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New to the Silent Hill franchise is Alex Shepherd, the lead character, as a discharged war vet. Having spent some time in a military hospital, Alex is not in the best shape, though he is the first main character to ever have some combat experience.
The story starts with Shepherd being wheeled in a gurney through the read and orange barrage of images of an abandoned hospital. Shepherd seems confused about his surroundings as he starts to gain consciousness. He inquires about his squadron, wondering about the fate of his men.
Shepherd becomes alert and realizes he is in a straight-jacket. He panics, trying to figure out how he got there, as men are being tortured around him. His questions are ignored as he is wheeled under bright lights in a room that looks like a surgical gallery. He loses consciousness again and everything fades to black.
This is where the player takes control of the game for the first time. Action commands must be used to break out of the harness as people are being killed right outside the door. The scene is grisly at best. Blood-soaked surgical tools are scattered all over the floors. Shadows make grotesque figures on the walls. Blood is everywhere as you observe the scenery with nothing but a flashlight.
Shepherd moves through the hospital only to be faced with locked doors all around. He comes upon a small boy this is oddly familiar to him. The boy, Josh, is locked behind a gate. This begins the first mission as Shepherd must find the code to unlock Josh, who is humming and coloring a picture as if he was in a daycare center and not a blood-splattered medical facility. When inquired how he got there, Josh only replied that someone brought him.
Shepherd finds one-half of the code amids bodies lining the walls and falling from the ceiling. (I’m not going to tell you exactly where; you will have to play the game to find out.) He must then investigate the chilling sound of a baby crying. He comes upon a room with three incubators; one of them has a burnt doll inside. The other half of the code is found here and the baby immediately stops crying after finding it. It seems almost like a setup.
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After releasing Josh, he goes off and the real party starts. In true Silent Hill fashion, the screen is filled with super-saturated colors as the Otherworld becomes present. Getting his first weapon in the form of a combat knife, Shepherd must now face his first baddie.
Eventually, Shepherd finds Josh again only to return to reality. All of it seemed like a very vivid bad dream. We then find out that Shepherd has had these dreams so frequently that he left the military worried about his brother…Josh. He is hitchhiking home and got a ride from the same trucker from Silent Hill: Origins. He is soon in Shepherd’s Glen, the small town where he calls home. Everything is out of place in the town and at his house. He learns from his mother that Josh has gone missing and he must now search the deserted Shepherd’s Glen for him.
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Playing any of the Silent Hill games is an intense roller coaster ride of terror; Homecoming delivers on the authentic roots of the franchise. Solving puzzles, finding keys, defeating terrifying monsters and interacting with citizens were all things I expected, quite successfully, to find in Homecoming. What I didn’t expect was to be thrown into the Otherworld quite so quickly.
The creatures were as vile as ever as I went up against some that were familiar (the regular nurses and Pyramid Head) and some that wasn’t so familiar. Some new baddies were Smog (who emitted poisonous gas and appeared corpse-like) and Needler (who appeared more human but had blades for legs).
The graphics of Homecoming were true to form and added to the ambiance of the game. The audio was spot on and gave grave detail to each scene as it added to the frightening tension. Composed by Akira Yamaoka, the music was both beautiful and eerie, which made the experience that much more creepy.
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I greatly enjoyed Homecoming. I was impressed that Konami didn’t try to rework the formula that made Silent Hill successful in the past. Silent Hill: Homecoming is now available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the PC. I highly recommend you get your copy today.