By Sackmanjones 11 Comments
Welcome back fellow bombers to "I need a vacation". If you missed part 1 and part 2, I will link them for your convenience! So my journey is coming to a quick close and I've had great time with these games. Currently I'm near the beginning of Downpour so from now on these will be more of "updates" rather than write ups. Anyway not much else to add so lets get to it!
SILENT HILL: HOMECOMINGBEWARE: FULL OF SPOILERS
Silent Hill: Homecoming is not a scary game. As I said in my earlier posts, the Silent Hill games have been the scariest games I have ever played and this one just does not fit into that category. The game still has excellent atmosphere and looks really pretty. I love the look of the transitions to the otherworld (the one they stole from the film, like many things) I think that looks really sharp. The problem is they never catch the tension the others had, they never let your mind do the work. Now this is the first console release that didn't have team silent attached to it (unless shattered memories came first). This really does show, but this does not mean I disliked the game. For what it was, I generally had a decent time playing it.....well at least half of it. The biggest problem is the game never picks up until the end and that REALLY REALLY hurt it for me. I never really got the combat till about half way through and they story basically stands still until you hit that middle point, this is where things get really interesting. I see what they were trying to do with combat and yes they did succeed in some way of making it more fun to fight but this only goes so far. In my personal opinion, I believe they aimed for the "Resident Evil 4" approach. "Lets make the game more action oriented but still try to keep the scares". Unfortunately, things didn't turn out as great as it did for RE4. Anyway, I didn't mean to "review" the game, I just wanted to lay out some thoughts before I go on.
In Silent Hill 3 I never really got attached to Heather until maybe the last few hours of the game, but in Homecoming Alex Shepard was instantly a better character as well as most of the supporting cast. Alex is much more than a one dimensional character and it shows right off the bat of the game. While I did say the beginning of the game was slow and rather uninspired, I will say the opening sequence is excellent. We witness a very disoriented Alex being wheeled in what I can only describe is a hospital suited for the devil himself. We get to see short glimpses of torture, blood splattering out across the floor and wall, its truly a very grim opening and perfect for a Silent Hill game. Once we reach our destination, the lovely doctor who wheeled the stretcher in goes outside only to be sliced to bits by the iconic Pyramid head. Now whats great is they don't show pyramid head, but fans who played 2 would recognize the sound of his blade scrapping the ground below him anywhere. Alex is then forced to struggle with the straps on his arms and legs only to escape and this is when I knew I'd like him. Unlike Heather and even James, Alex recognizes instantly that things are extremely fucked up. He's muttering to himself, when he is trying to escape his straps he is struggling and grunting and you can tell fear is running through his body.
Finally free from his death bed the only thing going through my mind is, find a weapon and get the hell outta here. As we search the hospital we run into Alex's brother Joshua, the main driving force of the story. Of course, things aren't that simple and Josh is locked behind a door and won't let us in until we find his rabbit (you know the ones that littered the amusement park of Silent Hill 3, lovely toys). As we search we run into a familiar face, a creepy nurse who has taken on the form of the nurses from the film. I'm actually a fan of the movement of these monsters so I was OK with how they looked. This is also the first chance to try the new combat. The combat in Silent Hill: Homecoming is based off of a very strategic counter system. First off, you need to decide how to take a foe down and when to counter. One on one the combat works great, but when I first ran into 3 or 4 nurses I died instantly...about 3 times in a row. To say the least this was rather annoying and figured out you can slowly sneak by the nurses by turning your light off (again from the movie but a cool addition) . So again we find Josh only to have him run off and for me to chase after him onto an elevator. Things aren't that simple, you can faintly hear that blade scrapping the ground. Pyramid head was on his way and before I knew it the blade went right through the door and into Alex's chest.
Luckily, this was all a dream and we see Alex has hitched a ride back to his town that was named after his family, Shepards Glenn. We learn that Alex is actually a former U.S solider and was recently wounded by some means. However, when Alex arrives things don't look exactly great for the town, its covered in fog and the town seems to be deserted. We eventually run into Judge Holloway who doesn't seem to have an issue with how the town looks and advises Alex to head home. I gotta say the entrance to the house is great, the music sets the tone perfectly as you wander around only to find nobody home. After scavenging around the house we get to see Alex's mom, and she looks like she is having a rough week. We soon find out that Josh is in fact missing and its now Alex's issue to find out where he went.
After about 20 minutes I totally lost interest in the story and events of the game. A few memorable things happened such as the strange lady in the apartment and the startling doctor's office. However, this is about it for what I truly find memorable. I actually really enjoyed the boss fight with the mannequin looking creature. It has a very scary look to it and the entrance was one of the more terrifying parts of the game. Surprisingly, the boss fight was pretty fun too, breaking the plastic mold on the creature only to make it hop around like a spider. It was extremely unsettling and I was very happy to see it dead. This goes for many of the boss fights, they are definitely the highlights of the game for me (except the first and last one).
I'm going to skip really far ahead, the first half of the game has a few interesting (but too familiar) enemies and we are introduced to the judges daughter Elle (who clearly has a thing for Alex, or once did) and deputy Wheeler. It's really a shame that half of the game is really uninteresting and filled with some backtracking. We do get to meet Curtis, a gunsmith who.... uh.... doesn't seem too right in the head..
Things start to get interesting once we return to the Shepard's house. We soon find out that Alex's dad has headed to Silent Hill to do something but we don't know what exactly. Time to get mom talking and find out just exactly what the hell is going on in this town, but as soon as we get talking Alex is attacked by men wearing mining uniforms and they kidnap is mother in the process. Now we get to see the house switch to the other world and its really a site to see, everything gets pretty damn gross. These puzzles aren't too hard but they are rather interesting and provide a bit of foreshadowing in the later parts of the game.
Once we escape, its time to take a trip to Silent Hill with Elle and Wheeler tagging along. Things are never simple of course and the boat is attacked, leaving everyone totally separated and disoriented. It's now up to Shepard to find out what the hell is happening, but we soon get a call from Wheeler saying they are stuck inside of the prison which Alex sure has a hard time getting into. Homecoming captures the atmosphere and a bit of the tension the previous games do when you enter Silent Hill. It also helps the story has picked up since we know the cult is involved but we don't exactly know what they are up too. Mystery's are some of the most interesting parts of the Silent Hill games and I got much more invested in the story because of it.
Finally, we reach the prison and this is probably the scariest part of the game. There is a good amount of combat but not too much to overdo it and the setting is very dark and grimy just like the previous games were. I definitely got tensed up one or two times during this section, squeezing through small cracks hoping nothing is waiting for me on the other end. Also we get introduced to the first morale dilemma, Alex's mom is strapped to some horrible torture contraption that is stretching her in half. She asks Alex to end it quickly but its up to me to decide her fate. I honestly had to think about this for a minute. I knew she had been through a lot and I felt connected to her and it was a hard decision, but I eventually decided to end it quick for her because I can only imagine the pain of being stretched to death. I was quite surprised on how effective this choice was on me and was curious to see more. But just like that this section is over and leads into a clever puzzle featuring a few riddles and a nasty looking structure which Alex has to stick his hand into. After this we are then led to another grotesque boss and quickly learn the mayor of Shepards Glenn is in with "The Order" of Silent Hill.
Once we take care of the monster ( which took Wheeler somewhere) we enter the church. Again, this is a moody area filled with puzzles and a bit of combat. At this point the combat is nothing to me, Alex is a badass and tears every monster a see a new one which in a way makes the game even less scary. Anyway, we run into a very familiar scene of a man inside a confessional (Silent Hill 3?) I pretty much know this is about Alex's dad and I think he does too and decide to forgive the man for what he has done.
When all the puzzles are set up we finally get to see Alex's dad in person, and the conversation following is not pretty. We soon find out that Alex was in fact in a hospital but not because he was shot, he has been in a mental hospital for years ever since the "accident" happened. I love how the whole story isn't spread out right away, what accident is he talking about? Maybe his dad is the one who is truly crazy? These questions don't change the fact the pyramid head then comes to slice his dad right in half and then leaves for you to follow.
We quickly get into a miners uniform and head over to the elevator to be greeted by nonother than Curtis himself. For some reason Alex's uniform clearly shows off his dog tags which voids his entire disguise and Curtis takes advantage of this by knocking him out. We wake up in a strapped down to a chair and a very angry Judge Holloway who lays out the rest of the story to us. Apparently to protect Shepards Glenn, the people of the town must kill one of their children to keep the hellish things of Silent Hill away. Thanks to one of the Shepard boys not being killed, things have started to happen to Shepards Glenn and the only way to fix is to kill Alex and her own daughter Elle. She proceeds to shove a damn powerdrill into Alex's leg which looks damn painful but once again he breaks free and has a tussle with the judge herself. Finally, after some button mashing we shove the drill right into her face and boy that was satisfying.
We then have to search around to find Elle before Curtis saws her in half and just in the knick of time we do and Alex puts at least 10 rounds into Curtis before the bastard finally goes down. On the homestretch, we reach our final dilemma as we see Wheeler barely alive with knives in his chest. We can either give him a medpack or go without him and I decided to do the latter. In doing this, Elle stays behind to help him and Alex continues to the final few rooms. We reach our last puzzle and after we enter to what looks like a sacrifice chamber. After investigating both the doctor and judges alter we reach the Shepards alter and soon realize the last revelation. Alex is the one that his father picked to be sacrificed, but why didn't this happen? A brief flashback answers this question; Alex remembers that he and his brother went out on the lake one night and the "accident" happened. After Josh shows Alex what his father gave him (the family ring) Alex tries to tug it away from Josh which ends up in Josh losing his balance on the boat and falling, breaking his neck in the process. Due to Josh dying when it was supposed to be Alex, the entire balance was thrown off thus leading to all the horrible things happening in Shepards Glenn. I thought all of this was an excellent twist in the story and really brought the story together, if only it would have been this interesting throughout the whole game.
After the last boss is defeated we see an incarnation of Josh come out of it and Alex come to terms about what happened and what he did. This leads up to the ending, and the one I got was the "good ending". Alex catches up with Elle and he tells her that he sees clearly what happened and comes to terms with it. While I thought this ending was good, I read the other endings and I thought they were WAY BETTER! I really enjoyed that two of the endings totally nullify that any of this happened, in one we see Alex wake up in the hospital getting shock therapy as he frantically yells out if what just happened was real (and the answer is a stern no). The other one finds Alex tied up in the bathtub as his father decides to drown him as the sacrifice. I love a good bad ending and would have much rather gotten one of these two. The final one other than the normal UFO ending is the boogeyman ending; this is where Alex is actually turned into a pyramid head, kinda goofy but still pretty damn neat! I will embed the endings if you guys wanna take a look.
Silent Hill: Homecoming isn't a bad game, but it's a disappointing one. I was rarely ever scared and while the atmosphere was done pretty well I never got that horrible tension like the prior games. The combat was like an experiment in the series, it succeed in a few areas but failed in more. I enjoyed most of my time with the game but this is definitely my least favorite so far by a long shot. Without Alex as a great character and and decent story near the end, this game would have been a much bigger failure.