• When I sat down to play Silent Hill: Homecoming, the latest instalment in the Silent Hill franchise, I wasn’t expecting much. The series didn’t appear to have gone through any large reinvention like Resident Evil managed, and I was worried that I would find a stale franchise flinging out another bog standard game. I was pleasantly surprised.

    Let me explain. Silent Hill: Homecoming is the story of Alex Shepard, a young soldier discharged from the Army. Haunted by dreams involving his little brother he returns to his home town of Shepard’s Glen to find… fog. And not a lot else. His mother is almost catatonic and mumbling a mixture of confusing remarks and complete nonsense. His brother and father are missing altogether and the other locals all appear to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

    Slowly Alex begins to unravel the mystery as he flicks between the realities of Shepard’s Glen, Silent Hill and the ‘Otherworld’. The supernatural fog that has been a feature of the entire series returns and blankets all of the areas, with Shepard’s Glen being the most effected. When the fog is pierced by a building or object you realise quite how much work has gone into making these areas all look fantastic behind the wall of murk. The fog is definitely now used to create the scene, as opposed to hiding the limited graphical capabilities of earlier machines.

    The character models themselves are good, although there does seem to be a tendency towards blandness on some of their clothes. During the cut scenes Alex’s inability to keep his mouth shut whilst other people are talking really irked me. Throughout almost all of them he stands with his mouth half open, pearly whites gleaming through the fog.

    Silent Hill V: Homecoming

    That said the combat system is excellent. Dodging and diving attacks is great fun, and a combination of combo’s and counter attacks really mean the fights look superb. The ease of the melee system means that gun’s aren’t really needed for long periods of the game, which allows you to save bullets for the bosses. Although this means that it is easier for those unfamiliar with the series, a more seasoned gamer might find the change of direction an unwelcome change.

    If you open your ears as well as your eyes you will start to experience the game on another level. You can hear when enemies are near with a plethora of sounds that chill you to the bone. The musical accompaniment is just as good, setting the mood and increasing the tension tenfold. The voice acting is a vast improvement on previous versions of the game which is probably due to the game being developed by a Western Developer, Double Helix games.

    There are a few things about the game that disappointed me. There is no training section that allows you to get to grips with the game. Instead you are given a number of training books scattered around the opening areas. For those who claim that a introductory section would take away from the experience of the game I would argue that finding a book that tells your in game character to press A repeatedly is also contradictory to the mood.

    There are too many doors that come up with the same message ‘The lock is jammed.’ Why include these doors if you are going to prevent our access? Each time it pops up you feel a little disappointed, which ruins the atmosphere the rest of the game creates.

    The in game conversations occasionally give you an option to influence what Alex says. You will find numerous examples where your choices make no real difference on the outcome of the scene which makes you wonder why they were included in the first place.

    So is the game scary? Near the start of the game I was walking through a room, hearing in the background the scrapings of a new type of monster which seemed to follow me throughout my exploration. Reaching a wall Alex turned, his torch (finally) lighting up something. I nearly jumped out of my chair before realising that the reason for my fear was in fact a potted plant. So with respect to the continuing atmosphere, yes the game is scary. Whether it will stick in your head after playing it and haunt your dreams will probably depend more on your own mental stability.

    So you want a score? It’s a difficult one to judge. Silent Hill: Homecoming is without doubt a good game, but it is let down by little problems here and there. The plot twists are generally quite easy to see coming but at least keep you interested, although the deviation from the original Silent Hill games will annoy a lot of people.

    Perhaps the most problematic thing about Silent Hill: Homecoming is the time that it has been released. On its own a year ago this would have been a standout game and scored a lot higher. However, coming after Dead Space and just before Resident Evil 5 it seems that it will be destined to join the bargain bins sooner rather than later. It is still a good game though, so if you happen to see it in that bargain bin, snap it up. You won’t be disappointed.

    Score: 7/10

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