Product Type: Konami Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... you dead. Shepherds Glen is very much like that of Silent Hill and it definitely gives gamers a feel to the older Silent Hill games. Als... more
Silent Hill Homecoming-Welcome Home (Sanitarium)...
Silent Hill Homecoming (Xbox 360)
Member Name: Stunt 101
Silent Hill Homecoming (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Combat is less clunky than before...
Disadvantages: ...but that removes all the scares.
Silent Hill Homecoming-Welcome Home (Sanitarium)...
The horror genre is on its last legs. With bad, scareless 'horror' games like Clive Barker's Jericho and Alone in the Dark flooding the genre with their mediocrity, only classics like Condemned and Resident Evil 5 keep the genre breathing. Just. It's a shame-a once thriving genre has now become near extinct, which in my opinion is due to the two top dogs being missing for a while-Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Back in the days of the PSone, these two games were competing to be the best horror game out there with dozens of clones following suit. However, Resident Evil has evolved into more of a shooting game about surviving the scary amount of possessed rather than Zombies, but just in time to compete, Silent Hill Homecoming arrives with a new developer at the helm as well as a new system. But does it compete with RE5's magnificence, or was it just released at the wrong time?
The story follows soldier Alex Shepherd, who after being wounded in battle, is discharged after he discovers his brother is missing. He returns home to try and find his brother, but all is not as it seems once he gets there. The town is almost deserted, bar a few people, his father is too missing and his mother has become a bit crazy. So now, Alex must search his home of Shepard's Glen as he must team up with dead beat cop Wheeler and fellow town folk Elle, however the story then drips into the mysterious, foggy town of Silent Hill, where things get a bit more mysterious. The story is probably one of the strongest features of Homecoming, thanks to interesting characters which are likeable due to the strong facial emotions and voice acting, and there are some twists you won't see coming. It's also quite accessible thanks to the fact that it doesn't really need to reference older games, meaning newcomers can jump in without any knowledge of previous games.
Silent Hill Homecoming is Double Helix's first chance with the franchise, and it seems here they are out for mixing improvements while keeping the core Silent Hill experience. Its level design is mostly the same-you must explore each area and find the item which will probably help you advance the story it tries to help you out a bit, marking areas where once you've found your item, you must backtrack to, but sometimes it can be painfully long until you find out what you must do and once you actually find out, it can be annoying to think that if they had made it more obvious, then you could have moved on in about five minutes. Also the pacing can feel awkward. The long exploration mixed with the quick combat can be jarring. There is also a complete lack of puzzles, which for the franchise, is very disappointing. And the puzzles here are lacklustre.
Unfortunately, where Helix has tried to improve the game has actually made Homecoming worse. The big thing here is the new combat system. With Alex's training, he can dodge enemy attacks and perform combos which deal with enemies quickly. However, this but completely removes all the tension and horror in Homecoming. The reason previous games were scary was because the combat was so clunky that it felt like you were fighting that as well as the monsters. However, in Homecoming, once you get use to the stodgy controls and lock-on system, you'll be dealing with enemies before even a minute strikes. And once you get guns in the game, combat becomes a complete cake walk. Oh, and one of five endings unlocks a Laser Pistol, a gun with infinite ammo which kills enemies really quickly. This will make combat irrelevant. At least there are a fair few different weapons. You have your pipes, knifes, shotguns, pistols and some more...different weapons like the chainsaw and the laser pistol. Shame combat is a cakewalk. Also, the inventory system is pointless as not only does it pause the game during combat, but it also sometimes accidentally selects items you don't choose, and if that's a serum, items which fully restores your health and are rare, then you're buggered.
One of the things the game does right is that the monsters can be pretty creepy. Whether it's the nurses who, weirdly, come off as a bit erotic, the vicious Schisms which can deal great damage, or the giant Siams which are powerful and hard to kill, the monsters are at least creepy. Unfortunately, the enemy A.I. is a bit lacklustre. Enemies just run at you, trying to take you down. Unfortunately, you can easily run from them and they won't catch up sometimes. Once, I ran behind a wall and the enemy actually tried to walk through the wall, which was very dumb. Thankfully, the games strongest part of gameplay is the intense boss fights throughout the game. Whether it's the giant Sepulcher, or the slightly smaller Aminion, each boss fight is an intense trial in dodging, attacking and healing. Just don't get the Laser Pistols, otherwise it will ruin boss fights.
The graphics in Homecoming are really good. Not perfect though, there is some slowdown throughout the game, the facial animations during in-engine cutscenes are lacklustre, and there are some funky glitches. However, the environments are dark, brooding and gorgeous with detail, the combat (as bad as it is) has very good animations and the monster designs are fantastic with nice details and great animations. The lighting is what sells it all though-the bare bit of light will make you crave for darkness even more, and some enemies pop out of nowhere from the dark, which is one of the few scarier moments. The old film grain filter in certain sequences isn't too heavy and adds a nice bit of visual flavour to the dark and dank environments, and a really impressive effect is when the environments completely transform, going from moody and sinister to completely evil and oozing with dread. Overall, Homecoming looks good, but some nasty visual issues hurt the presentation.
The sound is on par with the graphics, with decent, if uncanny, voice work to make the story stand out a bit more. The awesome soundtrack from Akira Yamaoka is atmospheric, moody and depressing, perfect for the tone of this game. Unfortunately, the sound effects kind of suck. Hitting an enemy with a pipe feels like hitting them with a rubber duck, and the guns sound like pea shooter. It's disappointing, and makes combat suck even more than it already does. The problem with the sound is that the moody soundtrack is for a game which just doesn't really scare, meaning it's gone to waste and the lacklustre sound effects only hurt the game even more.
Homecoming is also very short on value, which is disappointing. You be done with the game in about 8 hours, which isn't exactly long. There are five endings to discover, depending on certain choices you make in the game, as well as unlockable costumes, weapons and more depending on which ending you discover, but it's not really worth it for such an average game. The thing that will lure in achievement whores is that you can get an easy 1000 gamerscore off this game if you can get a guide to find all the collectibles and unlock every ending, yet most of the achievements can be unlocked on your first playthrough. They completely lack originality, and almost feel like a cheap way to get people to buy the game. There are better way to get 1000 gamerscore though, including the recent and awesome Resident Evil 5, which is much more fun and not too hard to get 1000 on.
Is Silent Hill Homecoming good, bad or ugly?
Silent Hill Homecoming is a disappointment in most regards. Pretty visuals don't make up for the clunky yet cakewalk gameplay, the lack of replay value and the overall sense of déjà vu-just with new ideas that suck. The thing about Silent Hill Homecoming is that it's a bad mix of old clunky gameplay mechanics from a PSone era game mixed with new ideas that just don't stick. This makes for an experience that newcomers will be put off by and old veterans of the franchise will want to enjoy but just don't dig the new ideas. I would definitely recommend Resident Evil 5 or Condemned over this if you're hungry for horror, and unless you're a die-hard fan, you'll probably find this game rather meh. And even fans of the franchise will feel a sense of disappointment.
Silent Hill Homecoming was released on February 27th, 2009 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. It is rated 18+ for strong bloody violence and horror, and can be bought for £35-40.
Summary: A mediocre next-generation debut for Silent Hill.
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