Hands on With Silent Hill: Homecoming

I am not ashamed to admit my slight bias towards Silent Hill. I am an unapologetic fan of the series so it should come as no surprise to discover that this was the the title I was most looking forward to seeing at Konami's Gamer's Night. Between watching others play and playing a bit myself, I was able to see about the first half hour of gameplay and it was a blast. I know many of you are concerned given that the original team is not working on this one, but set those fears aside because this is till the Silent Hill that you know and love. After listening to some announcements about the game we got to see a little trailer and my interest was (even more) piqued by a short (less than 2 seconds) but exhilarating appearance by everyone's favourite Silent Hill denizen, Pyramid Head. Also visible in the trailer was a trucker who drops the player character off in his home town. Could this be a later version of Travis, the main character of Silent Hill: Origins?

When I arrived at the kiosks I was the third in line and I stood, shifting back and forth from foot to foot like a grade schooler who has to pee, waiting anxiously for my turn. While I was waiting I took the opportunity to compare the graphics since there were two stations side by side; one on the 360 and the other on the PS3. Of course, I have no idea what the final builds of the game will look like, but at the present time, the graphics for the 360 version were much smoother than that of the PS3. Enemies (including the ubiquitous nurses) were marred by some serious jaggies around the edges which hopefully will be fixed before launch. That aside, the game looked absolutely beautiful, retaining all the terrifying filthiness that the franchise is known for.

The story concerns a young man named named Alex Shepard who is returning to his home town of Shepard's Glen. He is on a search for his missing younger brother Josh, a search that will taking him to the spooky depths of Silent Hill which seems to have an unnatural connection to Silent Hill.

When the demo starts, you found yourself on a gurney and being pushed by a masked fiend through a dirty hospital. As you look from side to side, all sorts of terrifying, shadowed scenes pass you by. Silhouetted depictions of horrible things being done to patients by un-seeable evil forces. Eventually you are left in a room alone, strapped to the gurney and here your adventure begins.

Once you have removed yourself from your shackles you are free to start roaming the halls and rooms, constantly blocked by various locked doors. An early puzzle involving some X-rays and a number locked door was easily solved and soon we were treated to the switch from Silent Hill to dark Silent Hill. As you may have heard, the game designers lifted the world changing mechanic straight form the movie. No longer is there a fade to black, but you actually watch the world change in real time, with parts of the room lifting away like peeling paint and disappearing into the sky. The effect is quite nice and translated well from the movie to the game. And of course there were the nurses. Their new character models were terrific and also seemed to be based somewhat on the movie versions of the characters.

The battle system was basically the same with a few improvements. The addition of dodges to the fray makes avoiding damage quite a bit easier. There are perfect and imperfect doges that can be executed. A perfect dodge will result in no damage taken while an imperfect one will have the player taking less damage than from a direct hit. There are also power up attacks and enemies can be stunned so that deadly finishing moves can be performed. The finishing moves are much more interesting than the old standard foot stomp to the head. Each weapon has a unique finishing move for each of the various enemies that are shown in glorious, graphic detail

It is now .much easier to tell where your health is at with the addition of an actual on screen health meter. Gone are the days of trying to determine what your health is like based on the pulsing green or red frame in your character status menu. Now there is a nice red crescent meter that shows exactly how much health you have so you can drink those health drinks accordingly. Another nice touch was the ability to tear through certain walls with your equipped knife. Cutting through them leaves what looks like a horrible gaping wound with teeth sticking out of it that you must squeeze through to get into the next area.

At this point there was a hug line forming behind me and out of respect for my fellow journos, I reluctantly gave up the controls to the next fellow in line. My time with Silent Hill may have been short but it left me wanting more which I guess is the goal of any good entertainment. Silent Hill: Homecoming will be shambling its way towards your PS3 and Xbox 360 in September of this year, ready to scare the pants off you once again.


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