Update: Seems like a few people have been reading this old review for whatever reason, so I wanted to point out that in a later post I talked about how short the game was. Great game otherwise but disappointingly short with a crappy ending. So – rent, don’t buy.
So, per Kevin’s recommendation, we picked up Silent Hill 5: Homecoming for the PS3 on Saturday. I’ve played it a few hours and must say I’m quite impressed with the direction they took the series in this installment. Kevin and I have been fans from SH1, but we did skip the fourth game. I was following this game’s development and knew they were planning some interesting changes to gameplay, but I lost track of the game and it slipped under my radar with it’s recent release.
The biggest improvement to the game is the control system. Now, as I said above, the last game I played in the series was SH3 so this is a big step up. Silent Hill 3 (like the two previous games) uses the tired, old-school, RE style of clunky controls that makes you feel like you have little control of your character. SH5 totally changes this. This game plays more like a shooter then a classic survival horror game. Granted, the controls are not quite as seamless as a game such as Army of Two, but it is a welcome change non-the-less.
The left stick is used for movement. This involves moving forward, sidestepping, and backpedaling. The right stick looks around and also changes which way you are facing. A click of the right stick gives you a handy first person looking mode. Though you can’t move around in this mode nor aim a gun this way (at least that I’ve figured out so far). L2 engages the combat stance this time around and R2 is fire, firearms also have a melee swing option now and a reload button. Aiming has a cross-hair now and you can aim around in third person similar to (but an improvement over) Resident Evil 4.
For the melee weapons (which have always been an important thing in the series) they’ve created a two button combat system. The standard strong-weak formula applies here, with a system for stronger combo moves that feels like Dynasty Warriors. With some skill, the basic combat knife they start you with is a very effective weapon. This is nice as, with the previous games, you’ll probably be using melee weapons more then anything. There is also a handy dodge button that even allows for counter attacks.
So, any veteran of the series can clearly see this game now has a much more action oriented combat system. But, if that’s not your thing do not let it worry you. There is still plenty of wandering around in pitch black buildings and thick fog and yes, puzzles and reading too. This game certainly did not sell out the feel or environment of the series for action. Said environment is even more intense with the pretty “next-gen” graphics and Havok powered interactive environments.
I know the interactive environments were a hyped topic, but thankfully it was not overdone. There are still plenty of non-moveables, so the game doesn’t get ridiculous with everything you touch bouncing all around or falling over. The setting and the monsters certainly give this game an intense and scary feel. This and the creepy sounds, strange music, and classic radio static all still add up to a game that certainly feels like Silent Hill.
I have not played long enough to touch on the story, but it seems pretty standard, so far, for the series. IE: it’s creepy and makes little sense. Back again is the same map system which has always worked. Though on a non HD TV the map (with it’s only two zoom modes) is either too far away to read or annoyingly close up. An “objectives” screen is a welcome addition, meaning if you don’t play the game for a week and can’t remember what you were doing you have that at least. They revamped the inventory system a bit and that takes some getting used to as well. I imagine it is better system once you do though.
Bottom line: The new control system and graphics alone should be enough to sell this game to a fan of the series. I’d recommend it if you like the Silent Hill series, Resident Evil 4, and/or survival horror games in general. With the new action oriented control system, there is probably a little bit for everyone in this title. It is certainly good enough to keep you sated until the release of Resident Evil 5.