You're lying prostrate on a hospital trolley bed, trundling along an almost impenetrably dark corridor. Its wheels squawk with rust as they turn. You stare up into the vacant face of the man pushing you along. He is dressed for surgery, mute beneath the blood-soaked mask that covers his mouth.
Frightened, you move to get up, only to find your wrists are held tight to the bed by thick leather straps. You wrench your head from side to side and catch the silhouette of a nurse plunging a scalpel into the chest of an unseen patient in a passing room. Welcome to Silent Hill town hospital. Welcome home.
The hospital in which the game begins acts as a prelude, a hellish dream world filled with dark corridors, locked doors and dismembered bodies where you learn the game's basics. Here as Alex Shepherd, a wounded soldier discharged from the army, you discover how to defend yourself against attackers and find and use objects to solve rudimentary puzzles. When you awake from this nightmare you find yourself in Alex's hometown of Shepherd's Glen, a neighbouring community to Silent Hill itself. Straight away things don't seem right. Fog blankets the town, people are missing and, most troubling perhaps, there are monsters clambering out of the sewers.
So begins the task of trying to find out what's going on, as well as discover the whereabouts of your father and young brother. It's a story with multiple paths and conclusions, which reveals more of itself with each playthrough.
But whether you play that far will depend very much on whether you've the stomach for its significant frights and the determination to see past its niggling oversights.
While the game shares many visual similarities to its predecessors, behind the fog there have been some changes. Alex, being a military man, is a competent fighter and can ably take down attackers in a way that Silent Hill's previous heroes struggled to.
Alex's skill lessens the previous games' feeling of being an ordinary citizen fighting against the odds and, with an overabundance of healing items, including one that completely refills your life bar and extends it permanently, the balance of power feels tipped too far in your favour.
With a revamped combat system that makes fighting more intuitive and smoother than it's ever been before, there's also a shift away from the puzzles of previous games. While there are some mind-benders on offer, these are nowhere near as taxing as they were in previous games - a shame for fans of the more cerebral approach to horror.
Likewise, while previous Silent Hill games created a creeping sense of dread, unnerving players rather than startling them, Homecoming relies too much on shocks to frighten its players. Though you will be on edge while playing, these aren't terrors that will stay with you after you switch the console off.
The game is visually impressive, its dark and oppressive atmosphere competently building upon what's gone before. Almost all of the enemies from previous games make a return, and the new additions add to the experience and don't spoil it. The result is an enjoyable, if unsubtle survival horror game, one that trades the brooding psychological dread and terror of its predecessors for all-out violence and Hollywood frights.
Workable horror, but missing some charm
- New fight system is intuitive
- Full camera control for the first time
- No inversion controls
- Occasional glitches spoil the visuals
- Too many cheap scares