Silent Hill: Homecoming was developed by American company Double Helix Games and published by Konami in 2008. It was released for PlayStation 3, XBox 360 and Windows and is the sixth instalment in the Silent Hill series.
In this game you play as Alex Shepard, a soldier returning from war to his hometown of Shepherd’s Glen. There he finds the town in disarray and his father and younger brother missing. His mother, while still at home, has descended into catatonia and doesn’t know where they are. So Alex sets out to find them. The plot of this game reminded me of the classic 1974 horror film, Deathdream, directed by Bob Clark and starring Richard Backus as a Vietnam veteran who returns home from the war into… erm, a rather weird situation. If you haven’t seen Deathdream I highly recommend it.
Silent Hill: Homecoming is definitely the goriest Silent Hill game to date, with some gruesome mutilated bodies littered around the landscape. If you’re squeamish the game might not be for you, but then again: the Silent Hill series has never been for the faint of heart. There are also plenty of jump scares too (or at least: gags that attempt to make you jump, like dead bodies falling down from the ceiling in front of you, or wheelchairs rolling down staircases). The developers seem to want to try every trick in the book when it comes to jump scare cliches, which does bug me a little because Team Silent were generally more subtle with their scares than this.
Combat and movement are more or less the same as in previous games. You’ve got to equip a weapon and press the attack key/button to be able to make swings with the knife or shoot a gun. The game auto targets for you, depending on where Alex is looking.
The iconic Silent Hill killer nurses return in this game, but (rather cynically) they’ve been turned into busty undead ‘sexy’ zombies with short skirts, which I thought was rather unnecessary. They’re the first enemies you encounter and are reasonably easy to kill. The second enemies you meet – giant insects called Swarms – are more challenging to deal with because they crawl, fly, and even latch onto your body. So to deal with them you have to use three different techniques (either stomp them on the ground, slash them with the knife if they’re flying, or press ‘dodge’ to get them off your face). Things ratchet up a notch when you meet a Lurker (which are the third type of monsters you encounter) and dealing with them can be tricky. They can knock you down, but you can dodge their attacks if you’re quick enough. The thing to learn with combat in Homecoming is that specific types of attacks are super effective against certain types of monsters, and using the wrong type of attack puts you at a disadvantage. In ‘normal’ mode combat is fairly easy to get to grips with, though – at least until you meet Needlers, where dodging at the right time is key, then counter-attacking. Which is not easy.
Another Silent Hill staple is that you can only save the game at specific save points, but they’re quite frequent. Maps again play an important part of the game but the map viewing system in Homecoming is pretty poor to be honest. One major difference to previous Silent Hill games are the conversation options when talking to NPCs. I don’t know if these make a difference to what happens in the game, but I do know that certain choices will disappear if not chosen. It might be worth playing the game with a walkthrough if you’re concerned about them.
Graphically, Silent Hill: Homecoming is pretty good. Environments are well-constructed and characters are well animated. The lighting and shadows are good, and visually the game looks a lot better than Silent Hill: Origins (which came out on the PS2 the same year as this, in 2008). The developers have insisted on using the dreaded “analogue noise” effect, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was in Origins.
The music is good in Homecoming and is subtle and reminiscent of earlier Silent Hill games. I’ve never been a big fan of the songs in these games, though, and they’re used from time to time. I think they’re out of place in a game like this, to be honest.
Silent Hill: Homecoming experienced censorship problems in Australia and Germany where it was toned down before it could be allowed a release. The PC version was also widely criticised by players for being buggy and crashing a lot during play. I must admit that I had problems getting it to run after buying it on Steam recently and had to look online for a fix (tip: don’t run it through the Steam client; make your own shortcut to the executable, and in compatibility options tick the box to disable desktop composition. That worked for me). Also: when changing the screen resolution make sure to choose only your monitor’s native resolution; anything else seems to crash the game. Also: Alt-tabbing out of the game will crash it more often than not.
Overall, Silent Hill: Homecoming is enjoyable to play, but it does have issues. Mostly technical issues, and PC owners will experience these differently depending on their setup. I don’t think Homecoming is anywhere near as good as Silent Hills one to four, but it is a damn sight better than Origins. I liked the extra movement options, like being able to leap over low walls, squeeze through narrow gaps, and duck under low holes, and it’s fun to play the game with a mouse and keyboard at a high frame rate (although you can play it with a gamepad too).
Is Silent Hill: Homecoming worth buying and playing now? I’d say so. I bought the game in a sale for £1.79, which is an okay price. As mentioned above: it took me a little while to get the game working on my PC, which is not very good, and Homecoming does seem to disappear from sale on Steam from time to time so it might be worth grabbing if you see it available cheaply. I bought it in the Steam Halloween sale in October 2022.