No matter what your opinion of the quality of current AAA gaming is, one genre that has undeniably been fed to the wolves is survival horror. Resident Evil went down the action road, Alone in the Dark set everything on fire and Dead Space is way too silly to even count. With Team Silent split up and the series put in the hands of Western developers Konami have made several attempts to keep the genre on life support but instead ended up piledriving it through two tables and achieving a knockout with Silent Hill: Homecoming.
Unlike most bad games it’s a lot more difficult to establish why a horror game doesn’t work. It’s in the subtly, the atmosphere, the pacing, the design, the story and a lot of intangible elements that are more complex and get argued and overanalysed a lot on internet forums. When you plough through Homecoming, it’s a tensionless experience that leaves you emotionally unnourished and disappointed in every regard.
The biggest failure and bafflingly awful design choice is the combat. Your super hype hero man this time round is Alex Sheppard, whose character history is connected to the military and this is used as justification to fight the hellish demons of Silent Hill with combat rolls and combo moves. The combat is still sticky and awkward, but now requires skill outside of just wailing on things which ultimately only makes it more frustrating, especially since fights are a lot more difficult to ignore in Homecoming. The issue is one of balance, it doesn’t take long to figure out that the basic x, x, x, square combo with the starting knife is too fast for most of the enemies to handle and makes dealing with them a trivial annoyance more than an horrifying encounter.
It’s also disappointing how little substance there is to Homecoming in general there is. Most of the game is focused on running through levels in a mostly straight line rather than exploring or solving puzzles or walking into horrifying set pieces or basically anything that made Silent Hill 2 and 3 good. There’s not much to say about these levels either, for the most part the designs are boring and just grey. The attempts at horror and atmosphere are pathetic, lazy really, you wander around and just find dead guys and blood lying around. It’s too on the nose and unsubtle to even be considering horror, it’s just pointless and Homecoming never really shines in this aspect. There’s even a level where you basically just drop into hell that doesn’t have a single creepy image in it, the true disturbing thing about this game is just how uninspired it all is.
Speaking of on the nose, the story features the previously mentioned super combat man Alex Sheppard returning home to find his younger brother Joshua missing, and thus begins his dull descent into the nightmare realm of Silent Hill. Not to spoil anything, but your kid brother is missing and no-one has seen him, all the boss battles are related to dead kids, all the drawings and photos you find feature dead kids and all of the imagery and story elements are about dead kids. Do you think you know what happened to Joshua? No checking the Silent Hill wikia page now.
Truth be done there’s a couple of extra twists and turns other than the opposite, one of them being incredibly stupid and due to the non-spoiler nature of this review it can’t be given the justice it deserves here. In short, you learn something about Alex that completely contradicts something the entire game is built around, and it’s an awful twist anyway. When you eventually get to the end of Homecoming it’s almost comical how little to do with anything some of the monsters and imagery had, the worst offender by far being the appearance of Pyramid Head for no reason whatsoever other than fan service.
A combination of all of the above creates an experience that is impossible to care about. You don’t really learn anything about Alex early on to care about him as a person, and all the characters in general are pretty flat with some truly atrocious dialogue in some scenes. The game isn’t scary, there’s not enough disturbing imagery or areas, the monsters can’t handle Alex’s sick combos and become non-threatening really fast and the bosses are even easier especially if you saved your ammo for them…which there is a lot of. The game is also dumb enough to bring back the Order of Silent Hill and present them in the worst way imaginable, the last level of the game is entirely spent fighting normal dudes in suits who also can’t handle your knife combos so a game that is already seriously lacking in atmosphere goes out on a whimper even by its own low standards. Let’s not even go into detail on the jive talking black guy sidekick, shovelled in love interest and pointless sewer level; these things don’t have to be explained in detail to grasp why they’re so terrible.
Despite its obvious homages to past entries in the series Silent Hill: Homecoming utterly fails to recapture what made the series work, the feeling of horror and isolation and emotional simulation on a truly adult level simply is not here. Also, through baffling design choices it also fails to be any kind of decent game or horror experience at all, and with pointless additions of sexy nurses and Pyramid Head this game is almost like fanfiction than an actual published title by Konami. There’s a few bright sparks of here and there and a handful of cool things, but on the whole this is a dud. Look to indies for your horror fix folks, mainstream gaming horror has not yet recovered from the blast of the bomb known as Homecoming.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.