Silent Hill : Homecoming
- Directed by: Rob King
- Developed by: Konami Digital Entertainment, Double Helix Games
- Composer: Akira Yamaoka
- Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
It seems like psychological horror has taken a sick day recently, and in walks its gun-toting big brother. Resident Evil was one of the first to swap haunted house for open-warfare, and there are mixed reviews as to just what effect this evolution has not only had, but continues to have across the board. Although Silent Hill still claims to be nestled nicely in its scary little sub-genre, there sadly isn’t any denying the shotgun shells in this newest instalment; Silent Hill V: Homecoming.
Homecoming sees new protagonist Alex Shepherd return home to Shepherd’s Glen, following discharge from military service. As the town’s wayward son takes his first steps however, you start to get the feeling that home is not the way he left it. As the first instances of Akira Yamaoka’s hauntingly beautiful score creeps in along with the surrounding fog, your nerves rightly jangle. The further you go, the more you start to unravel about the secrets of the Glen, including the many disappearances of the townspeople and the state of widespread dilapidation.
True to style, Alex isn’t left to wander around unharmed either. The ungodly creatures in this series are suddenly much more brutal. Often attacking at full assault, you barely get a chance to get scared before they’re on you: male bodies spread-eagled with scythe blades sewn onto each of their four limbs, moaning mutilations of male and female body parts, feral flesh tattered dogs and of course, the nurses. Those sexy little madams are worth a mention, because although their faces are bandaged, they can swing a knife faster than you can pull your eyes up from their boobs. So watch it. I got stuck in a corridor with five of the nasty buggers and they cut me into ribbons.
As for gameplay, it handles well and feels quick and sharp. Whether it’s exploring the ghost town streets, or trapped indoors when the walls start to peel upwards to signify your descent into hell, Alex is fully manoeuvrable. He responds to a 360 axis that has great fluidity compared to previous horror titles, and the new allowance to duck and dodge out of enemy assaults progresses the combat to a new maturity. Trademarks are ticked off the fan boy checklist too, with Alex packing a radio that crackles when it detects oncoming enemies, (signature of the series) and a trusty flashlight. Well, I say trusty, more like a candle in a snuff box. Even turning the brightness way on high, you still feel like you’re about eighty-five with cataracts trying to see through the blackness on screen. It’s as if Konami is wagging its tail and begging you to appreciate it for trying. But this weak attempt at building atmosphere just left me annoyed and frankly, insulted.
Here’s another subtlety that’s been stamped on; you don’t give a shit about the leading man.
He is an ex-soldier; he comes home, goes after his missing little brother and that about sums him up, sadly. He has these supposed intricate problems, but you just don’t care about them. With Silent Hill, you want to believe in the lead, because their instability often added the most compelling layer to the game’s intrigue. Never knowing whether you could trust an unstable, frightened victim was the sharp psychological edge. Homecoming just seemed to cough up a reserve and force him to play on court.
So there are more than a few kinks in this design. The flaws are more like gaping holes, and with the amount of cut corners here, you’re more likely to throw the game out of the window than finish it.
However, I have come up with one way to enjoy this game if you’re a determined fan, apart from lying to yourself that it’s good. The real deal with Homecoming is not to take it seriously. I realise that is the equivalent of asking you to watch The Exorcist on mute, but honestly, if you do you’ll hate this game. The first thing you have to do with this title is forget your expectations. Die-hard fans of the series (yours truly included) may have come with their heart and soul set on the archetypal spooky town we love best with nerve-damaging tension, but Homecoming is just not that.
Sure, Silent Hill is known for the twisted monstrosities that lurk around every corner and gurgle at you in the dark, but for once you can pick up an iron pipe and really stick it to ‘em. That is what this game is going for. And once I let go of all my grievances with the title, I found this extremely satisfying. The graphics make the gore shine beautifully, too. For all of you who like to see a little blood spatter on your screens, the monsters truly interact with their environment. As Alex pounds them with his latest weapon, you see their mutilated bodies glisten with blood and the game engine triggers separate animations for each species as they attempt to cower away in agony.
The key word here is fun, the cheap thrills kind. But that is all you will get. Silent Hill Homecoming is an empty packet of expectation with a Rambo scarf tied around it instead. So if you can find it in your heart to forgive Konami for following the recent trend, pick up your gun and get in there. Just don’t come crying to me Silent Hill fans, you have been warned.