Silent Hill: Homecoming Hands On With The PipemasterS

While Fahey only went rods and cones on with Silent Hill: Homecoming at E3, I got to spend a few minutes with the Double Helix developed horror game, most of which was spent wrapping my head around the game's new control scheme. After some initial fumbling, which led protagonist Alex Shepherd bumping into walls and ambling backwards unintentionally, I got it.

It's not like Silent Hill has ever had an exemplary control set up. Homecoming at least gets some credit for making the experience feel a bit more intuitive, once one breaks old Silent Hill habits and allows for easier access to your inventory. After some grumbling — and a confused search for a quick turn button — it felt like a change for the best.

Visually, the game has gotten some flak for not feeling like much of a graphical leap. After the gorgeous Silent Hill 3 wowed PlayStation 2 owners with its lifelike characters and detailed textures, Silent Hill: Homecoming was (rightly) slammed for feeling like a step back.

It's kind of true. Our hero can look blurry, blocky and low-res under the right circumstances. The wee monitors at the Konami meeting room weren't doing the game any favors, but there are portions of the game's visual make up that look rather attractive. It won't knock your socks off, but it gets the job done.

Silent Hill: Homecoming's environments are definitely more interactive. You'll bump into chairs, knock over vases and feel like the world — while still barren and empty — is more live in.

The other big change to the series is its larger focus on action. During one brief set piece, we had to take on a demonic denizen, some spider-like humanoid thing, while riding an elevator. Pop in the head once with a bullet and it would scurry away. The experience felt familiar, but also added a bit of tension to the game. The very limited ammo made it felt more "survival horror" than psychological horror, as some refer to the series.

Hero Shepherd's expertise with swinging a pipe didn't do much to add to the gameplay — we didn't encounter much in the way of enemies — but the combo mechanic still feels a little out of place. Still, fewer deaths from average controls will be welcome in the final product, we assume.

We also solved a quick, if frustrating puzzle, one that involved rewiring an electrical box that allowed to ride said elevator. To call it uninspired would be... well, accurate.

Walking away from our brief time with Silent Hill: Homecoming, we weren't horribly impressed, but we certainly weren't willing to write it off yet. This kind of game does not demo well in E3-sized bites. It might not be such a visual treat for the eyes that some were expecting and we have our reservations about the direction, but it appears there's some of the game's spirit within.

Whether that's going to make it worthy enough of a successor or not remains to be seen.