With Resident Evil straying away from the confines of the survival horror genre that it helped to create; there are still some that decide to embrace and then strangle these confines. This is the best way to describe Silent Hill: Homecoming.
Alex Shepherd a recently discharged soldier comes home only to find his hometown in a shattered state. Pretty much every inhabitant has either disappeared or went psychotic and in the middle of all of this he has to track down his little brother. As we tag along with Alex you meet the people he used to know, a woman he has some kind of feelings for, and get to know his family. To be honest if I had a mother that switches erratically between despondent and Nurse Ratched, and a brother so irritating that he makes Arnie from ďWhatís Eating Gilbert GrapeĒ seem cool I would only have two options. Iíd leave on the first semi truck, Volkswagen Bus filled with homicidal lunatics, or pick up truck being driven by the Ku Klux Klan I see or murder them. But of course Alex being the good man that he is helps out.
The main concern with the story is that it takes forever to unfold. You seem to spend the first half of the game looking for your little brother. The moments where you actually interact with people and try to figure out what in the name of God happened to the town are nice. And itís also nice to know more about Alexís past when he was growing up. But moments such as these are too far and few between and you spend most of your time walking around darkly lit environments. So the story of SH: Homecoming takes a lot of patience to get into.
Pretty much every staple in the Silent Hill franchise makes a return. Everything from the occasional mind numbing puzzles to being freaked out by the creatures exists in SH: Homecoming. The most notable change is the revamped combat system and camera angle. SH: Homecoming uses the now standard over the shoulder perspective, which gives you a front row seat to your descent into the macabre. Since Alex Shepherd used to be in the military he knows how to handle himself. In fact this makes him the most formidable of the Silent Hill protagonists. Youíre no longer confined to pipe swings that look like they couldnít kill a cockroach and blind shots with your pistol.
The melee system is leaps and bounds better than what it used to be. Youíre able to combo using heavy and fast attacks, plus you can dodge. When you time a dodge properly and avoid an attack you can perform a counterattack. This does more damage to the enemy, but you canít combo again until after a brief pause. While this is nice because there is a huge emphasis on melee combat it all doesnít work well. is nice because there is a huge emphasis on melee combat it all doesnít work well. First and foremost the main problem with Homecoming is that it bucks modern controlling trends. The main trend that it decides to do away with is invert aiming. On top of this it teases you with the option. In the options menu thereís the Invert Y axis option, you click yes and the controls just stay the same. If youíre a person that lives and dies by the invert option then youíre in for one hell of an irritating ride. The part with the most problems seems to be the dodging. There were many times when I tried to dodge either left or right and I just stood there. Fighting really doesnít work well in narrow corridors. This is because you will just get caught up on a wall and get diced to pieces. Another key problem is how ineffective the light is. Itís like the flashlight is running on batteries that Alex found in a sock draw with the expiration date of 1985.
Another problem seems to be with weapon balancing. For the most part I can accept fighting something fast with my weaker, but faster knife, but the axe really feels underpowered. With an axe you shouldnít be wailing on something for almost a minute while dodging and attacking. The axe should kill something with 2-3 combos max. While discussing the weapons it seems like SH: Homecoming took a page out of Condemned: Criminal Origins book. Weapons also have a purpose in exploration. You wonít be able to open certain doors or pry something open unless you have a pipe or an axe. This really just gets irritating when you actually try to apply some kind of logic to the situation.
Just like with every survival horror game ammo is kept to a minimum, so if you use it you better not miss because you donít know when youíll find it again. The same also goes for health items. Youíll have to unearth the whole game to find stuff (especially in the middle) because there arenít many. It seems like you can find 3 health drinks per stage and if you have to fight a lot of things you just might use all of them if youíre not careful.
While this adds to the suspense and punishes mistakes it also becomes a headache. One thing I noticed is that some enemies (for the most part Smogís) are dangerous at close range and need to be shot. And if you try to melee them youíre going to go through a potion or two. A lot of the conflicts you canít avoid because you will get chased. Itís amazing the amount of persistence these creatures have. They will follow you to different rooms, hop over obstacles and really just force you to kill them. It actually feels like they did this to make up for the lack of puzzles in the game. I played a good portion of the original Silent Hill and I think thereís more combat in the first quarter of Homecoming than 50% of the original.
While the combat just gets tiresome you can at least get sucked into the atmosphere. Homecoming does itís best to be scary and in some points it is. When you begin in the hospital and make your way through it you realize that the environment is cold and sterile and it just makes your stay there eerily creepy. Other environments such as the abandoned hotel and Alexís hometown look desolate and depraved. This facet of the game is the only thing that makes it feel like a Silent Hill game.
I would actually have enjoyed Silent Hill: Homecoming a lot more if save points werenít so sparse, but it really turns SH: Homecoming into a chore. This is because there tend to be a lot of fetch quests and if you die you might have to recollect all of those items and do all of those conversation scenes again. What couldíve been ďIíll play for five more minutesĒ and then after that another 45 minutes elapse. Turns into ďAfter I hit that save point Iíll finishĒ and then save and quit. Thereís still the monotony of jiggling anonymous doorknobs and nothing seems to have eclipsed what was mastered in Silent Hill 2. So while it does make an enjoyable game for a person that is a die-hard fan of Silent Hill it just doesnít make an enjoyable experience for other players. It doesnít even do much to make strides in the genre; it just does what the franchise pretty much did when it first started. The only thing different is the amount of graphical sheen that SH: Homecoming contains.
Homecoming isnít much to write home about. The textures on a lot of objects are bland, the character models arenít mind blowing and anything human oriented isnít remotely appealing. For some odd reason Homecoming comes to life in regards to creature design. Everything you fight looks like it crawled out of Satanís bunghole and looks like it can easily kill you. Since American developers Double Helix made Homecoming they decided to use the visual style of the Silent Hill movie. When you seem to get transported to the demon portion of an environment you would see the scenery turning gray and the environment starts to peel away. Also on top of this the environment is more sepia toned and has the scratchy appearance of a bad 8mm home movie. While you wonít be impressed by the humans or even the human environments; everything with itís toes dipped in evil is pretty interesting looking.
The voice work is pretty good, but the only thing that really sticks out is the musical score from Composer Akira Yamaoka. It strikes the right blend of ethereal melody and haunting. It really just lets you relax, yet keeps you on edge at the same time.
There are multiple endings that you can unlock and there are hidden weapons to unlock as well so it warrants a play through or two. But this all depends on how much you liked the game in the first place.
What starts off as something that you slowly get engrossed into quickly becomes infuriating. With itís sloppy and forced combat, minimal health items and ammunition. While this used to be the crux of the survival horror genre they now become detrimental factors. Instead of finding new ways to innovate within the genre Double Helix just stays within the confines of it. While there is some enjoyment to be had, but in order to find it you have to be a die-hard of the clichťs of the genre.