Saturday, 24 October 2015

Silent Hill Homecoming/ Xbox 360



I am stuck on where to begin...momentarily.
I remember around the age of 6, I had a very vivid nightmare, so real, that I woke up after what appeared to be a very long period of time, sweating, and absolutely terrified. I had dreamt that I was trapped in my family home, with my parents, whilst a crazed man tried to capture us. I distinctly remember that when we ran into the back garden, that there was no way to get out.
Many years after that horrible night, I have partly manifested that dream as a reality.
That nightmare is the game Silent Hill: Homecoming.


Before Silent Hill, it was Resident Evil, which was and still can be a pretty jumpy game at times to play. After Silent Hill, I was never quite the same again. What Konami managed to do that is lacking (take nothing away though), in Capcom's Resident Evil, is to continuously play on the mind in such a manner that you feel as though it may not be a good idea to ever go to sleep again or hang around in the fog or depend on a torch to light the way or listen to the radio for fear that it might pick up static, indicating that something not even Wes Craven could conjure up, is about to start chasing you down. 'You can see where I am going with this.'
The first one did me in. I couldn't bring myself to play 2 and 3, preferring the lighter mood of shooting more and more zombies. I came back for 'The Room', feeling a little fragile after about the first hour of playing, then pretty much left it alone until now. 

Somehow I thought that maybe the times had changed and that I may now be stronger in mind to handle opening that case once more. What I experienced this time around was nothing short of my expectations. I didn't go back to where I had left off, it was much worse than the last time around. 

'Holy shit!'
'The bogey man.'
He may not of appeared as a boss, but the threat of his appearance as a boss was more than enough to have me thinking please, please not now, every time that he briefly came into sight, finally slicing Alex's father in half and putting me into high alert mode that this must finally be it. But it wasn't to be and my breathing returned to that of a practised yogi after about 10 minutes of oxygen starvation. 
(There are yogi's that believe that prana is the life force and not oxygen, so no harm done).


What I love about Silent Hill, is that although the setting may stay relatively the same, the plot and the characters are ever changing. There may be the odd reference to interlink some of the stories, but there isn't the reliance on bringing the same characters back time and time again (Eastenders script writers are you reading)?



 I don't like change though, I like comfort. So with this in mind, I feel that I am constantly being pushed in a direction that I'd rather not go. In fact I played a Resident Evil title at the same time just to help me to stay grounded in familiarity. I'll review that game also at some point.

Plot

After waking from a nightmare about his younger brother Josh, main character, Alex Shepherd, is dropped off in his hometown, Shepherd's Glen, by a guy who just happened to be in the game Silent Hill: Origins. If that wasn't enough to get the mind racing, he finds his hometown covered in a thick fog and eventually his mother making less sense than a drunken Scot. After his mother mumbling on about people disappearing, Alex decides to go on a hunt for his younger brother who has...well disappeared. On his way to finding out the truth of why his mother is in such a state, Alex becomes involved in the nightmare that is Silent Hill, meeting and speaking with a host of characters along the way who are equally as foggy as the fog itself.


Gameplay

Graphically it looks as you would expect an Xbox 360 title to look. I feel that maybe it was kept back until the full powers of the latest generations of consoles (at the time) had began reaching their peak in what was possible to be done in terms of game development. Having done a little research, I found that it had originally been talked about way back in 2004.
 Most of the old haunts are here in Silent Hill: Homecoming. Thing's that you'd expect from such a game as this one:
1) Graveyard, check.
2) House you can't get out of, check.
3) Abandoned building's that you expect to be haunted, check.
4) Fiery pits of hell, check.
5) Crazed monsters and humans trying to torture and/or kill you, check.
 Plus a whole host of other psychological scenarios that mess with the mind in what appears as a much better game to look at than the previous adventures....nightmares. Add this to the fog that you cannot see in, the darkness that you cannot see in and the radio that is so loud that you do not wish to switch it on, but know that if you do not you are in deep shit quicker than you can sink in quicksand, then it all adds up into something that quite frankly you wouldn't want give to your best mate for his crimbo box, not wanting to be responsible for poor Timmy's admittance into hospital on Boxing Day. 'It's not that it's overly gruesome, it's just somehow very believable.' 
Overall it appeals to the senses. The blood is blood like, the creatures of the night are not as square looking as they once were; they even take on more realistic slash marks as you try to hold them back before running (sometimes) away.

It moves a lot better too. Walking, changing the camera angles are all improved massively. The combat controls are better to handle, also making fighting a little more... fight like and less just whacking about in the dark like a blindfolded Mexican attempting to locate a pinata. As per usual there are less guns and ammunition than there are smashing, slashing weapons (just), but all are equally easy to aim and to use. One other quite handy addition is that the main character Alex, will turn his head to look at points of interest, helping you at times to locate ammunition, health, clues and at others, I feel, just because he has noticed a stain on the carpet or just to wind you up that something is there, when it isn't. Overall it is easy to control Alex and to interact with the environment; not too much in the way of tapping combinations of buttons.



'The game itself.' 
On the plus side it plays with continuity throughout. It isn't overly complicated in storyline and doesn't take much of an effort to figure out what you think may be going on (Child sacrifice still came as a bit of a shock though). If you've played previous titles you know that at some point the siren will go off and that your pants may feel a little less dry than they did when you were just walking around in the fog. There are plenty of scarey locations to wander and plenty of monsters to keep walking at a slow pace, until the radio starts doing it's nut. Then usually it's time to speed up a little or wait for the inevitable to happen. Save points are fairly close together and the main bosses are a challenge, but not ridiculously hard to defeat. Fighting the main bosses, although a little easy at times, requires more of a tactical stance. Rather than just pumping bullets one after another, you actually have to fight, which although frighteningly too close for comfort, I actually enjoyed. The same can be said of fighting with monsters and humans alike throughout the main game play. There are also the familiar characters the nurses. If you ignore the face and the huge blade, they are quite appealing to the eye. Maybe they were made in this manner, as to encourage you not to turn off your torch, which happens to be the nurses main attraction to you? 'Cunning.'
Definitely something that my twisted mind would think of as too how can we subtly lure gamers to an erotic death? Some of the locations in the game are terrific. My favorites:
1) Crapping myself in the graveyard.
2) Crapping myself in the hotel.
3) Crapping myself in the basement of the parental home and then having a crap in loft of that same home as the schism creeped out of the shadows to terrorize me.   



 It's not overly gory. It is horrific in places. Especially when Alex ends up with the pointy end of a drill in his thigh. It's simply just terrifying to the mind. Composer Akira Yamaoka, (who came back for this game) adds to this with atmospheric music and chilling sounds that heighten at the right moments, adding to the intensity of being stalked or surrounded by monsters or there's something lurking in the fog. I like it a lot and completed it fairly quickly, without having to stay up to the early hours of the morning or call in sick to work. But to make this a fair review, I must also add to it what I didn't like about the game.

There wasn't much that I didn't like. I am going to be picky. Even though I know that perfection doesn't exist in an ever changing universe, if I was to point out anything then it would be that the puzzles in this version of Silent Hill are pants; far too easy to complete, unlike previous Silent Hill games. And that's it. The rest in my opinion made for an enjoyably, frightening experience. I've read some reviews that pulled apart the survival horror aspects of this title. Personally, I was shitting myself throughout this game. That to me is survival horror. 

So my first review comes to an end. To sum up. If you like/love Silent Hill and are yet to play Homecoming, what you can expect from this title, is a lot of what you'd expect to get from a Silent Hill game, with a new storyline, new characters, fresh appearance and lots of moments where you may cross your legs and hope that you can conjure up the bravery to go to the toilet.
Silent Hill: Homecoming score a  7 out of 10.
 Find food @justeat crack open a Dr Pepper and begin play.

Fan of Silent Hill: Homecoming? Let me know your scariest moments playing and your likes/dislikes in the comments.