Silent Hill: Homecoming Review

Coming into this sixth installment in the Silent Hill series, expectations were low, but hopes were high. The second consecutive outsourcing of the franchise–this time to Double Helix Games, a development studio famous for nothing–was sure to eclipse Climax Studios’ decidedly mediocre Silent Hill: Origins, but could it restore the standard of quality set forth by Konami’s original tetralogy?

No, this is not the triumphant return to form that fans have hoped for, but at least it represents a metaphorical foothold on progress after the disappointing misstep of the last title. Silent Hill: Homecoming delivers an interesting, albeit late-developing and initially incohesive tale constructed within the familiar framework of the titular town’s cultish lore.

The game’s primary downfall is that in trying to create a more action-oriented experience, the developers diluted the heavy atmosphere and psychologically disruptive themes typical of the series, and weakened the methods by which those elements are delivered to the audience. This leaves players moving mostly unchallenged–in a mental sense–through a relatively fast-paced (and quickly completed) action/horror title, rather than engrossing them in what has made past Silent Hill games great. Players progress from hall to dark hall, room to dark room, and building to dark building laying enemies to rest and solving menial puzzles.

It’s clear that with Homecoming, Double Helix was influenced by the Resident Evil series’ successful shift from traditional survival horror into the realm of action gameplay, but the player-controlled 3D camera implemented in this game only serves to deaden the atmosphere that would have been possible using the semi-static perspectives the series is known for. Instead of absorbing exactly what these types of games are made for, players are forced to spend the entire game fighting with a awkward camera just to see straight. It isn’t even possible to invert the vertical axis, an option that should never be omitted.

Combat in Homecoming is an improvement over past Silent Hill games, although truly favorable combat mechanics are still a long way off. The game gives players weak, strong, and charge-up attacks with melee weapons and implements an over-the-shoulder view and targeting reticle when guns are drawn. Players can also make protagonist Alex Shepherd dodge enemy attacks with a quick tap of the O button, rounding out what is a much tighter combat setup than the series has ever seen.

Homecoming also marks the first time a dialogue system has been included in a Silent Hill game. Theses are very simple, two-option choices that are presented during only a few conversations throughout the game, but they still add a layer of interactivity to the story, and even dictate which of the game’s five ending sequences the player will see.

All of the cut scenes in Homecoming are very well-directed. In addition to the clean graphics and impressive dynamic lighting, the camera angles used in these clips heighten the dramatic effects of every shot. Graphically, this is the best in the series. The characters’ facial animations are exceptional, and effects such as the film grain camera and the real-time transition to “otherworld” improve the game’s overall presentation. The signature industrial, static-filled soundtrack is back; true to the franchise and still heart-pounding.

Measured against the standards set by previous games in the series, Silent Hill: Homecoming rests near the lower regions of the proverbial totem pole. Judged independently, however, this game still provides much of what survival horror fans are looking for, including a decently deranged plot, occult themes, and a full cast of sick and twisted monsters. It may not be the most cerebral or frightening option, but it will still satisfy that horror fix.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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