Silent Hill: Homecoming is a very peculiar game. The latest in one of the creepiest survival horror franchises, it seems oddly conflicted as to exactly what it wants to be. Does it want to be like Resident Evil 4 and shed some of its survival horror street-cred for a more mainstream action game appeal, or does it want to remain an atmospheric scare-fest with cheap-shotting monsters who are best avoided at all costs? Going half way is almost never the right answer, but that’s precisely where Homecoming goes with predictably uneven results.
The story of Homecoming is pretty standard Silent Hill fare. You play a young man who returns to his hometown of Shepard’s Glen to discover his younger brother is missing and everything is going straight to hell, literally. You trek through one nightmare after another, uncovering the disturbing secrets of the past and learning about the evils that curse the place. Not straying too far from what we’ve come to expect from the series, it manages to provide an appropriate, if somewhat predictable, backdrop for all the weird shit which ensues.
Combat in Silent Hill has always been something to be engaged in only when necessary, as monsters have a nasty habit of absorbing absurd amounts of damage while dishing out the same. It’s part of the whole hardcore survival horror formula, which postulates that awkward controls plus difficult to defeat monsters equals maximum discomfort and scare for the player. Homecoming attempts to update that formula somewhat with a system of locking on to enemies that emphasizes dodging and countering with well timed attacks. While not entirely unsuccessful the overall results are a little ragged, with some enemies mostly playing nice in the new system while others seem determined to stay true to the legacy of cheap-ass tactics from the days of yore. When it works the effect is visceral and squishy, full of nasty fatality animations, but when it doesn’t it’s aggravating, and it makes it difficult to get into a good groove.
What Homecoming has no shortage of though is style. The environments, from the incessant fog of the town streets to the hellish industrial nightmare world, are beautifully grotesque. The monsters are appropriately disturbing in that very twisted and fleshy Silent Hill way, particularly the bosses who deserve some kind of special award for Best “What in the hell is that?” in a Supporting Role. If you love Silent Hill, this is what you pay for, and at least in that respect Homecoming delivers.
Even so, what continues to hold Homecoming back from beginning to end is its horribly uneven pacing. Long stretches of downtime obviously intended to build tension just feel dull and drawn out, while the non-stop barrage of combat in other sections becoming tedious. It never hits its stride, never find that sweet spot that makes for that great edge-of-your-seat survival horror experience. Silent Hill fans will find enough here in the lore and the art direction to keep them going through the rough spots, but Homecoming is going to be a tough sell for anyone else. If you like the freaky stuff and can stomach the hiccups it’s a decent rental or bargain bin pickup, but this isn’t a great game by any stretch, and it definitely isn’t for everyone.