Silent Hill: Homecoming

Silent Hill game

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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  April 14, 2009
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CATEGORY:Games
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overall: 3
performance: 0
features: 0
value: 0

warranty: 0

suitable for: home user

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AUTHOR:
Jason Saundalkar

You are enshrouded in pea-soup fog, the kind to arouse the hair on the back of the neck and elicit shivers that dance up various vertibrae. Or you’re in lightless, sweat-drenched rooms which hide malicious secrets behind the walls and doors, interior features that it seems almost breathe, but with a heavy blood-soaked gurgle. These scenes will invariably precipitate that sickly-sweet feeling horror junkies relish, when adrenaline shoots through the system after the appearance of a limping, twisted and faceless nurse, one of the Silent Hill stalwarts.

These are the settings and sensations that those familiar and tested to the Silent Hill franchise will know all too well and indeed love. Fans like these can rest easy because the makers of this installment of the series have ensured that Homecoming serves up all of the ingredients needed to induce the fear, especially when played alone, with a subwoofer punching home the terror.

You take to the Silent Hill stage as Alex Shephard and true to the depression that surrounds the game, Alex has not had a good time of it lately. A soldier, Alex is injured and is sent back to the US for some RnR in an Army Hospital. Alex finds his slumber hours infected by nightmares of his younger brother Joshua, dreams intimating that his sibling is in danger. So he hits the road and heads for home town Shepard's Glenn, which in line with Silent Hill tradition is deserted, has seen better days and occasionally throws up inhabitants that are distant and seemingly in denial about the town's dire state of affairs. Making it to his house through the town's desolate streets, Alex finds Joshua and his father missing and his mother in a near catatonic state, content to be lulled by the sway of her rocking chair. The search begins as Alex tries to make sense of the missing family members and the dread that has taken over Shepard's Glenn.

Homecoming is not from the usual Silent Hill creators Konami, instead US developer Double Helix takes the reins and it must be said that this attempt is not far off the mark. While there are a few departures from the Silent Hill playbook that has kept fans terrified and elated since it came screeching and nail-scratching on to our screens back in 1999, the game stays pretty true to form.

One way that this episode differs, however, is that Alex is combat ready. That is that, unlike previous Silent Hill main characters, Alex, thanks to his military vocation, is trained to fight. This means that when a sliding or limping assailant from the underworld has a go Alex can lock on and dispatch them with relative ease, thanks largely to his ability to string together devastating melee attacks. You can also look to avoid slashes and side swipes with Alex's dodging skills, which have to be carefully timed to each monster. The problem is that once you have managed to master Alex's rather slow, but useful moves and tailored them to your specific assailant, then it renders that particular monster null and void for the rest of the game.

The first half of the game and its intrigue-ridden plot is rather slow to develop, but solve the puzzles and persist, and the second half will quicken the pulse with a good degree more violence and the desired amount of horror. All in, if Konami are watching they might not feel too threatened by the US-designed version. The plot is a bit maudlin, gameplay falls a little into the linear trap and you will literally go crazy when met by what seems like the one thousandth 'It looks like the lock is broken. I can't open it', message.

The phycological horror of Homecoming is clear and palpable, with old-faithfuls like fog and grainy and skewed camera angles, in abundance. And of course the monsters will emerge when you least want and expect them, igniting the adrenaline gland again. Plus, Akira Yamaoka, music-master on previous Hill outings, again scores the game ensuring that the requisite level of fear is maintained, especially in the match up with boss monsters. But the sticking point is just that the horror isn't as developed as some of the previous Hill titles.

It may be Silent Hill: Homecoming in name and plot, but try as it might, this game is not quite the family reunion that die hard franchise fans will be hoping for. Those heading to the Hill for the first time will be entertained and hopefully might even head for the back catalogue. Eitherway, the hours that this game remains simple fun and offers up a hefty dose of fear, will run into at least the double digits so it's worth the effort.

Silent Hill: Homecoming is a good introduction to the genre for new comers and it is best played in the dark with the curtains closed and volume right up. Skilled consumers of the Silent Hill franchise might; however, not be overly impressed as Homecoming relies too heavily on stand and deliver elements of previous games and does not really take it to the next level. Either way, Silent Hill is a guaranteed thrill-a-minute adventure.

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