So Silent Hill Homecoming sat on my shelf for a whole year and I never even took the plastic off. I wanted to–don’t get me wrong–I just had other games ahead of it in the pipe (and, frankly, my game-hours-per-month was down in the single digits for most of 2009). So after I finished Cursed Mountain a while back, I decided to make Homecoming my next game.
I’m several hours in now and so far it’s pretty good. The camera, which I identified back in 2007 as a potential problem, is indeed not very good. It’s not that the camera doesn’t work, it’s just that it’s a standard, 3rd person camera. All of the composition and framing that the previous Silent Hill games have done is lost on this Western 2-stick generic system. Other than that, things are pretty good. The Silent Hill vibe is well captured, the influence from the Silent Hill movie is clear and not nearly as annoying as I feared it would be. Pyramid Head looks good (though it remains to be seen if they’ll actually use him correctly or just make him a cool-looking boss), the combat system is pretty slick, and the levels are pretty well designed. I’m surprised that there have been so few Otherworld transitions so far; by this point in any other Silent Hill game, I would have gone into and out of the Otherworld several times, but as it is it’s only shown up once or twice (and even then for very short durations).
I will say that the game has a few issues above and beyond the camera. After playing for a while this evening, for example, I stopped being able to bring up the item menu. I can bring up the weapon menu, and if I try to transition from the weapon menu to the item menu, I can see the item menu appear for a brief second, but then it drops me back in the game (I even tried to switch the buttons around to confirm it’s not some problem with my controller). This is a problem because it means I can’t access health drinks, and that’s a problem because all of a sudden the difficulty of the game has spiked. I’ve gone for three or four hours without a single death, but at my current save I’ve died ten or fifteen times (the last two or three because of this bug with the item menu, admittedly).
This brings me to another problem: after fifteen deaths I realized that I’ve actually been carrying a gun around for most of the game. The gun icon appears at the bottom of the screen, far away from all the other weapons, and though I’ve probably had it since the first hour of game play, I never saw it there and never once used it (the game probably told me that I collected it, but after that I probably saved and promptly forgot it was there). I only found it because I tried hitting the d-pad in a desperate hope that the health drink command was mapped to some other button (no luck). The game hasn’t been very hard so far and I really haven’t needed the gun (I mean, Silent Hill is about lead pipes), but it sort of sucks that it’s been there the whole time and I didn’t even know it. I even dispatched a boss or two without ever realizing it was there.
So, my impression so far is that the game is pretty good. It knows the history of the Silent Hill series and has chosen a path that is sincere to that history without being a carbon copy (unlike some other games I could mention). I’m disappointed with the camera (especially for the indoor environments) but I like the combat system. The game’s been pretty easy up until this one difficulty spike, but the real problem is probably that the UI for the item and weapon screen is a) buggy and b) hard to read. The bugs will probably go away with a system restart, and now that I know to look more carefully at my item screen, I hope I won’t miss an important part of my inventory again.
If my impressions were a terrorist threat level, I’d be “guarded but optimistic.”