Silent Hill has always been renowned for its psychological horror situations, putting the player in control of an ordinary citizen in an extraordinary situation and pushing the tension to the brink. This formula is what set it apart from other titles in the survival-horror genre, and while it still retains a similar look and feel, Silent Hill Homecoming throws too many conventions of the previous titles out the window to re-create the same formula.
Homecoming puts players in the shoes of a recently discharged soldier by the name of Alex Shepherd, a soldier tormented by dreams involving his younger brother. Alex heads back to his hometown of Shepherd’s Glen to discover that his brother and father are missing and that townspeople have been disappearing in strange circumstances. Of course, it’s up to Alex to figure out exactly what is going on in the town and to find the whereabouts of his father and brother. It’s a decent story that fits in with the Silent Hill universe, with reference to previous games and the movie. Furthermore, it offers a reference point to show how it all fits in together.
Where Homecoming falls short is in the tension factor that has been so prominent in the previous entries into the franchise. The “jump” moments are all too predictable, so much so you can guess exactly when an enemy is going to burst through that gate, through an open window, or just figure because you haven’t been attacked in so long that something is bound to come out now.
On the flip side to that there are also sections where enemies will just continually respawn until you perform an action or move to a certain area of the map to cause a cutscene or an event. It’s an unnecessary move by the developer, it doesn’t increase the tension at all, it just creates annoyance and frustration.
Combat is far too easy in this reiteration of the Silent Hill series. In the preceding games combat was clunky and difficult, but most of all realistic. We were controlling characters who were normal citizens, people who had no weapons training and were not comfortable using them. Alex Shepard is a hardened soldier, and this is reflected throughout the combat in Homecoming. Alex has a range of attacks from quick to heavy strikes, which can be rolled into a deadly combo. Switching targets is as easy as flicking the right analog stick, and the addition of a dodge command allows Alex to counter enemy strikes. Weapons are not astray throughout the game, Alex will get his hands on a range of firearms ranging from Pistols to Assault Rifles, all fully upgradeable as the story unfolds.
Unlike the earlier protagonists who had poor aim that improved over the course of the game, Alex can pull of precise shots with ease. This makes gunplay too easy for veterans of the series. With Alex’s advanced hand to hand combat and the addition of the dodge function, smart players can handle most enemies with hand to hand combat, saving plenty of bullets for the bigger enemies and getting through unscathed. Homecoming is simply too easy for veterans of the series, even on the higher difficulties.
Homecoming still features many of the puzzles that have made Silent Hill what it is today. Alex carries a journal which records all information found throughout the game which can be referred to at any given time. It’s a handy tool when needing information to solve puzzles, or even just get your head around developments in the story. There is plenty of exploration to be had, and the puzzles you will encounter will keep you busy and on your toes for a while.
Graphically, Homecoming is rather impressive, featuring a lot of nice textures and character models. Enemies show off damage dealt by Alex’s various weapons, and Alex has several animations for each weapon which keeps things varied and looking nice. The enemies look freakishly good, particularly in the Otherworld sections. There can be a few annoying spots with poorly chosen camera angles, but that seems to go with any title in the Survival Horror genre. What is rather annoying is how dark the game is. Even with the brightness turned up on max, your flashlight feels rather useless, particularly in the Otherworld segments of the game. The developer has most likely done this to make the game appear more frightening, instead, it’s just frustrating and is a hindrance.
Silent Hill has always been praised for it’s unique musical score. Homecoming is no exception, offering an atmospheric and chilling aural performance from Akira Yamaoka’s arrangements. The music stands out as a little over the top though for the often tensionless moments that the title provides, which is a little disappointment. Voice acting is average at best, it’s not exactly bad, but it isn’t going to stand out as a good performance, especially when compared to other titles in the franchise.
Silent Hill Homecoming offers up a decent story with potential to be great but fails to deliver the psychological, tension-driven survival horror fans of the series have come to expect. Combat is simply too easy to deliver any sort of challenge, and while visuals are detailed the game just fails to deliver the conventions that have become expected in a Silent Hill title. If this is your first time to the Silent Hill series you will probably enjoy it, but if you are a hardcore fan enter wearily.