Silent Hill: Homecoming
|Silent Hill: Homecoming|
|Developer(s)||Double Helix Games|
|Publisher(s)||Konami Digital Entertainment|
|Writer(s)||Patrick J. Doody
Silent Hill: Homecoming is a survival horror video game, the sixth installment in the Silent Hill series, developed by Double Helix Games. Homecoming follows the journey of Alex Shepherd, a soldier returning from war, to his hometown of Shepherd's Glen, where he finds the town in disarray, and his younger brother missing. As he continues on his search to find his younger brother, he discovers more about the Order, a cult, as well as the town's history, and his own past.
The game was released on September 30, 2008, in North America for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and the Microsoft Windows version was released in North America on November 6, 2008, exclusively through Valve Corporation's Steam digital content delivery service. All versions were simultaneously released in Europe, including a retail Microsoft Windows version, on February 27, 2009. The Japanese version was cancelled.
The player assumes the role of 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 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 encountered 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 everyman 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, a gameplay mechanic first featured in a rudimentary form in Silent Hill: Origins. 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: firearm handling is also rendered in a more realistic manner, with Alex having to shoulder long guns and suffering aim effects like recoil. 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.
At the start of the game, the player controls Alex through a nightmare concerning his younger brother, Josh, before Alex wakes up in the cab of a truck driven by Travis Grady, the protagonist from Silent Hill: Origins, who gives him a ride to his hometown of Shepherd's Glen. The town, named for a distant ancestor who helped found it, is covered in fog and deserted. At home, he finds his mother in a catatonic state, murmuring about his father leaving to find Josh; promising to find Josh, Alex leaves.
Alex soon discovers that many more people have gone missing in Shepherd's Glen since he left when he finds his childhood friend Elle Holloway pinning "missing" signs to a board outside the police department. As Alex explores the town, he witnesses the separate deaths of Mayor Bartlett and Dr. Fitch by monsters in the Otherworld, both of whom have a child who is missing. Back in Shepherd's Glen, Alex allies himself with Deputy Wheeler in the police department. Alex eventually learns that his father was involved in the secrets of the town and had left to attempt to resolve the town's problems, but before he is able to get answers from his mother at home, he is knocked unconscious when The Order—a religious cult from Silent Hill which has been taking people from the town— kidnaps his mother.
Alex, Elle, and Wheeler take a boat across Toluca Lake to find Alex's father in Silent Hill but are intercepted by the Order. Elle and Wheeler are taken to Silent Hill's penitentiary, where Alex attempts to rescue them. He finds his mother bound; the player must make a decision regarding whether to kill her out of mercy or not, which will affect the outcome of the game. After rescuing Elle's mother, Judge Holloway, and separating from Wheeler once more, Alex finds the Order's church, where he listens to his father in the confessional; the player may choose to forgive him, again affecting the outcome of the game. Alex later runs into his father, who reveals that Alex was never a soldier and has been in a mental hospital since "the accident" occurred. He begs forgiveness before he is killed by a monster called the Bogeyman (Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2).
Continuing to the Order's underground facility, Alex is captured by Judge Holloway, who reveals that everything that has happened is due to a broken pact. One hundred and fifty years ago, the four founding families broke away from Silent Hill's Order to move to Shepherd's Glen. They were allowed to do so on the condition that once every 50 years they would sacrifice one of their children in a preordained fashion. On this occasion, while Joey Bartlett, Scarlett Fitch and Nora Holloway were successfully sacrificed by their parents, the Shepherd sacrifice failed, and as a result, the Order had been reformed to try to appease their god. Judge Holloway tries to kill Alex, who kills her in self-defense. Alex rescues Elle from the facility and, after finding Wheeler injured and allowing the player to choose whether to save him—once more affecting the game's ending—continues on alone to find Josh.
Realizing he was the intended sacrifice, Alex experiences a flashback showing Josh's true fate. When Alex was younger, he had taken Josh rowing out on the lake, where Josh showed Alex a ring, which his father had chosen to give to him instead of Alex. Out of jealousy, Alex struggled with Josh to try to take the ring, and as they fought Josh accidentally fell into the lake and drowned. His father retrieved the body and explained that Alex had "ruined it for all of us", since he had chosen Alex, and not Josh; unable to accept Josh's death, Alex was then sent to the mental hospital, and with Josh instead of Alex sacrificed, the Order's pact was broken. After fighting the final boss, the manifestation of Josh's spirit, Alex finally has the chance to apologize and states that he never wanted Josh's death. Alex leaves the family ring and their father's angle-head army flashlight on Josh's body and exits the chamber.
There are five endings available, which depend on the player's actions during the game, including whether the player kills Alex's mother, forgives Alex's father, and saves Deputy Wheeler. These range from the single positive ending to the game—where Alex comes to terms with his past actions and reunites with Elle to leave Shepherd's Glen—to three other endings: Alex getting drowned by his father, waking up in the hospital and receiving a shock treatment, or being turned into a Bogeyman. There is also a joke ending, where both Alex and Elle are abducted by a UFO while Wheeler witnesses. In addition to these endings, if the player collects all of Josh's pictures or clears the game on the "hard" difficulty, a first-person post-credits scene is played where Alex finds Josh sitting on the bottom bunk of his bed and Josh takes a picture of Alex with a 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. Lead designer Jason Allen described the intentions of the development team to be to maintain the depth of storytelling and atmosphere of the series whilst making combat more intuitive and less frustrating. 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 Brian 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. It was the first game in the series to use surround sound. 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. Homecoming's soundtrack was released on November 24, 2008. McGlynn provided vocals for four tracks.
Homecoming 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 for cuts to be made to pass the German censors after the uncensored version was rejected by the Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle. The game was re-submitted after being altered in the same way as the Australian version and received the highest rating possible as a result (Freigegeben ab 18 Jahren gemäß § 14 JuSchG, meaning 18+).
On November 19, 2010, the Amtsgericht Frankfurt am Main confiscated all Xbox 360 versions imported from the UK (thus being uncensored) for violation of § 131 StGB (representation of violence), effectively banning it from sale within Germany.
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, because it 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.
Homecoming's average at Metacritic is 71 out of 100 for the PS3 version, 70 out of 100 for the Xbox 360 version and 64 out of 100 for the PC 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.
Praise was given to the graphics and environments, 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." 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.
The music, written by series regular Akira Yamaoka, and the ambient audio, were 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" and did not fit in so well. Voice acting, which has traditionally been seen as one of the series' weaker points, was evaluated 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." Some critics expressed disappointment at the predictability of the main twist in the story regarding Alex's predicament, while 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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- Travis: Bad dream? Alex: Yeah. [They arrive in Shepherd's Glen.] Travis: Hometown? Alex: You could say that. Travis: Well, good luck, soldier. Alex: Thanks. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex: This is my great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Isaac Shepherd. He was one of the founders, and they named the town after him. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex's mother: Alex. What are you doing here? Alex: I just got discharged. I've been in the hospital for a bit, but I'm all right now. Alex's mother: You've been gone too long. Alex: Yeah. Where is everybody? Where's Josh? Alex's mother: I don't know. Your father went to look for him. But now he's gone. Everyone's gone. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex's mother: I miss your brother, Alex. Alex: Look, I'll find him. I had this dream... I just have a feeling he's in trouble. Don't worry about it, I'll find Joshua. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Elle falls off a chair she is using to reach the noticeboard. Elle: Dammit! Alex: You always were a klutz. You okay? Elle: Alex? Oh, my God, Alex! Alex: Hey, Elle. Your mom told me I might find you out here. Elle: Oh my God, it's so good to see you. Feels like it's been forever. [...] Alex: Jesus. What the hell's going on here? Elle: I don't know. Every day there are more flyers to put up, every day more people disappear.
- Alex: Mayor Bartlett? Mayor Bartlett, I need to talk to you. [...] What about your son? Don't you wanna protect him? Mayor Bartlett: My boy? I didn't do much right with him, but I did buy him some nice things... remember, Joey? Remember that nice present I got you? Alex: I'm looking for my brother Joshua, and I know he used to be friends with your son. Have you seen either of them? Mayor Bartlett: Joey? Er, Joey doesn't want to play with you. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex: Doctor, do you need help? You're bleeding bad. Dr. Fitch: Don't you TOUCH me! I bleed out the sin, but it grows back. So I must let it out every day. Alex: I can stop the bleeding. Dr. Fitch: I don't want your help! These wounds cannot heal. Alex: Why did you come to this place? Dr. Fitch: I come here to remind myself. It's the only place I go where she listens to me. Alex: Who listens to you? Scarlet? Is she here? Dr. Fitch: She's here with me, now. My baby... my beautiful child. Daddy forgot to bring you a present today. She loves dollies. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex: Deputy Wheeler? Wheeler: Well, well. Back in the land of the living. [...] Alex: Last I saw him he was passed out drunk on the ground. [...] I'm just trying to find my brother, okay? I thought the mayor might know something. His son is missing too. [...] Wheeler: So you've seen the creatures too...? Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Adam's letter: I have failed, and they know it. They blame me. They should. I swore to protect this town, but I can't. The streets decay before our eyes. The curse we always feared has come upon us. Worse yet, The Order has returned, kidnapping and killing with impunity [...] But they've taken our people. The only thing left is to face the source of this evil, to fight it, and pray that some hope can be restored. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex's mother: You don't know anything about Silent Hill! Alex: I know dad went there. He went to go fight something. Did he go to get Joshua? Is that where Josh is? God damn it, tell me! Alex's mother: Oh Alex, I'm sorry. Alex: Stop pretending you care about me! Start telling me what's going on! Joshua is the only one you ever cared about, and I can help him, if you tell me what's going on! [The Order members arrive and kidnap his mother, and knock Alex to the floor in the struggle.] Order member: Forget the Shepherd kid, let's move. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Wheeler: Alex. There's a light up ahead. I think we might be at the pier. Alex: What should we do? Wheeler: Turn off our light. I don't want anyone to know we're coming. Elle: Aaah! Alex: Elle! Two Order members are holding onto Elle at the back of the boat. Elle: Get your hands off me! More Order members grab Wheeler. Alex: Wheeler! Another boat crashes into theirs, sending Alex into the water. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Wheeler: Alex, are you there? Alex: Wheeler, is that you? Wheeler: Talk quietly, Alex. Thank God you're okay. Listen, they've taken us to the prison. It's horrible. They took Elle, and they're about to... The radio cuts out. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex: (whispers) Mom. Jesus, what did they do? Alex's mother: Alex? Is that you? [...] Your father and I, we loved you so much. But they said we could only choose one. [...] Ahhh! It hurts so much. Please stop. Make it stop. Alex: Mom, I... I can't... I... Alex's mother: Please, Alex. please... Alex gets his gun out. Choice 1: Ok, I'll do it. Choice 2: I'm sorry, I can't. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex: Judge Holloway... Holloway: Alex!!! Wheeler: Quick, you get her loose before they start pumping the gas, I'll shut off the valves. [...] Wheeler is swallowed by a monstrous wall opening. Alex: Run! Get out! Get out of here! I'll save Wheeler! Holloway leaves. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex's father: Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. It has been four years since my last confession. [...] Alex: What could you have done that was so terrible? Alex's father: I took my role as a father and I turned it into a daily chore. I fed him, I cleaned him, I put him to bed. I treated my dog with more respect. And when I was given a second son, the first might as well have been a stranger sleeping in our house. Choice 1: Sounds like you can change. Choice 2: You don't sound sorry. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Adam: I never meant to hurt you, son,. I had to make a choice, and now I'm paying for it. We all are. After all I've done, you still wear my old dog tags... that must mean something. Alex: What are you talking about? These are mine... I'm a soldier just like you wanted. Adam: Alex... you've been in the hospital... Alex: I know. I was wounded in battle. Adam: No... a mental hospital. You've been there ever since the accident. [...] Alex, forgive me. Alex: No!!!! Adam is skewered and cut in two by the Bogeyman, who then leaves. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Holloway: The founders, they had good intentions. They left the Order to start a new life in Shepherd's Glen. But they feared the wrath of our God, so they made a pact to keep us safe. All that was required was a small sacrifice... our children. Once every 50 years the founding families must make an offering to appease the god. One of our children, our own flesh and blood, struck down by our own hands. I did what was required. I watched the light fade from Nora's eyes as I took her life... Knowing that her death would protect our family, protect Shepherd's Glen. Alex: My god... Josh... Holloway: No Alex, one of us failed—lacked the strength to fulfill his duty. Your father. Alex: Where's Joshua?! Holloway: Don't you see? Because of him, our sacrifices were in vain! The pact with our god was broken, and your father's lack of conviction cursed us all. Our only hope was to revive the Order which our founders abandoned... The true faith. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Judge Holloway reaches for a drill. Alex: Don't... look, I can help you with all this. There must be another way. Holloway: No, Alex. It's time I finished what your father couldn't. He screams as she rams the drill through his leg. Alex: Ahhh!!!!! Alex breaks through the restraints, and a struggle ensues; gaining the upper hand, he pushes the drill through her head. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex: Wheeler... Wheeler: Ahhh! Choice 1: Give him a medkit. Choice 2: No, he's too far gone. Alex: You need to get him out of here. Elle: What about you? Alex: I can't. Not without Joshua. Elle: Be careful. I can't lose you too. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex: It's the Shepherd sacrificial altar. There are four names written on the plaque. Daniel Shepherd / Thomas Shepherd / Rebecca Shepherd / Alex Shepherd Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Alex rows the boat in the lake; Josh has the flashlight. Josh: What are we doing here, Alex? Dad'll freak if he finds out. [...] Alex: It's okay. I'm not going to let anything happen to you. Josh: Why are we here Alex? What's going on? Alex: What's the matter... you scared? [...] Dad thinks you're a little baby who can't do anything on his own. Josh: Oh yeah? Then why'd he give me this?! Alex What is that? Josh: Dad's ring, but he told me not to show you, so I guess that makes me cooler. Alex: Let me see it. Josh: No! Alex: What a piece of crap. Josh: No it's not, he told me it's worth more than a million dollars. That's why dad gave it to me. Give it BACK! It's mine! They struggle, and Josh slips, falling into the lake. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Adam holds Josh's lifeless body. Adam: This is not the way it's supposed to be. I chose YOU. Now you've ruined it for all of us. Alex: No...no...he's okay...right...? No, I can save him... I can, I can save him. I can save him... he's okay... Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- One of four texts for each family in the entrance hall to the altar room describes the Shepherd family's method of sacrifice. We, the Family Shepherd, in order to ensure our continued protection and prosperity, do enter into this Holy Contract with our God, accept our duties as Master of Arms and willingly consign our child to the water in God's name. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
- Josh's corpse emerges from the monster's mouth. Alex: Josh.... I'm sorry, Josh. I never meant for this to happen. He places the family ring around his neck, and the flashlight on his chest. Here buddy. Take this... I forgot... Josh.... I'm sorry... He exits. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
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- Alex surfaces from a sewer, and a noise sounds. Alex: Elle... They are interrupted by a noise, and the camera pans to a UFO above. Alex: Aww, shit. They float upwards together, and an injured Wheeler limps below them. Wheeler: So THAT'S where they've been taking everybody. I knew it! The UFO flies off. Double Helix (2008-09-30). Silent Hill Homecoming. Konami.
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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.
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