Silent Hill: Homecoming

I love horror games. Sadly for me, my overactive imagination has stopped me from indulging in them too often. I wouldn’t say I’m easily spooked, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable sitting and playing these games on my own. So, I decided to myself, “I’m a big girl now, 21 this year, I need to play these games!” and with that, Silent Hill: Homecoming was slipped cautiously into my Playstation 3.

I realize this may not have been the best idea, the protagonist is called “Alex Shepard” and that hits a bit too close to home considering my name is “Alex Sherman”. With whispers of “aaallexx….” creepily oozing from my speakers I found myself feeling decidedly disturbed, perfect!

You are Alex Shepard, a soldier on his way back home after being wounded. You’re fresh out of hospital and in a van with Travis Grady (you may recognize the name as the protagonist of Silent Hill: Origins). You get back to find your brother and father are missing, and you’re Mum’s gone catatonic. Business as usual in Silent Hill! Or Shepard’s Glen, as the case may be. The plot through the game is very easy to follow, and you now have the option of picking your responses to decide the route your game play takes. If you’re new to the series, don’t panic. Aside from the above reference to Travis, there isn’t really anything referring back to the older games. It’s a standalone story so it’s fine for veterans or newbies.

I’m not going to go into the plot too much, so onto the ambiance! I’ve got to say, the atmosphere of the game is fantastic. The visuals are gorgeous, and I even played a while on low-def and found it still looked brilliant. There is a graininess in the image which really gives the scenery that dusty Silent Hill aesthetic. To compliment the stunning graphics, there is a fabulously eerie musical score, which at points in the game is genuinely unsettling. I found myself feeling quite unwell from nerves at certain points, feeling disorientated and edgy, not many game sound tracks are that good! The voice acting is also very good and matches the characters perfectly.

I did have a couple of sticking points with the game, both control issues.

The first thing I noticed was that I was completely unable to play inverted. Although there is an option for it in the menu, switching inverted on does not actually invert the controls at all. Nor does switching the inverted off, obviously. I always play games on inverted, I always have, I always will, and to put it bluntly I’m not about to go changing that for one game. A bit later in the game, when you start using a gun, you’ll find the gun is inverted, but still nothing else.

But this isn’t the only control flaw. Alex doesn’t handle easily, it’s difficult to dodge enemy attacks then throw in combo’s (especially with Needlers and the later game nurses).

The upshot of this is that it gives a real sense of desperation and panic (occasionally frustration too) and it means you die a fair amount. The game uses save points, so you tend to have to repeat yourself when you die. I quite like this, as it makes you even more determined to stay alive and demolish the buttons on your sixaxis controller.

There isn’t a lot I can say about the gameplay, all the weapons handle the same (except the gun) and the controls are simple and easy to memorize. There are also a few puzzles in the game, for those of you who enjoy them!

You won’t find yourself jumping a lot in this game, you get a fair amount of noise warning you of any baddies about. However, this doesn’t stop the game being frightening. The “monsters” that you will encounter are fantastic. Deeply disturbing and very highly detailed. At the start of the game, you are lulled into a false sense of security, the monsters seem pretty easy to kill and they don’t damage you much. So you swagger off into the game thinking you’re the mutts nuts and are frequently and consistently brought down to size later in game by baddies you were happily hacking into originally at no real consequence. The difficultly curve is subtle, but steep.

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with this game. I’m really not pleased about the inverted, but the story and the aesthetics kept me interested. You really get a depth with this game you just didn’t with the older ones (in fact, as a refresher I stopped and played Silent Hill 1 for a while to compare and contrast) and you’ll find yourself completely lost in this hellish nightmare world. So, lock up your pets, turn out the lights and prepare yourself for the fright-fest that is Silent Hill: Homecoming.







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