Silent Hill: Homecoming was a game that I personally enjoyed, and played through a number of times before I got tired of it. I got three of the five endings (Good, Bogeyman, and UFO) and didn't really see as many flaws with the game play mechanics or game's presentation as a lot of other people seem to have had. However, I will admit that this is probably for two reasons: 1) I think I really took the game at face value because its story seemed so irrelevant to the other games that my mind didn't even really try to connect it to the other titles and 2) the atmosphere and straightforward nature of the games narrative so sorely lacked the obscurity and thought-provocation of the other titles that I really just thought of it almost as a stand-alone title. Upon closer examination, I think that's almost the best way to look at it, and here's why.
I. Silent Hill: Homecoming Doesn't Add Anything to the Overall Narrative:
There's nothing we learn in Silent Hill: Homecoming that has anything to do with the town itself. While some proponents of the game (if any do in indeed exist) that Silent Hill: Homecoming fleshes out the nature of the cult or otherwise relates it to the theologies of people living in nearby communities, there was nothing the game presented that really seemed to fit anywhere. There were a few fairly obscure references to past Silent Hill characters, such as Deputy Wheeler's reference to the disappearance of Cybil Bennet and a newspaper article written by Douglas Cartland (both of which felt like crude fan-service), but nothing of any real intrinsic value is discussed about the town other than the events which led to the divergence of the Shepherd’s Glen sect from the main cult, which can really only be considered as being of any importance at all within the game’s self-contained storyline.
II. Everything About The Map Is Wrong – Very, Very Wrong:
So, I recently found myself leafing over a few of the maps from past Silent Hill games. I did this using primarily web resources, and hence found myself doing a little bit of research. During this research, I came across very artful fan-made version of the town map in its entirety. I really liked the way this map looked, and found that it well reflected the cohesiveness of the Silent Hill universe as it was presented in Silent Hills 0-4. Then I got to looking at the map for Silent Hill: Homecoming, and found myself scratching my head. Not only did the map of Shepherd’s Glen orient itself in a way that would make it very difficult to place about the shoreline of Toluca Lake (impossible if you consider the new map in Silent Hill: Downpour), but the map of Central Silent Hill itself was also changed in such a radical way that it difficult to even think of it as Central Silent Hill at all. The Silent Hill (Town) article on the Silent Hill wiki summarizes these changes as follows:
In the 24 years since Silent Hill, Central Silent Hill has undergone change. Sagan Street has been divided in half by buildings so that the western half is now a cul-de-sac. Koontz Street is also significantly shorter and ends perpendicular with Canyon Street. Acadia Road no longer exists. In place of the Cafe Sun is Toluca Lake Water and Power. Wein Street is completely absent along with the Artaud Theater, with Overlook Penitentiary standing in its place. The shoreline of Toluca Lake has significantly receded inland. A Boiler Room has replaced the Taco Shack.
A lot of these changes don’t even make sense. Why change the streets in such rudimentary ways? Why and how would you replace a single café with a power plant? Why would you replace a theater and an entire avenue with a prison in the central district of a resort town that already had a prison? And why would you replace a random restaurant with an even more random boiler room? All of these questions and more are never addressed.
III. The Game Isn’t Memorable And Lacks Real Substance:
Silent Hill: Homecoming has very little depth and virtually no symbolism. Surely you could bullshit a meaning for the monster designs, but there’s no real symbolism or meaning behind anything that appears in this game. Previous Silent Hill games have always had convincing reasons and explanations for why various things occur. Homecoming lacks this. Furthermore, while many previous titles have had numerous references and derivative source material, such as the original Silent Hill’s reference to various famous authors and Silent Hill 3’s inclusion of various plot elements from Jacob’s ladder and Session 9, Silent Hill: Homecoming lacks such inspiration. It doesn’t really pay very much attention to detail and doesn’t give you anything to talk about afterwards like any of the other games previously mentioned.
IV. The Atmosphere and Vibes Are Completely Different:
The monsters are obviously different and are much more aggressive and combat-oriented than the beasties presented in previous titles, but more significant than this discrepancy is the change in the town’s environment. We still have the small abandoned town permeated with supernatural fog, but it feels different somehow. It’s more open and less claustrophobic. You have more people around, and you don’t feel alone. It’s just not the fog world we used to know. And the Otherworld has been entirely changed from a blood-soaked version of your own personal hell physically incarnated to a generic, copy-pasted industrial wasteland. Not a very intuitive approach if you ask me.
Given all of the artistic, geographic, and narrative discrepancies which exist between Silent Hill: Homecoming and the previous titles, this iteration of the series is very difficult to place in the series canon. Fortunately, given its lack of relevance to the previous titles, the game is also fairly easy to write off. Hence, I like to think of it as a separate, Silent Hill-esque adventure with a similar premise and storyline. If one insists on placing it in the cannon, then look no further than the Hospital ending; the entire story all took place in Alex’s head. That Alex… Quite a vivid imagination that guy’s got, huh?
Anyway, that’s my two-cents on the whole issue. I thank anyone who took the time to read, and henceforth open the door to discussion on this topic. Do you agree with me on this issue? If so, does your evidence match mine, or do you perhaps have other reasons to support your beliefs? If you think I’m wrong, what makes you think so? I look forward to hearing these points, as well as any other insights all of you might have on this particular issue.