Silent Hill: Homecoming Review
- Posted November 1st, 2008 at 21:46 EDT by Michael Harradence
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It has its flaws, but Silent Hill: Homecoming is a solid entry in the franchise that any self-respecting horror fanatic should snap up.
- Unrivaled atmosphere
- Evocative soundtrack
- Improved gunplay
- Underwhelming puzzles
- Frustrating melee combat
Picture the scene, if you will. You’re walking down a deserted, fog-bound street in the middle of summer, flakes of snow falling to the ground all around you. The sidewalk is littered with abandoned vehicles and boarded up shops; the whole town is conspicuously devoid of life. Then, all of a sudden, you spot something lurching through the fog. Or so you think.
Wrecked with panic, your state of mind teeters precariously as you wrestle with your conscious, assessing the situation in a series of blurred, incoherent musings. By then, however, it is too late. Before you can even collect your thoughts, the skinless canine lurches, fangs bared as it rips at your flesh, howling for blood.
Welcome to Silent Hill.
It’s no surprise that a lot of fans were slightly miffed about Homecoming upon its initial announcement; it is, after all, the second title in the franchise that hasn’t been developed exclusively by Team Silent. Instead, the reigns have been placed firmly in the hands of Double Helix Games, an amalgamation of former Foundation 9 studios, Shiny Entertainment and The Collective. Despite the shift in gears, Homecoming manages to do an admirable job at maintaining the series trademark psychological thrills and spills, as well as introducing a few tweaks of its own.
Homecoming stars protagonist Alex Shepherd, a soldier returning home from an overseas tour of duty following a series of disturbing nightmares concerning his younger sibling, Josh. Upon arriving in his hometown of Shepherds Glen, Alex – in typical Silent Hill fashion – discovers that all is not right, with his brother and father missing, and his mother reduced to a rambling, catatonic wreck. The town appears to be all but deserted, with the entire area coated in a thick, ominous fog. Seeking clues as to the whereabouts of his family, Shepherd ventures out into the mist in an attempt to discover what evil has befallen the town.
Double Helix hasn’t deviated a great deal from the basic Silent Hill formula in this latest installment, though Homecoming clearly feels like a logical extension of its predecessor’s decidedly more combat-heavy take on the franchise. Fundamentally, however, the basic gist remains the same. Playing as the young Mr. Shepherd, you’ll venture to a series of locations both throughout Shepherd’s Glen and Silent Hill, solving various riddles and battling against a variety of warped, grotesque creatures. All the usual refinements are here – flashlight, radio (to warn you of approaching enemies) and an array of deadly melee weapons and firearms.
As mentioned previously, Homecoming draws much of its design philosophy from Silent Hill 4: The Room, which offered a slightly more refined combat system compared to previous installments. As such, Double Helix has taken a shambling, bloody step forward and applied its own tweaks to this system in order to accommodate Shepherd’s extensive army training. Players can now perform both light and heavy attacks by hitting either X or Square, the latter of which is able to stun opponents, allowing you to finish them off with a single blow. Furthermore, Shepherd can string together various combos by mixing up light and heavy attacks with a few button presses to keep your enemies at bay. More significant, however, is the revised dodge mechanic, which allows you to quickly evade your foes by hitting the Circle button in conjunction with a direction on the analogue stick. This also forms the basis for counterattacks, where a successful dodge will allow Shepherd to strike back with a powerful blow while his enemy is recovering. Meanwhile, firearms are used in a Resident Evil 4 style over-the-shoulder perspective, allowing you to target specific body parts to deal out major damage to enemies.
Still, don’t be under false impressions that Shepherd’s army training gives him a distinct advantage over his foes. The creatures that stalk the streets are also adept at combat, and will pummel you into submission if given the opportunity. As a result, you’ll have to work to exploit their weaknesses and strike when they’re most vulnerable – simply equipping a steel pipe and hammering away at the attack button won’t cut it with these foes, and you’ll likely end up in ... (continued on next page) ----
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