Silent Hill: Homecoming Review

Eye-catching visuals and creepy atmosphere aren't enough to make up for this game's poor pacing, cheap tricks, and muddled story.

by

On the surface, Silent Hill: Homecoming is a dark and twisted homage to the series' classic roots. However, beneath the thick layer of fog are a number of troubling issues that will only serve to push away the devoted faithful that call Silent Hill their home. Developer Double Helix Games has gone to great lengths to bring its vision of the haunted town to life, and while it is to be commended for creating what is perhaps the most atmospheric entry in the enduring series, Homecoming is merely a carefully constructed simulacrum of what has already been done.

Alex Shepard hasn't had a very good year. After being wounded in combat as an army soldier and sent back to the US for a lengthy hospital stay, he begins to have nightmares in which his younger brother Joshua is in danger. Released with a clean bill of health, Alex is determined to rescue his sibling from the unknown threats that stalk him, even if it means returning to the town of Shepard's Glen that he turned his back on so long ago. Once there, Alex is surprised to find that his home has somehow been consumed by evil and its streets filled with dark, twisted things in his absence. His nearly catatonic mother watches helplessly from her rocking chair as the world falls apart. It seems as though the entire town has gone missing, which includes Alex's father and brother. As Alex, you must unearth the shadowy secrets of your hometown's past to find your brother and save him.

Alex is ridiculously good at monster smashing, which greatly decreases the fear factor.

Unfortunately, Alex's journey takes him through an odd mixture of old and new that will have newcomers wondering what all the fuss over Silent Hill is about while longtime fans will be left scratching their heads. Homecoming's cliched story--while easier to follow than its precursors--is poorly paced and develops far too slowly, but if you can make it until the halfway point, it begins to make remarkable changes for the better. Its unsatisfying gameplay also resembles a paint-by-numbers game that has been painstakingly crafted from the "defining" elements from its predecessors, such as creepy zombie nurses, pointlessly long hallways full of locked doors, and a fan-favorite special guest. Worse yet, Homecoming relies on a number of cheap tricks, including a completely useless flashlight, enemies that respawn endlessly until specific cutscenes are triggered, and easily predictable shock moments that fail to generate tension or frights. Despite how disturbing the enemies and environments are, Homecoming is anything but a terrifying experience.

As a soldier, Alex is gifted with a martial prowess and combat training that the other Silent Hill protagonists lacked. In keeping with these skills, he is a powerhouse in battle who can chain together attacks of several varieties with his melee weapons, finish off stunned monsters with a violent coup de grace, and even dodge out of the way of incoming assaults. You're not limited to simply using melee weapons either because Alex comes across several firearms to help him keep things that go bump in night at a distance. It generally takes experimentation and patience to master a monster's attack patterns and attune them to Alex's sometimes slow, jerky movements. However, once you do, it essentially trivializes them for the rest of the game because they are so easy to kill. In this way, Alex's skills dampen the psychological blow of being a stranger in a strange land and make the monsters seem like little more than thorns in your side that you must wearily wade through to get from point A to point B, which is something you literally do thanks to the incredibly linear nature of exploration. Finally, as if things weren't easy enough, Homecoming introduces an entirely new class of healing item on top of the usual health drinks and medical kits that not only completely refills your life meter, but also expands it for the rest of the game.

When he's not putting a steel pipe through the heads of feral dogs or battling the huge and climactic bosses in their resting places, Alex is searching the streets and buildings of Shepard's Glen trying to piece together what happened. Your melee weapons pull a double duty here by allowing you to chop through boarded-up doorways, cut through tapestries, and pry open stuck doors--something that only makes the "It looks like the lock is broken. I can't open it." message you will repeatedly see all the more infuriating. You will also encounter a number of puzzles that vary from rewiring fuse boxes to deciphering complex spinning locks and beyond. Though most of these are solved through simple trial and error or by hunting down specific items, some of the end-game puzzles require far more thought and are highly engaging. These puzzles do not reset if you make a mistake and exit out of them, so be warned that you may need to restart from your last save file if you mess up too badly.

Slashes and other injuries show up in real time during combat.

Homecoming manages to capture the essence of the Silent Hill experience and raise it to entirely new levels of realism with amazing environmental lighting, as well as shadow effects. Even old-but-faithful staples, such as the gratuitous fog or the grainy camera filters, are upgraded and have never looked better. Both Alex and the monsters he faces will show off slashes or cuts from weapons. The transformation to the Otherworld is also done in real time, mirroring the style used in the 2006 Silent Hill film from which some of the monster designs and locations in the game were borrowed. Occasionally, the frame rate will drop--particularly when turning--and though it is by no means game-breaking, it is annoying. Akira Yamaoka's music and sound effects are as always brilliant, adding much to the atmosphere of the haunted towns--especially during the big boss encounters. But because Homecoming is disconnected from the series' psychological roots, it seems almost out of place.

Silent Hill: Homecoming, while quite a departure from the psychological horror that fans are used to, is still a decent, occult-themed action game that you can squeeze 10 hours of tepid enjoyment from. If, however, you're looking for a classic Silent Hill-style frightfest, you will likely be disappointed.

The Good
Excellent environmental lighting and shadow effects build a fantastic atmosphere
Intense boss battles
The Bad
Loses the psychological horror factor that the series is so well-known for
A poorly paced story that plods along for half the game before turning around
6.5
Fair
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18 comments
DoomglooM
DoomglooM

I was disappointed in this as well...but it isn't all bad...still a nice distraction and it is quite cheap now which lessens the unsettled Silent Hill swavy

Devil_78
Devil_78

6.5 ?? Are you kidding me ? I will give it at least 8 . Very good story and fearsome bosses , alot of puzzles . What do you want more ? Its not scary as silent hill 2 or 4 but it has better story .

urknighterrant
urknighterrant

Ugh. Contextual button mashing? Really? Has it come to that?Silent hill used to be the best survival horror franchise on the market... but this? This is just plain crap.  

sealsa3
sealsa3

 Alex comes across several firearms to help him keep things that go bump in night at a distance.  lmao yep that's about right but besides the gameplay and story the silent hill series has never look more beautifull

miserable247365
miserable247365

Also, I had no frame rate issues on the 360. If you set your monitor to the appropriate brightness, the flashlight is a tool you can't play without. If you set the brightness too high on any game it make the flashlight useless.

miserable247365
miserable247365

This is the worst Silent Hill game I've played, but it's still better and definitely scarier than RE4+5. The story takes time to develop, but it's very good. The mechanics fit the story. This writer is obviously not a fan of survival horror, as he puts down elements of this game that are elements of most true survival horror titles.It sounds like the writer was put off immediately and never gave the game much of a chance after that. It's not an action game, it's horror. More about the experience than the game play.

This game should've at least gotten a 7.5. I would give it 8.5. I loved the bath tub ending.

carlisledavid79
carlisledavid79

just got this today. Looking forward to playing through.

nokia4512
nokia4512

I just got this game, and as far as I can see you did not even mention the fact that it was influence by one of the greatest movies of our time Jacob's ladder. 

entereddanny
entereddanny

With all due respect, have you ever played an older Silent Hill game, such as Silent Hill 2 or 3? Silent Hill has always been about finding your way through mansions, schools and hotels. It has always involved locked doors and jammed locks. This is something that has been in the series ever since the first game, so if you're thrown off by that, perhaps they should have got somebody else to review Silent Hill: Homecoming. Not to say this game is actually very good though.

deadalley
deadalley

the thing is, silent hill has ALWAYS been about huge locations with several locked doors and ever-spawning, annoying enemies. if you can't cope with that now, i don't why you're playing silent hill in the first place... :) well, i do agree with everything else; just pointing out that SH is not the most brilliant game franchise out there when it comes to that.

Gurzociurlo
Gurzociurlo

Bad story??? The story might be a little bit slow-paced, but it sure is not bad!

The_Gaming_Baby
The_Gaming_Baby

@Devil_78 The excuse for having so much combat and playing as such a combat ready character was that you were in the military. But...


SPOILERS


...you then discover that you were never in the military. Incredibly stupid. I gave the game 4/10

nerrsty138
nerrsty138

@Devil_78 
Silent Hill: Homecoming's story isn't nearly as good as Silent Hill 2's. In fact, the Homecoming's story is taken directly from SH2. Having amnesia and looking for someone who is dead shouldn't be a series staple. It should have stayed as a SH2 characteristic. While I enjoyed Homecoming to an extent, there's no way you can say this story is better than SH2.

DoomglooM
DoomglooM

@urknighterrant I'll admit it doesn't quite feel the same...but it Isn't plain crap....worth checking out if you're interested for 10 or so bux definitely...

miserable247365
miserable247365

Just finished Downpour, and had to come back to say Homecoming is now the second worst SH game I've ever played. I've never played Origins or Shattered Memories, but I can't imagine they are worse than Downpour.

Devil_78
Devil_78

In silent hill homecoming (SPOILER) its not only about finding his brother but you will discover the conspiracy made by the order unlike any other silent hill . I like how he see his parents prefers his brother and i felt sorry for him . And dont forget the amazing bosses fight . I dont know man many people said that homecoming was the worst but i found it very good .

wickdawg01
wickdawg01

You didn't like Downpour? I'm playing through it right now and i'm loving it so far, about 7 hours into it. I love all the side quests and roaming about. I however never made it through all of Homecoming as I got bored with it quickly. I'm thinking about picking it back up though as it's the only Silent Hill game I have never defeated (other than Downpour as of right now)

nerrsty138
nerrsty138

 
(SPOILERS)

Looking for your dead brother.. Hm, that's not like James looking for his dead wife in SH2.

"
you will discover the conspiracy made by the order unlike any other silent hill".... Hm, that's not anything like Harry Mason uncovering Alessa's story and the origin of the town in the first Silent Hill.

I don't hate Homecoming, I think it's a pretty decent action game. My main problem with it is that story wise it did absolutely nothing new.

Silent Hill: Homecoming

  • PlayStation 3
  • Xbox 360
  • PC
The venerable spook-out adventure franchise brings a whole new freaky game to the scene.
ESRB
Mature
All Platforms
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes
Check out even more info at the Silent Hill: Homecoming Wiki on Giantbomb.com