I spent a little bit of time with Silent Hill: Homecoming on the 360 yesterday at Konami’s NYC event. I’ve been kind of lukewarm on the series since The Room, so my expectations weren’t extremely high going in. I must say, however, Silent Hill might be coming back on the upswing after this. The series has always looked great, and Homecoming certainly does as well, but the vastly improved combat mechanics will make this iteration stand out from the rest and, hopefully, capture a bigger audience.
So we start out back in a dreary, dark hospital again. Everything will be fine, right? Of course not! Hospitals and Silent Hill going together are never a good thing for anybody, let alone the protagonist. The first thing I wanted to know about this game is how much “Silent Hill” is actually in it. By that I mean, how much disturbing crap is there for me to look at that will make my brain throw up? Well, I almost immediately noticed a skinned body hanging from the ceiling. So, it’s looking like this really is a homecoming!
Now, one of the biggest complaints about the series was the combat and the controls. I won’t got as far as to say they are “fixed” this time around, but they’re way better. The first weapon I managed to get my hands on was a knife. When you draw it, the camera pans behind you and off to the right, much like any over-the-shoulder angle, but a bit further back so you can see more of the environment. I can then start stabbing away, unlike in previous games where I had to randomly swing a weapon and hope I hit something. It almost makes the game easier now that the combat is better, as sad as that sounds.
I will forever contend that what makes any Silent Hill game great is the atmosphere it creates. That’s why I still consider the first game in the series to be best one. That game scares the crap out of me, even 10 years later. I can’t play it without turning off the sound, and sometimes, will just turn the whole thing off entirely. Homecoming didn’t make me change my pants, however, a very cool effect was the when the ‘normal world’ changes to the ‘underworld.’ It’s very much like the movie – which yinz should see – where everything is peeling off the walls and floor revealing all the in creepy, fucked up cages and spinning fans and shit.
Overall, it looks like Konami learned from The Room and is taking trying to take everything back to the early titles in the series. Everything that should make a good Silent Hill game is here. How the story holds up, or, if it makes any sense at all, remains to be seen. The improved combat and player mobility should position this game towards the more mainstream audience and will give me hope for a survival-horror renaissance.