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Silent Hill Homecoming is the sixth instalment of the survival horror franchise and I was concerned my long history with the series would lead to dashed expectations. But my worries that the nuanced storylines of the past would be lost were unfounded. Homecoming delivered a strong narrative and disturbing story that gave me a chill those old games did. Even though the combat was far too difficult and frustrating, it didnít detract from the dark and horrific atmosphere that made this game a great, if unsettling, experience.
Although the previous games have been flawed (and I mean very flawed). The technical difficulties such as constant loading screens, fixed camera angles and awkward combat did give Silent Hill a certain charm. It was like watching a masterfully disturbing film that had been badly directed and had some iffy special effects and a distracting film grain shoved over it.
It turns out that I neednít have been worried. Although Homecoming makes my rampant fan-boy heart break with its modernised and streamlined approach, the game is vastly improved from previous versions.
I only wish that sentiment could be extended to the combat which continues to be a big issue for the game. Thereís simply far too much reliance on it and when faced with more than one enemy itís far too easy to die quickly. Despite being given a dodge move it was impossible to avoid the heavy blows that occur when facing two or more enemies. Running away didnít solve anything either as the parting attack from my enemies would drain health at an alarming rate.
The first level is a nightmarish journey through a grotty and macabre hospital. The decaying structures, the blood smears across the walls and the general oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere is all achieved with subtle style.
But fans of Silent Hill have been used to poor combat for a long time and itís more the story and atmosphere that defines a game like this rather than anything else. The fear that the westernised approach would result in a diluted and Hollywood-like experience was allayed pretty quickly.
The first level is a nightmarish journey through a grotty and macabre hospital. The decaying structures, the blood smears across the walls and the general oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere is all achieved with subtle style. Although itís not the scariest game of the series, for which Silent Hill 2 is the obvious crown-holder, itís still the creepiest game released in recent years.
Exploring Shepherdís Glen with its dense, oppressive fog and disturbed characters took me back to the early Silent Hill games. I found myself gripping the controller tighter and tighter as the game descended into a hellish counterpart of the real world. The biggest proof the game had got it right was when spending time in both worlds was equally unsettling. When my cat jumped on my lap midway through the game there was nearly a life-ending disaster for myself, the console and the cat. Itís been a long time since a game had that effect and it felt good that a Silent Hill game had done it again.
The fairly straightforward story will probably vex some traditional fans but in truth, the easy-going narrative helps the game to pack more of punch. Whereas the previous games have revelled in the ambiguous and confusing nuances of their storyline; Homecoming gives a clear account of whatís going on and why. Rather than draining away atmosphere with this approach it actually made the ending far more meaningful, regardless of which one I got.
This isnít Silent Hillís greatest game but it goes a long way into making it a true 21st Century survival horror game thatís actually scary. The next instalment of this most-loved franchise will be an interesting step and once again Iím hopeful for the series future.
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