Video Game Review: “Silent Hill: Homecoming”

    Silent Hill: Homecoming is the sixth installment in the Silent Hill survival horror video-game franchise and it is developed by Double Helix Games. (Their debut!) Several fans weren’t exactly happy when they learned that an outsider would be developing the next Silent Hill video-game. They didn’t want to see a Westernization of the franchise that they came to love and enjoy. This makes a whole lot of sense when you consider that Silent Hill Origins was also developed by an outsider and turned out to be a mediocre experience. (Good enough for the PlayStation Portable standards maybe but nothing really wholesome or noteworthy.) Some at least had some optimism and interest about seeing what a new take on the series would lead to. By the end of it all, Silent Hill: Homecoming received mixed reviews from critics and from the gaming community but I can’t really find any information it not selling well, so as far as I know it was at least a financial success.

    The story follows a character named Alex Shepherd, a soldier that has recently left from war, as he returns to his hometown only to discover something completely desolate and dreary in the place of where it once was. He can’t find his younger brother either and as he begins his search for him, he begins to unravel information about a cult called the Order as well as information about the town’s history and his own past. A lot of the criticisms were about the storytelling elements about Homecoming and honestly I kind-of like them. There isn’t a whole lot of innovation when it comes to anything at all whatsoever with the premise. In-fact, a lot of it seems like a horror film that you rent from the video-store without knowing what it is. Like very few of those horror films though, I feel like Homecoming has some moments that I like. The premise isn’t exactly original nor does it really offer any surprises, but a lot of me at least appreciates the dark subject-matter that it’s dealing with. I think that in a lot of ways it seems like a subplot that is ballooned up as the main story and while it might be stretched a little thin, I do find something to enjoy about it. The twist is predictable and is a little over-the-top but I think there’s something to be said about seeing it unfold on the screen.
    Shepherd isn’t exactly the most compelling character that we’ve ever seen either but main-characters aren’t ever especially interesting in Silent Hill. If for no other reason than because that’s never what they are looking to achieve. The character are mostly every-man type that can easily be related to the player. I don’t think it’s ever really that effective but I can agree that Silent Hill itself is likely more interesting than anything they could come up with for a character. The voice-acting isn’t tremendous either, and in-fact, at some moments it’s actually relatively bad, and the moments when it shows weakness are usually the moments that demand the most strength.

    The storyline and the characters demonstrating it aren’t exactly compelling but they at least deserve to be called decent. Thankfully, the atmosphere is terrific. If there is anything in-particular I would say is captured well in this installment, it’s the depiction of Silent Hill. Eerie music fills it up, and the dark depictions of Silent Hill help to build a strong representation of what Silent Hill should look like. It isn’t always perfect, in-fact sometimes the music can be a little obtrusive or ineffective but I consider it as a strong point overall.

    Some of it is a little too dark, like I can’t see, which is something that I absolutely despise to see in a video-game, and because of it, some might have some trouble distinguishing some parts of the scenery from others. I don’t think that it really adds much to the overall feel induced by the experience but instead adds a nuisance to it all.

    Looking back, Silent Hill: Homecoming is a lot like Silent Hill Origins. Homecoming isn’t looking to establish anything new or innovate the franchise at all whatsoever. Instead, it means to pull at the strings of the nostalgic gamers and remind them of what it once was as opposed to furthering what it has become. The game-play is a mixed-bag because it offers up a wide-variety of different puzzles and aspects about it that I am able to take enjoyment in. None of it is exactly mindblowing nor is it anything that I haven’t already seen in-terms of wit or elaboration but they are some of the key moments that I find enjoyment in. I specifically remember there being jigsaw puzzles that I absolutely despised, in-fact I think that one of my biggest pet-peeves in video-games. I think that it’s fine for a bonus aspect but as a main-entry those always annoy me. (Partially because I suck at jigsaw puzzles and don’t like having to look up a walkthrough to figure it out. Also, there isn’t a way to reset the puzzle without reloading your previous save.)

    The controls are the letdown throughout most of the experience. Enemies aren’t scarce and therefore aren’t really appreciated when you encounter them. In-fact, they respawn and you can find them like nothing. I find that the controls and movements are incredibly awkward and while I can take out most enemies without taking a scratch, the fact is that it isn’t really compelling as a whole. The abundance of the enemies becomes tedious, the idea of a survival horror is to build suspense and to make it seem frightful and contained but the overexposure of easy-to-kill enemies makes it really difficult to appreciate. In truth, it makes it repetitive and a feeling of repetition doesn’t do justice to the moods meant to be established. Silent Hill always knows what it wants to be. Resident Evil became more action-oriented after Resident Evil 4 and suffered a lot because of it. BioShock and Dead Space became more action-oriented as well, but Silent Hill is always consistently horror. However, the controls feel more like they are meant for an action video-game than anything else and they feel really dated and really awkward to use.

    Silent Hill: Homecoming has too much about it for me to consider it as a godawful experience. I liked the scenery and I liked sounds frolicking throughout it as well. The story isn’t tremendous but I also found something to enjoy about that. Unfortunately, the controls and game-play really bring it down a few notches, and while it’s miles ahead of Origins, these problems keep it from feeling like anything other than another generic title in the franchise.

        Thanks for reading…

Rating: – 2.7 out of 5.0