01 Apr

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Silent Hill 5: Homecoming is an admirable effort to translate the cult-followed survival horror series Silent Hill into a game with more western appeal.

You play as Alex Shepherd, a soldier returning to his hometown of Shepherd’s Glen. Soon after your arrival you discover things aren’t as you remembered and your kid brother is missing.  You set off on a quest to find and “save” your little brother and in the progress discover what’s happening to Shepherd’s Glen and how that ties into the infamous Silent Hill. This leads you to encounter several of Shepherd’s Glen’s few remaining inhabitants. These encounters will inevitably prompt a conversation where you get to choose the outcome, which will affect the immediate gameplay as well as the ending of the game. This works relatively well and makes you pay much more attention to every word spoken. Through the game you will meet two people in particular who will help you in your quest and serve as part-time, AI partners who aid you in both combat and navigation.How you treat them will ultimately be reflected in one of the games five endings.

I’ll get one thing straight out of the way here and say the level and monster design is as good as ever, the attention to detail and originality is spectacular. That being said, some levels are downright blasphemous of past Silent Hill lore. The settings of Silent Hill games have always been ordinary everyday places transformed into the stuff of nightmares. Sewers and prisons aren’t included in this category and shouldn’t be included in the game. But these make up very, very small portions of the game so it’s easy to forgive. What ultimately makes up for them are the fantastically creepy and strange “hell” level which is undoubtedly inspired by how the human mind works, in order to keep this review spoiler free I won’t elaborate further, but you’ll know what I mean when you get there.

Unfortunately I can not give the same praise to the gameplay. It is easier and less of a hassle to navigate the world than previous entries to the Silent Hill series. With the improved combat controls, enemies are easier to defeat. But it’s so much easier that you feel empowered; something you should never feel in a Silent Hill game. I like the combat, it’s mildly fun and once you get the timing down, you’ll find a nice flow to the combat and be able to go unscathed from any regular fight. The game generally has a large focus on combat compared to its puzzle-heavy predecessors. The puzzles in this game are few and far between, and most of them simple logistics games where you have to match symbols or solve sliding puzzles. There are a few moderately difficult and clever puzzles which are reminiscent of the old ways of the series.  In one particularly memorable puzzle, you punch in a code to unlock a “door”, but instead of a numeric combination, you punch in symbols. The only clues given are cryptic poems vaguely leading you towards the right combination. and don’t even think about random input and hoping for the best, as each time you fail more and more monsters appear.

When it comes to graphic and sound design, the game can’t hold its own with the heavy hitters of Metal Gear Solid and Gears of War. But it does enough not to seem lazy and more than enough creating aconvincing atmosphere. It’s apparent that the game could have used a few more weeks of polish. Some graphical glitches are downright blatant, and you find yourself often wondering “how could they miss that?” This includes everything from a leg passing through solid rock during a scripted cut scene or low detailed textures on important items like Alex’s jacket.

Silent Hill 5: Homecoming is only worth a rent.  Despite the multiple endings you’ll find very little replay value; it just isn’t worth going through all five endings considering the poor gameplay and how disappointing some of those endings are. It could still be worth at least one replay if you give yourself a couple of years to forget the details.  In short, if you’re a hardcore Silent Hill fan—like myself—then you’ve already bought it anyway. If not, give it a rent.