Silent Hill Homecoming- First Playthrough Thoughts Part 1: Beginning up until the part where you kill the first enemy

I originally started this game back in december, so I have forgotten most of the finer details of the first 20 minutes; however I do recall the first moment when I realized this game might be a troubling experience. The initial gurney ride into the hospital at the start of the game had me interested: being strapped into a gurney was not something I had experienced in a game previously. It also reminded me of the beginning of the hospital scene from the movie Jacob’s Ladder, in which protagonist Jacob Singer is strapped to a gurney as he is wheeled into a demonic hospital. Team Silent, the original team behind the first 4 silent hill games, named Jacob’s Ladder as one of their inspirations for the games, and it would appear that the new team, Double Helix, has also been influenced by this movie. Unfortunately, inspiration doesn’t stop there, as the doctor carting us around is soon run through by Pyramid Head’s great knife. Although only his weapon is seen, it is obvious Pyramid Head has returned to the Silent Hill franchise. There is exactly zero justification for his inclusion in this game; the only reason for his presence is fanservice to those who played Silent Hill 2. Pyramid Head was a great part of Silent Hill 2, but he was created explicitly for that game, and his design is rife with symbolism and meaning that only functions in the context of his game. I supposed the argument could be made that he represents the same things here, but I find that highly doubtful considering the questionable design choices made later in this same level.

Between this scene, and the save point before the bathroom where we find the knife, I only recall two things. One, we find Joshua, the younger brother of protagonist Alex Shepard, behind a door that appears to be from a prison cell, although I have forgotten everything that happens in that scene. Second, there is a jumpscare. The setup for this jumpscare is that we need a code to enter into the numberpad on Joshua’s door, so that we can reach him. The first half of this code is written on an x-ray, so we must travel a few rooms over to where we can pick up the other half of the x-ray and complete the code. It is on the return journey to the backlit board where we found the first half that the ceiling hallway jarringly collapses. Jumpscares are the reason I avoid horror media like the plague, and their notable scarcity in the first 4 games is why they are the some only horror games I have played and enjoyed. The inclusion of a jumpscare here in the tutorial level of Homecoming is deeply worrying to me; it is as if the developer’s didn’t understand that Silent Hill was notable for is lack of jumpscares, instead frightening players by creating an unsettling atmosphere through strange sounds, disturbing visuals and odd background music. I suppose the one positive thing I have to say about this moment is that, even though the dev team completely missed the point, the ceiling collapse happens on the return trip when the player might feel safer traveling through familiar territory, rather than the initial journey in which the player will likely be more cautious of such threats.

One change to the game that I didn’t immediately catch was the change to the controls. The tank controls of the previous titles have been removed, in favor of a traditional control scheme. (Tank controls, for those unaware, is a control setup in which pressing left or right does not move the character to the side, but rather rotates them in the chosen direction, and pressing forward/backward always moves the character forward/backward in the direction they are facing.) I’m torn on this decision, because I feel like traditional controls do not at all work with the oppressive, heavy atmosphere of the Silent Hill franchise, but it would not make sense for our protagonist ,Alex Shepard, to utilize the tank controls of the first 3 games. The protagonists of the first 3 were all average people, which is reinforced by their awkard movements in the hellish environments they traverse. Alex, however, is a returning war veteran, so it would be more fitting of his charater to have the precise movements offered by a traditional, non tank control scheme. At the end of the day, I prefer the tank controls for this kind of game, but I won’t lose sleep over it, due to the way it is justified here.

It was at the first save point where I noticed the first technical issue of the game, as opposed to the design flaws that were quickly eating away at my faith in this being a worthy successor to the original games. I was playing the PC version, at 1920×1080 internal resolution to match the size of my screen. However, this caused the map to display improperly; it was zoomed in strangely, and most of it was cut off, rendering the map completely worthless.

(9 hours later edit: The map glitch, zoomed out and then in. Oddly enough, the

zoomed in version is actually the more useable one, as you can scroll it over to

see the rest of the area, whereas the zoomed out one does not scroll at all.)

(For reference, the map when it is functional)

My interest in this game was fading fast, and it only took until the very next room for it to die completely for the next 5 months. Even though my map was crap, there was only one door forward. The next room contained the first weapon of the game, the knife. At this point, the world transitioned to the Other World, and one of the stalls burst open, revealing more shamelessly repeated content a bubblehead nurse. The bubblehead nurse was, similar to Pyramid Head, a monster crafted specifically with the story and themes of Silent Hill 2 in mind, so its inclusion here is baffling for the same reasons. Faced with the first enemy, and armed with their first weapon, it is time for the player to come to terms with the awful combat. Unlike the previous Silent Hill games I have played (1-3) this one features a dodge roll technique, and places emphasis on combos and appropriately using light and heavy attacks. The combat in this game sucks. The combat in these games has always been rather poor, but it was fine because combat encounters were kept brief, and were typically very easy to overcome. Enemies generally never took many hits to go down, and the fact that the combat was very simple, consisting of only one attack button, meant that it never felt like an important part of the game. Enemy encounters were used to set the atmosphere of the level by controlling its pacing (players are not able to speed through the level as fast as they can discover it, as they risk sustaining damage) creating tension (players often are not able to see the monsters, only being aware of their presence by the static they cause the player’s radio to emit, forcing them to play carefully around the unseen threat) and relieving tension (monsters never respawn, meaning a room is safe once cleared). The upgraded? combat is certainly more tactical and energetic, but the frenzied nature of the new combat only serves to undermine the moody atmosphere of the game.

After I killed the first nurse, my desire to experience more of this game had been depleted, and I didn’t touch it again until today. (Currently 2:54 a.m. on April 30th, I picked the game back up about 6 hours ago, so the night of the 29th, a time span of roughly 5 months.) Now that I have got the experiences of 5 months ago out of the way, I would like to continue with what happened yesterday, but this one is getting long enough. In the next part, I will recount my tale from when I reloaded that first save point and defeated the first enemy again, the unfortunate design decisions surrounding the second glory hole in the Silent Hill series, and the ill fated tale of trying to collect the steel pipe. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

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