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Silent Hill: Homecoming (X360 & PS3)

Silent Hill: Homecoming (X360 & PS3)

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Silent Hill: Homecoming is the long awaited horror survival game from Konami which many have been hoping is a return to form. Unfortunately while the start is supernaturally intriguing the game ends up a pseudo gore experience reminiscent of Saw or Hostel.

Alex Shepherd has returned home after the war and his brother is missing. The town of Shepherd’s Glen is under the influence of something sinister and frightening. The game is quite well paced and keeps players in the dark for most of the experience while throwing tidbits of information to keep it appealing. As we all know within the confines of the horror genre storyline and scripting is massively important, however due to its overriding predictable nature Homecoming falls short of the mark. I would go as far to say that by the end I was hoping that the story direction was not as predictable and transparent as it appeared.

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Unfortunately the shortcomings do not end with the storyline, and while the developer has attempted to keep true to the core of the Silent Hill franchise the end result is a hollow clone of its predecessors with a lot of gore thrown into the mix. If you are happy with another remake then this might not be an issue for you, but I feel all these years later than some kind of dynamic freshness is needed  to maintain this iconic franchise. Akira Yamaoka’s marvellous scoring helps matters somewhat as the score alone is able to convey a sense of surreal emptiness and tension.

While it all sounds a rather predictable affair to this point there have been tweaks made to the combat methodology which are a welcome addition. Previous outings were at times a torturous experience and a change was long overdue. There is no longer the arduous reliance on melee combat which was apparent in Silent Hill: Origins and this time around there is more focus on upgradable firearms. That said, Homecoming’s implementation of hand to hand combat, first person shooting and dodging is far from intuitive and still borders on awkward. This isn’t helped by the tough and aggressive computer AI which punishes the player for every error regardless of how minor. On many occasions Alex Shepherd’s combat abilities are not up to the task and it proves easier to turn tail and run away which while perhaps realistic is not the most enjoyable experience.

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Resource allocation is another issue and for most of the game there are very limited ammo and health packs, making progress a slow and painful affair. It is also as if the developers realised later that this was a problem, because they literally quadruple in placements in the last hour of the game. It is certain that many people will die repeatedly due to ammo issues, requiring the use of quick load/save options for snail like progression … an extremely frustrating process. Silent Hill also suffers from a bloated and misplaced inventory system which fails to deliver any semblance of end user satisfaction. Equally annoying are the placements of checkpoints on the wrong side of long and unskippable cut scenes (Xbox 360).

It is this misplaced and messy mechanic which seems prevalent throughout the game on a variety of levels and in respect the game has just not aged well enough to hold its own in the 2009 market. It doesn’t seem focused enough and in places tries its hand at a variety of game play mechanics which just don’t gel well enough together to be effective.

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To be fair however, the developers have raised the bar a little in places especially the puzzle elements which are well implemented. They heighten the sense of hopelessness and the desire to escape the environment and are logically thought out to make sure that anyone who steps back to analyse the surroundings can work them out.

The presentation is the game’s strongest facet and it is professional delivered in a variety of ways. The environments are extremely well detailed and show a great direction from the developer with immense work on the environments. Light and shadow is another key point of the graphical style and always has the player on the edge of the their seat wondering if there really is something in that arch in the corner of the room. The industrial style Otherworld is a particular highlight of the use of colour and lighting to reinforce the surreal environmental design. The only disappointment are actually the character models which are very poorly created and look a little deformed. If you can look past the characterisations however it is impressive looking title.

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The audio aspects are fantastic with long term composer Akira Yamaoka in the seat … the haunting score and ambient sound effects set the tone perfectly for the horror genre and never fail to deliver when other aspects of the game let it down. Voice acting is a little haphazard with only Alex really being convincing with his delivery and scripting.

Silent Hill: Homecoming is a disappointing game which regurgitates the same tried and tested style horror genre and flogs it to death with a mass of clichés and predictable events. The game is unsettling, engaging and interesting for the most part but the series needs a kick up the ass to really bring it to life for the next outing. I am a big fan of the Silent Hill franchise and the setting is still appealing but overall I found myself fighting with the mechanics and the predictable plot direction. Obviously fans of the series who don’t want a dramatic change in design may very well be happy, but I can’t help but feel they are flogging the same old dog with every release. More creativity is the order of the day and whether Konami will deliver next time or just rebadge the same game remains to be seen.

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Ancient mechanic pushing it forward. Fails to deliver anything remotely original or daring.
Character models ruin the overall shine, some of the environments are well designed.
Yamaoka once more delivers a great score which steals the limelight. Voice work is a little run of the mill however.
A few endings and achievements and even some unlockables. 10 hours to completion and little desire to replay however.
(Not an Average)
Very disappointing in almost every area.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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