Silent Hill 4: The Room
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox, PS2
Publisher
Konami
Developer
Konami
Genre
Survival Horror
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes
 
Grade
The Good

• Change in story and concept direction is refreshing
• Improved melee combat
• Excellent graphics

The Bad

• Few puzzles, bosses and too many visits to the same locations
• Main character is a bore
• Babysitting duty in second half is annoying

 
Grade
B-

The Silent Hill series has always been one of Konami's best series, providing strong psychological horror elements that separates itself most of the competition. Previous installments focused on developments of the main character and their relationship to the dark town of Silent Hill. In The Room, though, the focus is less on the main character and more on the protagonist, a disturbed man whose character is revealed in pieces. When the game starts, Henry finds himself locked in his apartment with no way to leave, except for a hole in his bathroom wall. Henry passes through this hole in the wall into a series of locations that have some connection to each other, but you won't have much idea why until you get into the game and read most of the notes that turn up. I won't go too much further into the story, but it proves to be a nice twist from the standard reactive protagonist fare.

The core gameplay of The Room is relatively unchanged - players navigate areas to locate items and fight monsters, all the while working towards a location or goal. In The Room, though, you are given a central hub (your apartment) that you can and will return to often, especially between each location. And, you'll need to visit the apartment if you wish to save your progress or do some item management. Yep, this time around you actually have a limited inventory, which will force you think about what you want or need to carry. Fortunately, there are enough portals throughout the game that you won't have to do too much excessive backtracking.

Also added to the basic Silent Hill formula is a real-time inventory that allows you to switch weapons or use items on the fly by using the D-Pad. In itself, this cuts down a lot of the menu navigation that tended to be a bit tedious in previous installments. The combat in The Room lends itself more toward melee, especially with so many melee weapons available. With only two handguns available (one of which you'll want to hold until the last boss), you'll want to keep the baseball bat or rusty axe available. While the melee combat is improved, it's still pretty clunky and can leave you open for attacks that you didn't expect.

Whether you like the gameplay or not is solely based on what you enjoyed most about the genre and this series in general. This time around, there are barely any puzzles that don't boil down to item fetching and I can't really say that there are that many "traditional" boss encounters. There are a few ghosts in the second half of the game that could be considered bosses, but you don't have to defeat them to move on. Also, the ghosts in The Room can't be killed, so get used to a lot of running and dodging. Yes, they can be knocked down and pinned to one spot with one of the five Swords of Obedience, but it's often not worth the effort. Locations are presented in a strict linear path and you'll find yourself going through them twice to get to the ending. Worth noting is the fact that halfway through the game, you'll be forced to babysit a fellow person through the game who is both dumb as dirt and slow to the point of being a hindrance. While this "babysitting" has a certain ICO-like puzzle quality, it's sure to frustrate many players to no end.

Graphically, the Silent Hill series has been well known for really pumping out some awesome graphics, which, of course, lends to drawing the player into the disturbing world that the story weaves. In The Room, things are no different, although there are some noticeable differences in execution and level design. This time around, character models are exceptionally detailed and have a nice bit of animation, giving them an eerily human quality. The game world itself exhibits a great level of detail that begs to be explored and examined. In both the first and third person perspectives, you'll find yourself looking around at all the fine details Konami has squeezed into this title.

Although I feel that the basic engine executes well, there are things I'm not too enamored with. First and foremost, the game is too bright. Previous titles used the darkness to instill a mood and sense of horror in things you couldn't see. This time around, you can see everything, even in the distance. Also, The Room lacks the monstrously fear-inducing nightmare areas that really grabbed at players. You basically visit the same locations twice, and some of these are just weird for the sake of weird, while others aren't anything out of the ordinary. When it comes to monster design, I would have to say that SH4 is probably the weakest of the series - outside of the ghosts, none of the beasts are all that menacing and a few even suffer from odd animation glitches (like the dogs that manage to slid across the ground at an unreal speed as if they were ice skating).

Audiowise, The Room executes excellently, though it does have some moments of weakness. The soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka is fantastic, filled with dark themes and haunting tracks. Room of Angel and Tender Sugar serve the story well. The core body of sound effects and ambient noise works well to solidify the experience, except in one instance - a certain enemy that shows up halfway through the game actually burps when you hit it, turning horror into instant comedy. The voicework is likewise excellent, but only if you can deal with the fact that Henry is quite possibly the most boring lead character ever.

While many of my comments about this game have been critical, I will admit that the story and atmosphere of certain locations was enough to make me want to finish. As a fan of the series, I couldn't help but appreciate Konami's attempt to change up the formula. If these changes lead to an evolved series, then I'm all for it. By the time the fourth installment was in development, many wondered if they would get stale. While The Room exhibits some growing pains, it's sure a nice step in the right direction.

- - Vane

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