Day #283: Silent Hill: Homecoming

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After the disaster that was Origins, Konami continued forward with what was to be the first Western-developed Silent Hill game on consoles. The studio that they trusted with this task? The Collective.

Now, it’s okay if that name doesn’t ring a bell, since their entire game catalog consisted of nothing but licensed shovelware. Part way through development of this new game, they merged with Shiny and became Double Helix, a studio that went on to be known for the first season of that Killer Instinct reboot and… more licensed shovelware. Silent Hill: Homecoming was to be their first project after the merger. In fairness, the end product is better than Origins. In equal fairness, that’s not an impressive feat.

What makes Homecoming so frustrating is that there are occasional glimpses at an understanding as to what made previous Silent Hill games work. The story moves forward in time whilst still having deep connections to the cult. There’s an understanding of the symbolic nature of the series and thus, the bosses are actually well designed in that regard. Unfortunately, to find more bright spots beyond that requires a lot of sifting through mediocrity.

Homecoming was seemingly designed to solve a lot of gameplay problems that didn’t exist; focusing on making the combat more intuitive and simplifying the puzzles to the point of making them infantile. An unbelievably large portion of the game involves running through too dark environments, stopping every few seconds to fight a monster you’ve seen a dozen times before. There is an unforgivable amount of fighting, most of which you can’t avoid. It’s to the point that you will often forget what game you’re even playing, running through endless patches of grey and orange in hopes of seeing another cutscene just to break up all of the combat.  Needless to say, it’s not scary.

Those cutscenes are often downright cringeworthy as well, especially in later stages where all pretense of psychological horror is thrown out the window and the game decides that it wants to be a torture porn film. Though they understood the importance of the cult, the writers made the same mistake that Origins did, trying to emulate the structure of Silent Hill 2 aka the popular one. As such, our hero Alex has forgotten details of his past and goes to Silent Hill so that a bunch of monsters can help him remember. Seriously. It’s the same exact story. They even reuse the sexualized nurses and Pyramid Head from that game, despite there being no narrative justification for either.

Homecoming, above anything else, feels… hollow. When the beloved Japanese franchise was given to a Western developer, the fear was that the latter would fail to understand the often-subdued approach to horror, falling back on generic action and slasher tropes to fill in the blanks. As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened.

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