This week Yahtzee's ass remains safe while he reviews Silent Hill Homecoming.
Previously on Zero Punctuation
And now the conclusion
The bad news for you lovers of spectacle is that, while Silent Hill: Homecoming isn't that bad a game, my arse gets to stay right where it is. My promise was to chow down if the game convinced me that the series is not over. And I can already hear the words "cop out" ringing in my ears, but even though it didn't give me too large a hernia, Homecoming doesn't feel like a successor to Silent Hill 's 1 through 4.
There's no way of saying this without sounding like the kind of Japanophile, Naruto cosplaying, subtitle watching Westerner who spends his every waking hour gargling Pocky and cursing the roundness of his eyes, but I expected this the moment the franchise moved out of Japan. I was certain that the new American developers would do what Americans always do: muscle in on another culture's territory, try to impose their own values, and fuck everything up. Just like they did in Iraq.
The Japanese approach to horror tends to be slow building, oppressive, emphasising the horror of being totally alone with something that hates you in a very passive-aggressive way. While American horror is more about putting a fucking chainsaw on your arm and slicing your way through waves of slavering baddies who all respond like blow-up dolls filled with raspberry jam. (Actually, I'm pretty much describing a Resident Evil game there, so maybe I'm talking out of my delicious, uneaten arse).
But the point is, Silent Hill always used to belong in the former category. It was subtle, psychological. Typically you'd wander bleary-eyed around deserted streets for half an hour before you even saw a monster. And especially in Silent Hill 2 (which I would remind you once again is a proud member of my personal best games ever superstar tag team), a lot of them seemed more interested in raping each other than actively pursuing you. Sounds boring, but since you're expecting horrors to jump out and gob on you at any moment, it puts you in the right mix of loneliness and anxiety that keeps you on the edge of your seat without even needing jump-out scares. Homecoming 's so excited to be here that it has you in a rusty toilet stabbing a zombie nurse in the tits before you can do your flies up.
Silent Hill: Origins and the movie both did the same thing, so let me give a blanket statement here: drop the fucking big-titted sexy nurses. The only reason they looked like that in Silent Hill 2 was because the spectacularly neurotic James Sunderland was looking for his sexy wife and they represented his frustrated libido. Alex in Silent Hill: Homecoming is looking for his kid brother, who I very much doubt was a double D. And what have the new monster designs got to do with anything? A spindly man with a banana skin for a head? What, was Alex's brother once tramautised by a smoothie?
Pyramid Head also makes his contractual appearance, for no better reason than fan service. His big scene involves him walking across a room and pausing at one point to lingeringly stare at the camera, stopping just short of doing a little song and dance routine. The whole effect is a game that's trying so hard be a part of the big boy's club that you can practically hear the disc straining with the effort.
The trademark sense of isolation is another point the game misses like a champ when you're given a spunky female sidekick. This is another peculiarly American habit that seems to always go unchallenged: why does a love interest subplot have to be shoehorned into everything? Imagine if there was some kind of parallel universe where every game and movie, regardless of genre, was required to incorporate at least one line dancing competition. We'd think they were all raving lunatics! And yet here's us forcing in an out-of-place, cheesy romance scene that's more agonizingly painful to watch than any of the actual horror the game is supposed to be about.
And if that's not enough, you get a wise-cracking black friend drenched in stereotype. Towards the end, there's a bit where you're given the choice to either save him or let him die, and I could not hit that "No" button fast enough, I tell you that. Then, of course, they had the cheek to give me a bad ending. It's like they had some kind of generic Hollywood movie checklist to fill in. Which makes sense, because the game borrows heavily from the similarly overdone Silent Hill movie, to the point that I half expected there to be a level where you play as Sean Bean doing something totally fucking irrelevant.
I can't help being biased. I once courted a game with golden hair and shining eyes and mouth that could suck the moon through a drinking straw, but our dalliance had to end. And while I've been working my way through her modestly hot sisters, none of them will ever compare to those halcyon days.
So let's try to judge Homecoming by its own merits. The environments are well done, but some of the levels are a bit linear and feel like arbitrary padding. Thought you could slip a quick sewer level past us and no one would notice, did you, lads? The story is a lot more creative than Silent Hill: Origin 's "let's just dump this twat in a haunted town and see how he goes," but the dramatic twist ending was about as shocking and unpredictable as the sun rising in the morning. The dodge move takes a while to master, and even then it only works when the engine is in a good mood.
Shooting is the only way to guarantee not getting at least one bit sliced off with every fight, but haunted towns are affected by the economic crisis, too, and they can't afford to leave many bullets around. But you know what? That's a good thing. Survival horror combat is supposed to be hectic, panicky, and often not worth it. If I'm not dreading every single monster encounter, then it's not horror, is it? It's just setting up an unpaid pest control business.
You don't actually spend much time in Silent Hill the town, so the thought occurs that if they'd dropped that aspect, changed the looks of the monsters, renamed it something like The Adventures of Captain Scowlyface and released it as a whole new franchise, I'd probably have been kinder to it. Maybe if the original creators of something don't want to continue it, then you should listen to them. Because otherwise you're only making it to please the fans, and why would you want to do anything for fans? I mean, I'm a Silent Hill fan, and I've just spent a whole review whining like a broken motor. Fans are clingy, complaining dipshits who will never, ever be grateful for any concession you make. The moment you shut out their shrill, tremulous voices, the happier you'll be for it.
(Incidentally, why not buy a Zero Punctuation t-shirt?)
- Haunted by the guilt of his dead career: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Also there is officially no shame in using GameFAQs to solve that bloody coat of arms sliding block puzzle
- Silent Hill's gotten pretty fucking noisy all of a sudden
(Yahtzee gives new dialogue to phone conversations in Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill)
(Heather Mason picks up the phone. "Karma Chameleon" plays for a bit)
Yahtzee: Hello, this Lesley from the cleaning service returning a call from Mr. Mason. . .Hello? Anyone there? *Coo-ee* I know there's someone there - I can hear your nose whistling.
Heather: Who are you?
Yahtzee: Oh, Heavens to Betsy, you can talk. As I was saying, this is Lesley calling for Mr. Mason about the blood stains. I just need to tell him it's gonna be a slightly bigger job then we thought.
Heather: Is this Leonard?
Yahtzee: No, no, Lesley. Listen, I can't. . .what. . .what is wrong with everyone? I'm trying to keep to a schedule here, and all I get are people going around like today's the day they set aside for acting like Captain Sillybollocks or something!
Heather: You've got me mistaken for someone else. Today's not my. . .
Yahtzee: I know today's not actually. . .look, luv, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. I'm just having a rough day. I lost one of the three symbols I need to unlock my front door this morning and I'm just a little bit narky, all right? Look, tell your daddy that I'll call him back. I've got three other clients breathing down my neck, and they're looking very ugly.
(Harry Mason picks up the phone)
Yahtzee: Ah, hello. Mr. Mason? Lesley, from the cleaners. We're gonna have to charge you a bit extra for the blood job.
Harry: Who are you?
Yahtzee: Oh, fuck off!