The Silent Hill series has been a great one for Konami. Released in 1999 for the original Playstation as Konami’s answer to the Resident Evil series from Capcom, the game was well received. You basically traveled around the town of Silent Hill with a radio and weapons, trying to unlock the reason why you were trapped in the town of Silent Hill and figure out a way out of the obviously troubled town. The key instrument in the game was the radio and the static it emitted. The louder the radio got meant that the closer you were to something that was going to kill you. Add in the darkness around you and it added up to a rather frightful game.
Since then Konami has brought out 3 other Silent Hill games, the last of which I will review here for the PC. I have played the original game and Silent Hill 2 on Playstation 2. By the end of the second game I was not as enamored with the series as I was when I played the original. Things had taken a turn into the decidedly freaky camp early on in the second one when you came upon two monsters doing the horizontal mambo with each other.
Silent Hill 4 is a departure for the series somewhat. The game’s main base of operations is not in the freaky town of Silent Hill, but actually in Room 302 of an apartment building in South Ashfield, a suburb of Silent Hill. The poor soul this time around is Henry Townshend, a man who has had nightmares for the past many days about his apartment, the aforementioned Room 302. He has been trapped in his room since the nightmares began. Someone has chained and locked the door out into the hallway from the inside and he finds a nice note written in blood on the door saying, “Don’t Go Out! Walter”. After Henry sees this he hears a crash in his bathroom. A hole has now appeared in the wall and as Henry crawls through it to the light at the other side, his nightmare is only about to start fusing with his reality. So begins Silent Hill 4.
I must say that this game has some top notch graphics even though it is a port from a video game system. Ever since Silent Hill 2 it has been obvious that Konami is very keen on making characters look realistic and make the nightmare they are going look as realistic as they can. The only time the graphics look “bad” in this game is when you are in first-person mode and you get close to walls. You start to see the textures become pixel maelstroms, but it is a minor graphical failure ported over from the console versions of this game.
Obviously you do go beyond Henry’s room and into the outerworld which may or may not be the Ashfield area, but Henry is literally trapped inside of his apartment room. His only means of escape is the hole in the bathroom that takes him to new and darker places. Just looking through the window in his room you can see South Ashfield is brimming with activity, but once you go through the hole and out the other side, you find yourself in a dark subway with only you and one other person there. Throughout the game you’ll go to a forest, a watery prison, etc. It is far more varied in the sections than I remember Silent Hill 2 being. Just as before, the enemies are also well done on the graphic side of things. You’ll see a lot of the same types of enemies from previous Silent Hill games.
Music is pretty non-existent in this game, much like it has been in previous Silent Hill games. Obviously the sound is where the majority of the aural section of the game resides. This being a horror game and all, sound becomes an integral part of the overall package. The beauty of this game is that each creature has a sound all its own, so you pretty much know what you are up against when you enter a new section of the level.
When ghosts appear is when you start getting old Silent Hill type sounds where you hear a static wailing, much like you heard the static get louder on the radio. Ghosts have a different way of being dispersed than your usual creature, although their exorcism is tied greatly into which ending of the four you end up seeing.
The voices in this game are pretty good for the most part except for Henry. For all the crap he goes through in the game, he certainly doesn’t have any sort of big reaction to the fact that he is trapped in his apartment and that this hole in his bathroom goes to several locations at different parts in the game. He still delivers his lines in a “normal person” voice so to speak. Instead of being or looking generally frightened by the horror he is going through, he just kind of wades on through the story nonchalantly.
I’ve always put the Silent Hill series slightly above the Resident Evil series in how they are controlled. Resident Evil is too stilted for my tastes in the tank-like movements. In order to turn you have to stop moving and turn that way and then move forward again. With Silent Hill the control is much more about moving where you move the controller, however once you get into the fighting realm the controls tend to fail you. In previous Silent Hill games you were allowed to run away from the creatures, in this game there will be many times where you have no choice but to take care of the creatures, especially near the end when you have a companion along with you whose survival depends on which ending you get.
Control in Silent Hill 4: The Room is split between a first-person view (in your apartment) and the traditional third-person view (everywhere else). The first-person view is new for this series, so it takes a bit to get used to. With a PC the control becomes a bit harder in both cases. You can choose to use the mouse as your view mover and the arrow buttons as the way to go, but it becomes difficult for people who have played Silent Hill previously. I found the best way to tackle this game on the PC was to have a gamepad that has two analog sticks on it much like the PS2 and Xbox controllers, this will give you power over everything and actually makes the game pretty enjoyable.
The one thing I wished they would have put in this game was an targeting button. Henry attacks whatever creature is closest to him at the time he prepares his attack. AT some points you’d like to take some far away creature out before getting into the hand-to-hand/tentacle/etc. fights. The other problem is that Henry as a character is very stiff in his movements, making it hard to control him the way you probably want to.
Silent Hill 4: The Room is certainly a change of pace from the Silent Hill games I played in the past. I’d even venture to say this one has a more interesting story than the others I have played. The reason I probably like it is because this game takes place totally outside of the foggy undertakings of the city of Silent Hill. Instead of being a man who wakes up in Silent Hill (the original) or a man who falls upon Silent Hill and his dead wife who haunts him (the second one), this one centers around poor Henry Townshend and his cursed apartment complex/room.
As you play through the game you start to understand who Walter, the guy who wrote you the note in blood, is and the past of the room you live in. This room has been haunted for a long time and it is surprising that the horrors start unearthing themselves 2 years after Henry has settled into the place. In many ways Silent Hill 4: The Room has a lot of connections with the movie The Ring (or Ringu for those that saw the original Japanese movie). Much of the explanation of the problems Henry is facing can be found decades in the past for. Of course, this is the beauty of the Silent Hill universe in the fact that these people are dropped in situations they are only marginally a part of, but the situation affects them greatly.
In many ways this game plays a lot like the others in the series, except that there aren’t a whole lot of open spaces for you to run away from creatures as there were in previous chapters. The story also seems to pan out a bit better than the previous games, most likely because there is a centralized problem in this game even though you go to different parts of the other world to solve the centralized problem.
Another change of pace for the series is that returning to your apartment will allow you to recoup health until you do your second run throughs on the levels. One of the biggest hits against this game is you only have 10 slots in your inventory and multiple copies of the same item will take up one spot each no matter what. As you get later into the game you start to realize you have to be careful about your inventory because you can’t drop items except in your trunk in the room. If you’re full and you need to pick up something you’re in trouble.
The other big change is the save system. Unlike the other games where there would be different places where you could save, you can only save via the red journal in Room 302 in this game, so try to save often if you can or you may be retreading over things you’ve already done.
Overall this game is enjoyable, but for the most part horror games are not my cup of tea as they tend to skew to the freaky side a bit too much.
On the normal difficulty this game should take you a little north of 10 hours to complete and even longer if you want to see all of the four endings. What this game has is a really good story, but I’m not sure it is worth it for someone to go through the game again.