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Jason Picker
24 Mar, 2009

Silent Hill: Homecoming Review

PS3 Review | It's time to grow up and move out of home.
A lot of people reading this review would have already scrolled to the bottom to check the score. Many of you may then scroll back up and skim through the review, probably reading the first and last couple of paragraphs to get an overall picture of what we thought. So while we have your attention, let us say that while the score we have given is fairly low, Silent Hill: Homecoming is not a bad game. Viewed on its own, it’s quite a competent survival-horror romp that has some fun moments. In fact, if you’ve never played a Silent Hill game before you can probably add a point to the total. However, for fans of the series, Homecoming doesn't do enough to reinvent itself like Resident Evil, nor does it keep enough the same to capture the dread and heart-pumping atmosphere that made the franchise famous.

As most of you will know, Homecoming has been delayed for a number of months after originally being refused classification in Australia for its high levels of violence. Some cuts have been made to a couple of the cinematics so it could pass through, but thankfully they don’t affect the gameplay. The cuts are pretty jarring though. In fact, the series' unofficial mascot, Pyramid Head, could have done a better job editing the offending scenes with his ridiculously large sword.

For the most part, the story works quite well. Alex Shepherd is a soldier wounded in combat who returns home to find his hometown of Shepherd’s Glen covered in fog, in disrepair, and with more weirdos wandering the streets than the Gold Coast during schoolies week. Alex returns to his parent's house to find his mother barely coherent and his father and younger brother, Joshua, gone. Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around The Order – Silent Hill's sinister cult – who is kidnapping people from Shepherd’s Glen to appease their angry god after a sacrifice pact goes wrong.

Poochie's stick-chasing days are numbered.

Poochie's stick-chasing days are numbered.
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While the plot works quite well, the voice acting and dialogue is about as natural as an elephant learning to tap-dance. In one section, Alex is standing next to a gate with a valve right next to it. At this point, one of the female characters who helps Alex in some of the levels says: “Alex, there’s a valve by that gate. Maybe it opens things.” Thanks for that Captain Obvious.

Much has been written about Konami’s decision to move the series from Team Silent to western developers, The Collective (now Double Helix Games). Understandably, the new development team plays it pretty safe and hasn’t added too much to the recognised formula. However, some of their additions have had the undesired consequence of making the game less frightening.

The main character, Alex is the prime example of this. He doesn't have a lot of personality and rarely does the situation seem to be getting to him, as if killing gruesome creatures with knives for legs is a regular occurrence. It’s much harder for the player to be empathetic towards Alex as he can handle himself well and is not particularly scared by the crazy situations he find himself in. He's just not a very interesting character that you can get lost in, and this hurts the game.

After that day, Alex vowed to never go on a blind date again.

After that day, Alex vowed to never go on a blind date again.
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Alex is also a more skilled fighter than characters from past Silent Hill games. He is proficient with firearms as well as a number of melee weapons such as a crowbar, metal pipe and an axe. He also possesses the ability to dodge, counter-attack and string together combos, making it much less important to avoid confrontations. In fact, you can kill every monster in the game if you want to. This was not possible in past Silent Hill games, and you often had to bolt away from enemies or sneak past them as your character was not a good fighter and the odds were against you being able to survive too many encounters. Unfortunately for Homecoming, this attempt to modernise their franchise towards a more action-focused approach dilutes much of the heart-pumping scares that made its predecessors famous.

Many of the staples of the survival horror genre are present in the game, but because of the lack of tension they don’t work very well and become annoyances. For example, you'll come across hundreds of doors that are broken, locked or jammed, there is a dead end around every second corner, and the majority of the playing time is spent trying to find a key to the next part of the game. The locations in the game are similarly generic, with a level set in a prison, a cemetery, a hospital and a sewer to name a few.

The enemies are also easier to kill than in past games. Even if you are having trouble, the loading screens tell you how to dispatch them and the tactics you should use rather than letting the player discover it for themselves. Ammunition, while not as abundant as in Resident Evil 5, is still more plentiful than in previous installments. In fact, Alex is so good with all of the weapons and the enemies so easy that there is hardly any need to save ammunition for the boss battles. But if you do they will be a piece of cake.

Um...I might go the long way around.

Um...I might go the long way around.
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On the plus side, the graphics in Homecoming are very good, and don’t look out-of-place in the current generation of consoles. One complaint we do have is that they are too 'clean' for a Silent Hill game. There seems to be less distortion used in the graphics than in past games, taking away some of the grind-house horror look that worked so well before.

The much-maligned big-screen adaptation has also had an impact on the game, with a number of visual elements being borrowed from the film. Most interestingly is the “peeling” effect where the real world transitions to the Otherworld. During the transition, you’ll hear an air-siren wailing before paint starts to peel from the walls and ceilings. While the effect plays very little role in the game, it’s a nice touch.

The sound is one of the highlights of the game. Master composer Akira Yamaoka returns to create the music and sound effects. The only real moments of fear in the game are generated through his sound creations, with some truly terrifying noises and looping effects that make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. It’s just a shame that the content of the game largely nullifies it. The volume stability is also an issue, with noise often becoming exceedingly loud or too quiet, and voices sometimes fading into the background, requiring us to keep the volume control handy. Sometimes the soundtrack even completely drops away, especially when moving between areas in the games.

Great body, shame about the face. And the knife.

Great body, shame about the face. And the knife.
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As with previous versions of Silent Hill, Homecoming contains some pretty interesting – if somewhat obscure – puzzles. During one of the Otherworld sections in Alex’s house, four mini-puzzles have to be completed to unlock the front door, with switches opening up different rooms in the house. These puzzles work well to break up the exploration parts of the game. However, some of the puzzles can be a bit frustrating; one such puzzle in the attic of Alex’s house which involved sliding pieces of a puzzle took us nearly an hour to complete.

While Silent Hill veterans will likely find this to be a watered-down version of what was once a highly-revered franchise, Homecoming still serves to be a pretty decent survival-horror game in a genre that is getting a bit dated. The game offers a solid experience, some interesting puzzles and a few moments of tension, but on the whole it's much too easy and doesn't offer the squeal-inducing moments that the series is known for.
The Score
While Silent Hill: Homecoming is a decent survival-horror romp, the series has seen better days. It's a bit stale, a bit easy, and a bit light-on in the scare department.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Silent Hill: Homecoming Content

Silent Hill: Homecoming has minimal changes for Australia
14 Jan, 2009 Gameplay remains unchanged.
Silent Hill: Homecoming classified in Australia
07 Jan, 2009 Receives a MA15+ rating by Australian Classification Board.
UPDATED: Silent Hill: Homecoming refused classification
26 Sep, 2008 Heavy sighs, everyone.
6 Comments
5 years ago
Seems like almost every "survival horror" game nowerdays. More gore than horror. I've had games scare me, but not lately. It's almost like they just go for gore over the whole horror thing.

Unfortunately when you beat a horse this far after death it tends to leave your audience saying "why?".
5 years ago
I imported the PS3 version ages ago. I think the game starts off weakly, but the second half or so is a LOT better, its atmosphere gets really good. I loved the prison, the house and the final area especially.

Quote
one such puzzle in the attic of Alex’s house which involved sliding pieces of a puzzle took us nearly an hour to complete.
It took me like... a minute. And I'm not even good at that sort of puzzle. icon_lol_old.gif
5 years ago
Love survival horror games. If i get this i'll import the non-censored version. Any ideas what was left out of this release?
5 years ago
Mr Waffle wrote
I imported the PS3 version ages ago. I think the game starts off weakly, but the second half or so is a LOT better, its atmosphere gets really good. I loved the prison, the house and the final area especially.

Quote
one such puzzle in the attic of Alex’s house which involved sliding pieces of a puzzle took us nearly an hour to complete.
It took me like... a minute. And I'm not even good at that sort of puzzle. icon_lol_old.gif
Most of the puzzels in the game took hardly any time for me, except for that one. i got stuck on it for about 10 minutes to complete, and thats along time since its just a variation on the 'rush hour' game. The worst part is, that and one of the other puzzels in the game are reused from other parts in Homecoming. Weak on Double Helix part.

I actualy, for the first time in a silent hill game, had trouble with ammo. for the first half of the game atleast. i think it was up untill the end of the sewer, i was hurting for ammo and health. SO i learned to use the dodge/copunter system properly over a couple of restarts. Then the game gets far too easy. don't think i ended up using the gun again untill the final boss, who's a cake walk when you have more then enough ammo for all weapons.

Review makes a good point about Alex, i never really cared for him or related to him like i did any of the other characters in the series (even Henry and Travis, who are bascily devoid of personality), all the characters in the game suffer from that though. Alot of the story and its plot twists become obvious from early on too. I heard Konami had a list of things that DH HAD to put into the game, and things they couldn't. I'm wondering how much of their original story had to be changed because of these things, though i doubt Konami demanded some of the more graphic things Homecoming is being known for.

Siren Blood Curse remains the best Survival Horror title of the generation for me, followed by the PSN release of the original Silent Hill. Loving having that on my PSP and PS3.
5 years ago
Imported it and enjoyed it. I agree with a few people that once you leave the sewer the game got a hell of a lot more lenient with the items and therefore was easier.
The game does get better later on, but it still pales in comparison to SH2. Overall I'd give it a 7.5.
5 years ago
I imported it also awhile ago, haven't finished it yet but have enjoyed what I have played so far but I tend to agree it doesn't feel very survival horror to me. Alex doesn't seem to have a worry in the world and that's what let's this sequel down.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  26/3/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  Survival/Horror
Year Made:
  2008

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