Shadow of Phoenix

Respect for Games

Shade’s Review of Silent Hill: Homecoming

Posted on this site: Sunday, March 27, 2022

Originally Published on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at https://shadevideogames.blogspot.com/2015/01/shades-review-of-silent-hill-homecoming.html

Silent Hill: Homecoming was released on September 30, 2008 in North America on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The European and Australian versions were released in early 2009, but the Japanese version was canceled.
North America, Europe, and Australia also got PC releases.
Some of the graphic scenes in Homecoming were censored in some countries including Australia and Germany.
 
Homecoming was developed by the American studio Double Helix Games.
Members of the development team include William Oertel (producer), Tomm Hulett (associate producer), Cordy Rierson (director), Patrick J. Doody and Chris Valenziano (writers), and Akira Yamaoka (music).
Once again, Yamaoka was the only Team Silent member that had involvement in the game.
 
One of the first things players will notice when playing Homecoming is how different the controls are.
It’s basically first person controls in the third person similar to Resident Evil 4.
The left stick moves Alex, the main character, and the right stick moves the camera.
There are no switching camera angles in this one.
The camera always stays behind Alex unless he goes into combat mode.
 
In past games, different camera angles would not only give players a cinematic view, but they were also an artistic way of showing players which door to go through, important items to pick up, etc.
Homecoming, on the other hand, has on-screen button prompts to let players know when an action needs to be performed.
I don’t like button prompts, and I’m sure they’re in Homecoming due to its common practice in current video games.
I wish the game provided the option of turning them off.
I definitely prefer the different camera angles to indicate an action needs to be performed over button prompts.
 
Combat is still the usual shooting enemies with firearms, or hitting them with melee weapons as in past games.
Once again, though, the controls are different.
I will give the controller layouts for both PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
To shoot enemies, players press L2/L trigger (PS3/360) to draw the firearm equipped at which time the camera switches to an over-the-shoulder view to aim at enemies, and R2/R trigger fires the gun.
The ammo count of the gun equipped appears at the button right of the screen while the firearm is drawn, and the gun can be reloaded during this time by pressing Square/X.
For melee weapons, L2/L trigger makes Alex go into combat stance, and the camera switches to a side view of him and the enemy.
Players press X/A for fast attack, Square/X for strong attack, and Circle/B to block enemy attacks.
Combat is pretty good in Homecoming.
I like the over-the-shoulder shooting for horror games.
It makes players aim at enemies, which can be nerve-wrecking.
For me, I can get nervous when an enemy is running towards me, and I have to quickly aim and shoot it.
The side view during melee combat is decent.
It gives players a better angle while attacking enemies.
 
Weapons are also used to open doorways such as using a knife to tear a hole through a sheet for Alex to squeeze through it, using a steal pipe or crowbar to force a door open, etc.
There are also a lot of jumping across platforms, hopping over and ducking under things, climbing up and down ledges, and squeezing through tight openings.
I’m not really sure the point of these actions.
Maybe to break from running around and fighting enemies.
In past games, there were more exploring environments, reading memos, and solving puzzles to break from running and fighting.
 
There is not much exploring or reading memos in Homecoming.
There are some memos in this game, but not as much as the originals.
I also don’t feel compelled to explore the environments like I do in Silent Hill 1-4.
Part of that is because the nightmare isn’t unique.
It’s taken directly from the Silent Hill movie.
There also isn’t a lot of detail or many disturbing things to look at in the environments like the first four games.
There are puzzles in Homecoming, but, like Origins, they’re not very challenging except for the one at the very end.
There isn’t much riddle solving like the first three games, which is why I don’t find them very challenging.
 
Enemies are a little tough this time around.
Each enemy is best fought with a certain weapon with a particular strategy.
For example, nurses are usually best fought with a knife using fast attacks, and firearms are best on the smog monster especially when its lungs are exposed.
Sometimes its better just to run from enemies if you can.
There are four bosses, and they also have certain weaknesses.
Each one has two phases, and each phase will require a different type of attack.
 
I have no problem with challenging enemies especially for a survival horror game.
The designs of the enemies, however, aren’t as good as the first four games.
Maybe it’s just me, but Homecoming’s enemies don’t seem as ambiguous as the enemies of the originals.
Like the nightmare, a few of Homecoming’s enemies were taken directly from the Silent Hill movie such as the nurses, bugs, cult members in miner’s uniforms, and Pyramid Head’s design.
I didn’t care for enemies being reused in Homecoming.
 
Like Silent Hill 4, surviving in Homecoming is more of a concern than Silent Hill 1-3.
Health drinks and first aid kits are more scarce than previous games, and enemies can cause plenty of damage if you don’t know how to fight them.
The first time I played Homecoming, I had to use a lot of health supplies due to all the damage Alex was taking because I wasn’t very good at fighting the enemies.
Plus, I would accidentally use health items, which I will explain soon.
It was such a relief when I did find a health drink or a first aid kit.
Even ammunition is not easy to come by.
During later playthroughs, I got better at fighting enemies, and I was able to conserve health supplies and ammunition better.
 
I like the fact that surviving is not easy in Homecoming.
Combat and surviving is mainly what the game does best.
One issue is that Homecoming really isn’t psychological horror like the originals.
Silent Hill 1-3 were more focused on psychological horror.
Silent Hill 4 was a mix of psychological horror and survival horror.
Origins tried to be more like the first three games, but I never got much of a sense of either psychological horror or survival horror while playing it.
Homecoming is mostly about surviving, and graphic blood and gore horror.
I will describe the horror in Homecoming a little more later in the review.
 
The inventory in this game is completely different.
Silent Hill 1-3 had a pause menu inventory mapped to the select button on the PlayStation controller (start button by default in Silent Hill 2).
The inventory in those games had everything players needed, an infinite space for all weapons and items, health status, etc.
Silent Hill 4 took away the pause menu inventory, and had a limited inventory of ten slots with an item chest to store leftover items and weapons.
A health meter appeared on screen in Silent Hill 4 when the main character was in attack stance and/or attacked by enemies.
 
Homecoming has the pause menu inventory with no limited space, but this time there are two inventories each mapped on a different button.
L1/L bumper opens the inventory for items, and the R1/R bumper opens the inventory for weapons.
The weapon inventory also has the flashlight and radio, and they can be turned on and off by the Square/X button (flashlight) and Triangle/Y button (radio) while that inventory is open.
The same is true for health drinks and first aid kits in the item inventory.
Health status appears in both inventories as a meter.

The health meter also appears on screen when Alex takes damage.

 

There are problems with the inventories.

There is nothing wrong with dividing the inventory by items and weapons.
Silent Hill 3’s inventory was divided like that, and it made it more organized.
Having two separate inventories mapped to two separate buttons, on the other hand, is confusing.
There were many times when I wanted to open the item inventory, but I opened the weapon one instead and vice versa.
Since health drinks and first aid kits are mapped to Square/X and Triangle/Y respectively in the item inventory, there have been several times when I accidentally used a health item when going through it.
 
The map can be accessed by pressing the Triangle/Y button, which is typical for a Silent Hill game.
What is not typical is an objective screen.
To bring up the objective screen, press Triangle/Y for the map then press Square/X for the list of objectives.
In the preceding games, players figured out what to do and where to go next by exploring and finding clues within the game.
There is some of that in Homecoming, but an objective screen makes it a little obvious.
At the beginning of the game in the hospital, the objective screen says, “Escape the hospital.”
I would think that would be self-explanatory while playing.
I’m the type that likes to figure it out myself from the clues provided.
The good news is that the objective screen can be easily ignored by just looking at the map and not the objectives.
 
A new gameplay element introduced is dialogue options during some character interactions.
It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not well implemented.
Characters will give different responses with each dialogue option, although most of them do not effect the outcome of the story.
There are only three instances where the dialogue selected determines the ending.
There are also times when Alex is speaking to a character, and all the dialogue options can be selected making it seem pointless.
 
Before moving on, I must warn that Homecoming is known to have several glitches.
Every time I’ve played and reach the cemetery a second time, a certain area will not load.
It sometimes loads if I leave and come back.
Other times, I have to restart from where I last saved.
I’ve also experienced a glitch where an enemy is suspended a few inches off the ground after its dead.
I’ve read that some players have problems with the game freezing in certain areas, character models disappearing in cutscenes if certain actions are performed, and many more.
If you play Homecoming, beware of glitches.
Some of them are funny.
Others may force you to restart from your last save, or you may have to avoid certain areas all together.
 
Homecoming’s replayability is ok, but it’s not as high as the original games.
There is only one set of two difficulty levels: normal and hard.
The game has five endings, and each ending achieved unlocks a new costume for Alex.
One costume is unlock by using the Konami code at the main menu.
There are two extra weapons: circular saw and laser pistol.
One becomes available after beating the game once, and the other is gained after achieving a certain ending.
All typical Silent Hill characteristics, nothing new added, and nothing difficult to achieve.
Unfortunately, a great puzzle-like storyline typical of Silent Hill 1-4 is not present in Homecoming.
 
Like Origins, the story and nightmare in Homecoming are my biggest criticisms.
Homecoming is about Alex Shepherd returning from the military to his family’s house in Shepherd’s Glen.
His father and brother have disappeared, and his mother is in a catatonic state.
He finds out that other people in the town have disappeared as well.
Alex has a bad feeling that something has happened to his brother, and goes in search of him.
 
The premise isn’t bad.
The quality of the story, and the way it’s presented isn’t so good.
In Silent Hill 1-4, pieces of information about the story is given throughout the games through character dialogue, memos, and images.
Players take all the information, and put everything together to understand the story.
Homecoming has little information through most the game, and everything is made obvious towards the end.
One character tells Alex much of what happened in the events prior to the start of the game, and then there is a big reveal right before the final boss.
Moreover, in the originals, the disappearance of Silent Hill residents was always left a mystery.
In Homecoming, it becomes clear what happened to Shepherd’s Glen residents in the latter half of the game.
 
As for the nightmare, it’s pretty much taken straight from movie like I said previously.
It isn’t unique and detailed like the originals.
Even some of the enemies are taken from the movies, and they’re really not disturbing like the monsters in Silent Hill 1-4 due to lack of ambiguity.
In addition, Homecoming has graphic blood and gore like most modern American horror films whereas the first four games had suggested images such as a human shaped body in a certain pose that makes players use their imaginations.
I know some people like graphic blood and gore horror, but I personally prefer the horror of Silent Hill 1-4.
 
Homecoming is a mediocre game on its own merit.
As a Silent Hill game, it has many issues.
Combat and surviving are the good points of the game.
Everything else: story, nightmare, inventory, etc. is not so good.
I want to mention that even though I think that combat in Homecoming is good, I don’t think it’s better or worse than the combat in Silent Hill 1-3.
 
Some people seem to think that combat in the first three games is bad, and that it’s because the main characters are ordinary people.
On the contrary, the combat in the originals is not bad, and I’m sure the combat has nothing to do with the characters.
Combat is the way it is in those games because that was the standard set by the first Resident Evil.
In some ways, Silent Hill 1-3’s combat improved on Resident Evil’s combat particularly with melee weapons.
I’ve heard similar remarks that Homecoming’s combat method is due to Alex being a soldier.
That may have effected the American team’s decision, but Homecoming’s combat may have something to do with the new gameplay standard set by Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil 4 influenced the gameplay in many modern video games, and Homecoming may be one of them.
 
Would I recommend Homecoming to anyone?
Probably not because it’s not for everyone.
If a person loves survival horror, but is not a huge Silent Hill fan then I might suggest that he or she give it a try.
For anyone that loves the original Silent Hill games, judge the game for yourself, but, like Origins, don’t be surprised if you have problems with it.
GameFly currently has Homecoming available to rent for both PS3 and Xbox 360 if you have a membership.
If you don’t have a GameFly membership, I would recommend buying it used for $10 or less if you want to try it.