Silent Hill 4: The Room

The same features that made the Silent Hill series a hit return in Silent Hill 4.


The Lowdown

Pros: Improved controls and solid graphics added to the already creepy Silent Hill formula

Cons: Ridiculous puzzles make playing the game without a guide a nuisance

Purchase at Play-Asia
Imagine waking up for a dream where a ghost is materializing through your living room wall to find you're chained into your apartment building. Henry Townsend, the main character in Silent Hill 4, has such an experience. Soon after Henry finds himself trapped he also finds a mysterious portal that leads him into an abandoned subway, where he is told that he is in someone else's dream. Of course this sounds a little confusing, but it's the standard Silent Hill surreal story.

While the story has some definite Silent Hill elements, Silent Hill 4: The Room plays quite differently from the other Silent Hill games. The first big change is the control scheme. Instead of using the awkward digital control, Konami takes advantage of the Playstation 2's analog sticks. You can move Henry around with the left analog stick. Another change is that there is an instant inventory menu, where you can select your items on screen. This means there is no menus or disruptions to go through to select another weapon or item. Another change is Silent Hill 4 plays like a bunch of different stages. You'll be entering different areas through portals in your apartment. Every time you complete an area you'll go back to your apartment and then to the next portal. For better or worse this eliminates all of the running around and finding different areas like in previous Silent Hill games.

Even with these changes Silent Hill 4 is still a Silent Hill game so you've got a lot of elements from the series. The monster design is as innovative and creepy as ever. The first monster you meet is a mutated dog that has a habit for biting whatever comes its way. Ghosts are in the game and they pull themselves out of walls. Unlike previous Silent Hill games, Henry doesn't have a radio, but when a ghost is nearby it makes a screeching sound similar to the radio static. Some ghosts have a special attack where they will reach and grab Henry's heart making him cringe. While the monsters have new attacks, Henry has something up his sleeve. Silent Hill 4 gives you the ability to "charge" your melee weapons by holding down the attack button. Henry can unleash a couple of different attacks depending on where you let go. This means you can make your own custom combos and have control over how much damage you want to do.

One of the elements that Silent Hill has carried over, for the worse, is the ridiculous fetch puzzles that the survival horror series is known for. Silent Hill 4 doesn't contain many puzzles where you have to push objects or solve some mystery. Henry mainly plays hide and seek looking for items to use. The inventory system makes the whole item finding process ever so more tiring. Henry can only carry a limited amount of items at anytime. If he has too many items he has to go to the apartment and drop them off in the only storage box in the game. Deeper into the game there are way too many items and weapons for Henry to hold, which forces the player to make unnecessary arduous tracks back to the apartment to acquire different items in hope of solving a puzzle. If you don't pick the right item you'll have to go back to the apartment to get other items from your "inventory".

Where Konami neglected time in the inventory system, they put a good amount of time in the presentation of Silent Hill 4. The ambient horror movie soundtrack returns in Silent Hill 4. For the most part the background music is subtle. Just enough to hear a jarred tune that sounds like it belongs in a haunted house instead of a video game. Loud sound effects are thrown in now and then when creatures arrive for some cheap scares. The voice acting in the game is done in English and it does sound OK, even if the actors sound a bit rigid. The graphics is Silent Hill 4 do look pretty nice. Henry has a good character model with a lot of details and animation. You can even see the detail in Henry's face with the in game graphics engine, while he's fighting. The creepiest graphical effect in the game is how the ghosts come out of the wall, Konami did a great job with that effect.

Even with the fluid game control and the improved graphics Silent Hill 4: The Room is still just another Silent Hill game. Sure the controls make the game more accessible to non-survival horror gamers since it is more intuitive. On that point, Silent Hill 4 doesn't deviate from the survival horror genre and it wouldn't be a surprise in this fell into the seemingly bottomless pit of survival horror games. To be honest, there isn't that much that differs Silent Hill 4 from other games of the same genres, except it's decent story and presentation.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0

Konami has added an option to toggle the in game text between English and Japanese. Even the voiceovers in the game are in English with Japanese subtitles, which is a nice treat for importers.

US Bound?

Silent Hill 4 is slated for a North American release.

Overall

Even with its quarks Silent Hill 4: The Room is a solid entrant in the survival horror genre.