Crispy Gamer

The Five: Silent Hill: Homecoming

While the upcoming Resident Evil 5 has been grabbing the attention of survival horror fans, Konami's Silent Hill: Homecoming has been quietly lurking in the shadows. I got a chance to take a spooky stroll around the world's worst neighborhood and I was sufficiently wigged out. And that's a good thing.

1. You play as Alex Shepherd, the latest in a long line of those with the crappy luck to end up in the fog-shrouded, ghoul-infested town of Silent Hill. He's there looking for his little brother who, apparently, didn't have the common sense to simply get lost at the local mall. Nope -- he had to get lost in Creepyville.

2. If you thought that blood-splattered walls and strewn-around body parts were unsettling in standard resolution, the game pushes the Disturbing Meter into the red in hi-def. The heightened detail and improved lighting and fog effects add to what was already one of the most graphically unnerving franchises.

3. The ambient soundtrack will, once again, screw with your head. And according to a Konami spokesperson, it'll do it in full 7.1 surround sound (at least on the PlayStation 3). Expect the usual mix of scary atmospheric music, strange skittering sounds coming from places they shouldn't be coming from, and the occasional crying of a baby.

4. Alex isn't afraid to mix it up. Unlike the "everyman" main characters from previous Hills, Shepherd is a war vet. The game is still a balanced mix of puzzle-solving, exploration and combat, but the combat system -- which has been the weak link in past games -- has gotten retooled to let you take advantage of Shepherd's skills.

5. You still won't understand what the hell the story behind Silent Hill is, but -- like the slowly unfolding mythologies in series like "The X-Files" -- you may have a slightly better understanding of why things are so wrong after playing Homecoming.

I dig the Silent Hill games, and being able to test drive the first next-gen take on the series was a kick. The upgrade in graphics and the improvement in the combat system should make checking out Homecoming a no-brainer for anyone looking to get the daylights scared out of them while they game.

This preview was based on a hands-on demo of the game at E3.