I always thought that it was Hemingway that said You Can't Go Home Again, but I guess I was wrong, the quote is attributed to Thomas Wolfe. Okay Silent Hill is no literary work, but it is an icon in video games, especially the survival horror genre. Silent Hill: Homecoming is actually the sixth Silent Hill game, the first came out on Playstation back in 1999. Silent Hill creeped the heck out of me, as did Silent Hill 2 for Playstation 2. I still found a certain degree of creepiness in Silent Hill 3, however, I didn't play The Room or Silent Hill Origins. Like its predecessors Homecoming is a 3rd person survival horror game.
Recommend this product?
Silent Hill: Homecoming proves the saying you can't go home again in more ways than one. First of course is the story of the game. You play the protagonist Alex Sheperd, who goes back home to visit his family in Sheperd's Glen, a town near Silent Hill. Alex was a war vet, and after a brief stay in the hospital was discharged. His father was the sheriff of Sheperd's Glen. However upon returning home, Alex finds his little brother Joshua missing, his mother nearly catatonic and his father is out looking for Joshua. The town itself is almost deserted, and it seems many of the roads are in major disrepair. Moreover, there is something pretty strange going on here, that seems to correlate to the nightmares you've been having (and get to play through at the start of the game). You must locate your brother Joshua and find out what has happened to your home town. It helps if you avoid getting killed by the new nightmare creatures that seem to now hang out everywhere.
Yes, this is the Silent Hill you know and love. Somber tones mark any click of your controllers, haunting atmospheric music permeates your room, and creatures from the depths of hell and one fiendish imagination return to cause your character greivous bodily harm. Evil Nurses? Yes, they are back with scalpels in hand. Morbid creatures? Yes, you will face creatures that blow deadly smog, creatures that look like upside down humans crabwalking on machete arms and legs, and other creatures that look like deadly pendulums on feet. The game is still not for the timid. Of course for each location you visit, once you find the map, you can see where you've gone, what doors are locked, where the secret passages are and where you can venture further. Luckily for Alex, your protagonist, an array of weapons becomes available from the simple lead pipe to a 12 guage shotgun. Of course, only weaker weapons are available at first, but soon you get better weapons, including a fire axe handy for chopping down doors and adversaries. Health potions and ammo are few and far between, however photos from the past and disturbing child's drawings may be found to unlock things. A few puzzles here and there must also be solved to move forward.
Like earlier Silent Hill games weird strange stuff is going on. Your world vacillates from the run down town of Sheperd's Glen with rusted out metal, rotted wood, and locked doors to a freakish nightmare version of the town. The nightmare version of the town seems to have been dipped in blood. Of course if you have played previous Silent Hill games none of this is new to you. A scary unpleasant story line opens up as well as you guide your character through the game in which you find out secrets that were probably better off buried. Many horrible and evil things have happened in the town, and the sins of the fathers are apparently visiting in droves.
However, as I stated, the phrase You can't go home again, has two meanings here. The first time I played Silent Hill it scared the heck out of me. Even the sequel Silent Hill 2 gave me shivers up and down my spine. However by the time they got to 3, I just wasn't scared any more. In video game towns, even those that are as scary as Silent Hill, there are only so many ways to die. Homecoming tries to scare you with unearthly creatures, eery music, disturbing images and sudden attacks. However, after a while, you just expect all of that, and if and when you die, you just hit the continue button and start from the last check point or saved game. More of the same just doesn't do it any more. Even a passing glimpse of Pyramid Head (named the bogey man for some inexplicable reason in this game) may send chills, but doesn't quite recreate that horrible sense of dread the first time he made his appearance.
Since this is the first Silent Hill on PS3, I have to say the graphics look much better than Silent Hills on PS and PS2, however, I felt that they were a notch below the graphics of other titles on the PS3. Everything is shades of grey with the occasional splatter of red, but it doesn't have that hyper realistic look to it that titles like GTA4 or Drakes Fortune have. You also have to deal with load screens. I was also very upset about what I believed to be a glitch in the game. We had fought our way to the Grand Hotel, and according to every online game guide and Konami Guide book after a few key scenes you are supposed to be able to drop down into a hole in the floor on the 5th floor to access a room on the fourth floor. For whatever reason, the command never appeared giving the option to do so, even after revisiting each and every room in the entire hotel that was accessible. Even an e-mail to Konami only resulted in a link to a game guide that said to do what we had already done. We ended up replaying the game again and where careful not to do anything different after the steps that led up that scene. Apparently, if something is done out of order, the option doesn't show up, but it should have. (a look on a few threads indicated that I wasn't the only one who ran into this problem).
The familiar sounds are all present from the previous Silent Hill games and the title tune is catchy. The atmospheric soundscape and music of the Silent Hill series still adds much of the element of creepiness to the game, and this game was no exception in that regard. Voice acting is fine, although you don't often get to talk to many people.
The game controls are straight forward as they have always been. The only thing I saw added was that in key scenes you have to rapidly depress a button that appears to save yourself. I.E. if the circle button appears when you get knocked over, hit it repeatedly or you will get a cut scene in which your character suffers one of the games many brutal deaths. Otherwise, L1 brings up inventory screens, L2 allows you to lock onto enemies and R2 allows you to fire a weapon, x gives a quick attack and square gives a strong attack (but must be held for a moment longer to release it). You find certain weapons and strategies work better for certain creatures. It is easy to cycle through and switch weapons and to bring up inventory items to use.
Beating the game may reveal one of three endings, each which results in some bonus item being available for subesquent game play. I won't be revealing any of that however. It can be fun to replay for different endings, but since it is essentially the same story, it certainly doesn't have the replay value of something like Player v. Player Halo 3 matches.
The game was fun, but it didn't give me the same visceral thrill of the original. Yea, the graphics were better, but I felt like I was just getting more of the same. My son enjoyed it more than I did, but he never played the original games, so the world of Silent Hill was new for him. For me though, Silent Hill: Homecoming shows that you can't go home again.
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