent Hill. The noises the monsters make are equally excellent, and also creepy. You know when you are about to encounter a foe due to the classic radio playing static, but also because of the unique monster cries. As usual, nothing is more satisfying than hearing the sound of a monster dying after being hit too many times with a firearm or melee weapon. This actually brings me to the next part of the review.
At Ease, Soldier.
This part of the game is what got the biggest make-over, but not entirely for the better. Alex will move forward with the left analogue stick and change direction with the right stick. This confused me because they could have had him move both ways with just one stick. It was not an issue, but it could get cumbersome when you wanted to turn around quickly. Another new feature are the menus. One menu is for items, and another is for weapons. Accessing and using these menus is far less of a hassle than it was in previous Silent Hill titles. Unlike Silent Hill Origin’s Travis Grady, Alex gets a set amount of items and weapons.
Now for the important part, the combat. Those who played Resident Evil 4 will notice some similarities. Besides the action command that lets you use your weapons to create new areas, combat is a bit more advanced than before. First, enemies are more fierce. However, they are also more stupid. If you encounter more than one at a time, chances are you will face them one at a time. Seriously, one will wait for the other to die and then move in for the kill. However, this was not such a bad thing because combat can take some getting used to. As a solider, Alex is a capable fighter, but he is still kind of a klutz. He can dodge attacks with the push of a button, and he can create combos with his melee weapons. By putting together light and strong attacks, you can create combos that will work for most enemies. Of course, there are guns in this game but ammo is very limited and should only be used for certain enemies. Guns use a similar mechanism found in RE4 with an over-the-shoulder sighting system. You need to recognize the appropriate time to use your melee weapons and your firearms.
You also need to recognize the attack patterns of enemies, so you can minimize damage. For some reason, it seemed that health items were more scarce in this game than in other titles. In fact, there were times I was down to only one first aid kit. Getting a foe’s attack pattern down takes plenty of practice, but by the time I started my second file, I was dodging attacks like a pro and had plenty of health items to spare. Unfortunately, my first file had me cursing the game and the lack of skill I had. Some enemies will get you in their grasp and you have to hit a button quickly to get out of it. Certain boss battles are downright impossible if you neglect Alex’s dodging abilities.
Silent Hill: Homecoming also has clever puzzles for you to solve, but those are nothing out of the ordinary for the series. The most important aspect that needed improvement was the combat. For the most part, it was improved upon. However, this is not to say that it could use more polish. Certain enemies can be downright annoying to defeat without guns. Other enemies are too quick to anticipate an attack, making it hard for you to dodge properly. We know that SH:H should be played for the story, but having a slightly better combat system with the masses of monsters that attack Alex would have helped.
Silent Hill: Homecoming has multiple endings. Your ending depends on choices you make throughout the game during the interactive dialogue sequences that occur between Alex and another person. Depending on your ending, you will unlock a costume for Alex, as well as the opportunity to find new weapons. Getting every Achievement will take more than one play through, thus giving the game great replay value. In the end, I recommend this game to fans of the series, as well as fans of the survival/horror genre. Yes, the series still has not managed to get down a relatively decent combat engine, but the story, characters, graphics, and sounds make up for everything. In the end you are left with a worthy addition to the Silent Hill series that shows you that there truly is no place like home.