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Silent Hill: Homecoming


gameplay.comPros:

–          Cool monsters

–          Lots of scares

–          New environments and old favorites

–          Tie-ins to previous Silent Hill storylines

–          Improved combat controls, including all-new strafing action!

Cons:

–          Lack of monster variety

–          Weak, irregular storyline

–          Typical bad ending on 1st playthrough

–          Tie-ins to the movie version

–          Battle is still a bit off

Silent Hill: Homecoming utilizes many conventions of the series and also breaks the mold in some areas. It’s an interesting blend of old and new, even in the basic plot: Alex Sheppard has come home to Shepherd’s Glen, a town with a mysterious connection to Silent Hill, and is looking for his missing brother (sound familiar?). Despite the cliché plot, expect some new monsters, new puzzles, and plenty of scares to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The graphics on the Xbox360 version are great, allowing you to immerse yourself in the detailed environments, featuring redone versions or different locations of traditional locales like the prison and hospital, plus an all-new haunted town. Akira Yamaoko’s music is still excellent, with another killer intro song by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and the atmospheric music is a bit sparse but still powerful. The plot is intriguing but nothing terribly new, and not much is revealed until very late in the game, though I’ll reserve all judgments until I’ve gotten the good/UFO ending(s).

ign.comA larger variety of monsters would have been nice, but that’s always been an issue with the game. They went with a nice mix of old favorites like the dog and nurse and newer enemies like Schism and the Needler. The boss fights are seriously freaky, though I think you fight the same boss 3 different times.

Homecoming’s battle system is generally an improvement, incorporating more interactions with the environment in and out of battle, but still uses the traditional elements of Silent Hill battle like auto-target and combos. There is now an auto-strafe function, which makes movement a bit easier, and finishing moves are more automatic for many regular enemy fights. The only problem is that enemies are smarter and the controls aren’t terribly responsive, which means battle is still difficult until you figure out the new controls.

maxiconsole.comOne of the things that bothered me was how they tried to incorporate elements from the Silent Hill movie into Homecoming. In general, movie canon and game canon are completely separated in many fans’ eyes. And considering the mixed reception of the movie, I don’t think this should be an exception. Some of the things they used were cool, like the barbed wire around the church, but some just seemed like arbitrary movie references, like the Cult members.

Overall: A step in the right direction. Takes what Silent Hill is bad at and tries to revamp it. Takes what the series is liked for and continues the survival horror tradition. My personal ratings for the entire series would be: 3, Homecoming, 4, 2, Origins, 1. Being a die-hard Silent Hill fan, I’d definitely say this game is a good addition to the series, and something worth picking up. Let’s just pretend Shattered Memories never even happened.

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Shattered Memories made me shatter my Wiimote!


Reimagining of the original Silent Hill does not mean improvement.

When I think Silent Hill, I think revolting monsters, shock value and creepy atmosphere, terrible fighting system, and general mind-melting confusion when it comes to plot. You get all of this, but with some huge changes, and surprisingly, they actually managed to make a game that I think is worse than the original Silent Hill for Play Station.

The basic setup of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the 2009 Wii game by Konami is that you play as Harry Mason who is looking for his missing daughter in Silent Hill. After that, there is very little in common with this and the original game. The first thing that strikes you when you start playing is the camera. It’s kind of like 3rd person over the shoulder, only the cameraman is a gay midget, because the camera is always aimed at Harry’s butt and Harry takes up most of the screen. It’s actually more annoying than the PlayStation camera angles.

The flashlight is somewhat cool, because you point the Wiimote at the screen as your flashlight. Yet like all Wii games that use the Wiimote in this way, it can be somewhat problematic at times when you have to interact with objects that are not entirely intuitive. This applies to the phone system as well; your phone is your link to everything, it includes your map, save system, photos, and messages, but it doesn’t always come naturally.

Harry will explore the real world and uncover clues about where his daughter is, interacting with other characters like our familiar nurse and cop, though even these characters are very different. Just when he seems to be getting a lead, he enters Silent Hill world. There it seems hell has frozen over; everything is icy, which is problematic because everything looks the same. Harry will then have to run from a shload of monsters that look basically the same (something like fast nurse monsters).

The objective in Silent Hill world is to run as fast as you can, avoiding this boring and endless stream of enemies, through tons of rooms, doors, and hallways that all look the same, until you happen upon the correct route of escape. It’s hard to use the map, because it doesn’t pause the game, and everything looks the same anyway. There may be a simple puzzle to solve. Eventually Harry wakes up in the normal world, to start the process all over again.

Survival horror is about knowing when to run and when not to run. This game is all about running, because you can’t actually fight enemies. You can only knock them off you if they jump on you, or scare them with flares, or knock furniture in their way to impede them. Frankly, it sucks. I miss the days of the melee weapons, and the guns with limited ammo. There is no sense of conservation of supplies because there are no items. You can collect “memories” which serve no real purpose for gameplay or narrative. There is also no health system; you can take a certain number of hits before you go down and have to start that whole area over again, which is almost as frustrating as save points can be.

In addition to the main story, there is a disjointed and fairly uninteresting set of side notes. They come in the form of texts, voicemails, and photos. It takes a somewhat investigative approach, wherein you must approach certain locations of spiritual disturbance, which is a neat idea. However, it includes so much useless information from the regular people of Silent Hill who do not matter and are not included in the main plot, and it does not enlighten any aspect of the back story of Silent Hill. Very frustrating.

The only interesting thing about this game is that your adventures between the real world and the ice world are broken up with encounters with your therapist. You get to answer questions that reveal something of your psyche and personality, and your reactions and choices are reflected in the game, for example, in characters’ reactions to you, their outfits, etc. Your choices affect the game, and even if it’s not always in significant ways, it’s a cool idea.

Overall, this game is a lot like the previous Silent Hills. Terrible cameras, annoying enemies. The end leaves you confused, freaked out, and somewhat disappointed. Has a few cool ideas but doesn’t really deliver (see Silent Hill 4). The differences? No fighting, not as much of a creepy atmosphere, and unfortunately not a very engaging story. If you’re looking for a re-imagining of Silent Hill, play the original on an emulator.