"Silent Hill," fantastic; "Silent Hill 2," arguably even better. I couldn't tell you what "Silent Hill 3" or 4 were like. The series lost me at that point.
"Silent Hill: Homecoming" may bring me back to the fold.
It's not being developed by the missing-in-action Team Silent at Konami Japan, but American outfit The Collective doesn't seem to have bungled what has undoubtedly been a colossal task for them.
The Collective has refrained from "Americanizing" the "Silent Hill" franchise. They've taken something Japanese creators have traditionally done best (atmosphere), melded with something else America's usually excelled at (refined combat).
It's a very satisfying mix.
"Homecoming" opens with an opening very much influenced by "Hostel." Your character is shuttled through a grimy hospital, while unknown individuals are torn apart, their screams echoing as you're shuttled to what seems to be your doom. It's far less subtle than the openers of previous "Silent Hills". It's very Western-minded.
You're immediately dropped into the game world, smashing on the A button to break free from the traps holding you down. It's a smart idea to mash the button, because some thing just made the demented surgeon outside your door its dinner.
I was playing an Xbox 360 version of the game at a Konami event last week. The publisher also had the PlayStation 3 version up and running.
Even though I was playing "Homecoming" in a loud environment, the scares worked. High-quality headphones probably helped, but I tend to play scary games in complete darkness. This was anything but. Nonetheless, the sounds and scares were incredibly effective. Twice during my time with short time with "Homecoming," I jumped, lost a little breath and almost dropped the controller.
Thankfully, no one seemed to notice.
One simple item puzzle later, I encountered the game's first enemy: the nurse. She stumbled towards me, twitching disgustingly, clutching a knife. The game prompted me with a new combat technique: lock on. You expect lock on in every game these days, but it's new to "Silent Hill." It's easily the most significant addition. Multiple moves, gun play -- those run second fiddle to being able to concentrate attacks on a single enemy.
But back to the nurse, my favorite part. The animation on "her" was phenomenally disturbing. It certainly felt like The Collective took notes while watching Christophe Gans' "Silent Hill" movie from a few years back. Her movements are almost note-for-note the same. You want nothing more than to stab her so she'll stop moving.
Even if "Homecoming"'s combat was stiff and random as in previous "Silent Hill" games, it's not the focus. The environments and the creepy crawlers within them are the showpieces. "Homecoming" nails that. I didn't explore more than the initial hospital area, but I'm hoping the rest holds up.
"Silent Hill" hasn't been on the top of its game for a few installments now. Maybe a fresh perspective is just what the series needed. It's got me hooked again.
***Have a hot tip? Is there a topic that Multiplayer should be covering and isn't? Maybe you can convince me "Silent Hill 3" is worth playing. Drop me an e-mail.