Silent Hill: Homecoming is a survival horror game developed by Double Helix Games and published by Konami Digital Entertainment for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows. The game was released in North America in 2008 and in Europe and Australia in 2009. It was never released to Japanese audiences due to cancellation.
The game's plot revolves around Alex Shepard, a military soldier returning to his hometown of Shepard's Glen. When he arrives, he finds that the town is not what it used to be. In addition, his father, his brother, and numerous other residents of the town are missing. So Alex must explore the town and locate his brother, Josh.
The player assumes the role of the protagonist, Alex Shepherd, a Special Forces soldier who returns home from an overseas tour of duty to find that his father and younger brother are missing, and that his mother has gone into catatonia. Alex begins to search for his brother, leading him to Silent Hill after searching his hometown of Shepherd's Glen.
Overall gameplay is similar to past entries in the series. The player, as Alex, explores the various environments and locales, searching for clues to advance the plot, such as photographs, drawings and other items which are placed inside Alex's journal, which the player may read at any time. To assist the player, Alex will turn his head towards items and clues to inform the player that the object may be picked up; other recurring items include weapons and ammunition, which give off a glow as a visual cue to the player, and health drinks. Puzzle elements also play a part in the game, and Alex's journal may be used to refer back to photographs and other items that can help the player decipher such puzzles as keypad entries. For the first time in the series, the player may select responses when engaging in dialogue with other characters he encounters in the game, which in turn may affect how the player sees the plot unfold.
In addition to exploration, combat is another major element to the gameplay, and the player must fight the various monsters that appear. In contrast to the more naïve protagonists of previous games, combat in Homecoming takes into account Alex's experience as a soldier. The player is able to perform light and heavy attacks, or mix them to perform combinations, and may also perform a variety of finishing moves to ensure that the monsters are dead. Attacking enemies also leaves wounds in them that match the motion carried out by Alex in inflicting the attack. In terms of controlling Alex, the player may also perform new maneuvers such as targeting the enemy before attacking them, dodging enemy attacks, and performing counter-attacks. As well as melee weapons, pistols, rifles and shotguns are available as firearms, which can be upgraded to stronger versions later in the game. In addition to the changes in combat, and unlike previous entries in the series, the player is also able to fully control and rotate the camera as they choose; one analog stick controls player movement, and the other controls the camera.
Chief designer of Silent Hill Homecoming, Masashi Tsuboyama, announced the game's development in a 2004 interview with Eurogamer, in which he also debunked previous internet rumors that it was to be called Shadows of the Past. No information was initially imparted about the platform the game would appear on, other than it would be appearing on the next generation of consoles, which had yet to be released. Around two years later, an interview with composer Akira Yamaoka revealed more information; he hinted that they had hoped to carry on "plans of the earlier Silent Hill platforms", and that the team were creating a title with the idea of "fear in daylight", with similar psychological roots to Silent Hill 2. The suggestion that the story and gameplay would be more like that of the second entry in the series in the way the player is directed, and in the character's behavior, was reaffirmed in a later interview, along with the idea of creating the game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms.
However, most of the ideas previously hinted at were not found in subsequent information releases. At E3 2007, a new teaser trailer was displayed by Konami that revealed the title of the game to be Silent Hill V, and that the game would be released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Further to this trailer, Konami executives also revealed that the developer would not in fact be Team Silent as in previous iterations, but that, like Silent Hill: Origins, it would be developed by a Western developer, The Collective. The Collective had merged with Backbone Entertainment in 2005 to form Foundation 9 Entertainment, and Foundation 9 then merged The Collective with Shiny Entertainment to create Double Helix Games. The team had been working on the production of Harker, another survival horror title, but this was placed on indefinite hiatus during Homecoming's production.
Double Helix drew inspiration not only from past installments in the game series, but also from the first Silent Hill movie adaptation; this is most evident in the transition from the normal world to the Otherworld, whose "ripping" effect almost matches that found in the movie. Other similarities from the same source includes the reaction of nurses to light, the bug-like creatures seen in the movie, and the Pyramid Head rendition, known as the "Bogeyman" in this game. Homages to previous games in the series include a reference to the long-running joke of the lead character placing their hand in a toilet bowl to retrieve items. The script, in-game journal entries, and instruction manual were written by Patrick J. Doody and Chris Valenziano, based on the story and the summary of events provided by lead designer Jason Allen, lead artist Brain Horton, and lead level designer Daniel Jacobs. Despite the change in development team, Akira Yamaoka returned from past installments in the series to create both music and sound effects for the game. Yamaoka wrote 70 minutes of music for the game, and insisted on working with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn to provide vocals, as fan reaction to her voice on previous Silent Hill titles has been favorable.
The game had difficulties in passing censors in some countries before it could go on sale. The Australian classification board, the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), refused to classify the game, due to "impact violence and excessive blood effects". The objectionable scenes included various body parts being drilled into, as well as the bisection of a character by an enemy. This had the effect of banning the game for sale in the country, and representatives for publisher Atari mentioned that they would be asking Konami to tone down the violence to allow the game to receive the needed MA15+ rating for its sale to be permitted in early 2009. The German version of the game was also postponed to 2009 in order for cuts to be made to pass the German censors.
Homecoming was released in North America on September 30, 2008 for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. The PC version, which in North America, Central America and South America is only available via the Steam content delivery network, was intended to launch on the same date as the console versions, but was delayed, finally becoming available on Steam on November 6, 2008. A European release on all platforms was intended for the same month, but the title was delayed in the region to February, 2009. In contrast to the American regions, a PC retail release on DVD was made available in Europe.
|GameRankings||71.82% (Xbox 360)|
70/100 (Xbox 360)
|Official Xbox Magazine||6.5/10|
Homecoming received at Metacritic 71 out of 100 for the PS3 version, and 70 out of 100 for the Xbox 360 version. Aggregate site Game Rankings gave a 71.82% aggregate score for the Xbox 360 version, and a 71.28% for the PS3 version. As the second external developer working on a Silent Hill entry, and the first for a home console iteration, Double Helix were under scrutiny from reviewers and Silent Hill fans to see how a Western developer would handle the franchise; many reviewers found the change in developer to be a positive move overall, while some, acknowledging faults in the final product, expressed interest in seeing further Silent Hill games from the same developer. In contrast, Zero Punctuation commented that the game was as an example of Japanese franchises being downgraded by Westernization, particularly in the different approaches taken to induce fear in the player. Evidence of this can be seen in the monster design. In Homecoming the enemies tend toward a motif of weaponry and invoke a more reactive sort of fear. Whereas in previous installments, enemy monsters were alien yet still very obviously human and familiar in nature, which created an instinctual kind of fear. A feeling that made them more disturbing or "slightly off" rather than just outright scary or surprising.
Positive reviews were given to the graphics and the environments in the game, described as "fantastic", with Shepherd's Glen in particular being "rendered brilliantly", and "the upgraded visuals bestow a filmic quality to everything and the world's eerie transformations look better than ever". Some surprise was expressed at the darkness of the game, with the flashlight seemingly having less effect than in previous games, and making some markers, such as doors, hard to spot.
Also adding to the atmosphere is the audio, with music written by series regular Akira Yamaoka. Yamaoka's music and ambient audio was received well, being "atmospheric, moody and beautifully presented"; combined with "an amazing score", the audio goes "a long way toward establishing the expected Silent Hill mood", though some concern was expressed that the music was "somewhat misplaced" with the game and did not fit in so well. Voice acting, which has traditionally been seen as one of the series' weaker points, was reviewed as better than the series' usual attempts, but occasionally "flat" when more emotion was needed.
The game's plot received a largely mixed reception. While some reviewers graded it positively, describing it as "intriguing and disturbing", it was also noted that it "isn't particularly original, and there are no great surprises", even though it "still makes for a very involving journey into the macabre". Several reviewers likened the story to a subplot of the main Silent Hill mythos which, while able to "stand on its own", "barely mentions certain characters which fairly dominate the backstory of previous SH games". Further to the mixed reception of the plot, some critics expressed disappointment at the predictability of the main twist in the story regarding Alex's predicament, whilst others found it "genuinely shocking". Croshaw's Zero Punctuation review was generally negative, stating that while the level design, story and combat were all competent the game had little to do with what he liked about the Silent Hill series and would have been better served as a completely different franchise.
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- McWhertor, Michael (2007-07-11). Silent Hill V First Screens, Developer Named. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2008-10-08
- doublehelixgames.com. Retrieved on 2008-10-08 “Double Helix Games was formed in 2007 from the combination of veteran game developers Shiny Entertainment and The Collective.”
- Magrino, Tom (2008-04-22). Foundation 9 buries Harker. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2008-10-08
- Sterling, Jim (2008-08-20). "New Silent Hill: Rubbish Pyramid Head confirmed (also, November release)". Does it Suck? (Destructoid.com). http://www.destructoid.com/new-silent-hill-rubbish-pyramid-head-confirmed-also-november-release--100409.phtml. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
- Danny Smith (8 February 2008). Interview with Patrick J. Doody. Retrieved on 17 August 2010 “My writing partner, Chris Valenziano and I were hired as the game's writers. Now, that term "writer" has a different meaning in electronic gaming than it does in television or film. On a game, the entire design team has a large hand in doing much of the writing. Even before we knew that there was a Silent Hill 5 happening, The Collective had broken story and compiled a summary of the game's events - all of which were written by the lead designer, the lead artist and the lead level designer. [...] On top of working on the story, we had to write all the cinematics, environmental signage, hundreds of dialogue slugs, journal entries and the game manual.”
- Yamaoka, Akira (2008-09-26). A New Kind of Fear: Silent Hill Homecoming Interview with Akira Yamaoka. Interview with Jayson Napolitano. Original Sound Version (OSV). http://www.originalsoundversion.com/?p=562. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- Pattison, Narayan (2008-09-29). Silent Hill Aussie Ban Update. IGN. Retrieved on 2008-10-08
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- Steam (2008-11-06). "Silent Hill Homecoming Now Available on Steam". Press release. http://store.steampowered.com/news/1986. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
- Orry, James (2008-10-23). Konami confirms Euro delays. Videogamer.com. Retrieved on 2008-10-31
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- Hudak, Chris (2008-10-03). Silent Hill: Homecoming - PS3 Review. GameRevolution. Retrieved on 2008-10-09
- Croshaw, Ben (2008-10-22). The Escapist : Zero Punctuation: Silent Hill Homecoming. Retrieved on 2008-11-17
- Reeves, Ben. Silent Hill: Homecoming. Game Informer. Retrieved on 2008-10-09
|Silent Hill series|
|Silent Hill - 2 - 3 - 4: The Room - Origins - Homecoming - Shattered Memories - Downpour|
|Play Novel - Arcade - Orphan - Book of Memories|
|Silent Hill - Silent Hill 2|