Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: Silent Hill 4: The Room

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Silent Hill 4: The Room

I've been playing through Silent Hill 4: The Room (NTSC/J) since I got it last week and I figure I've seen enough to post some impressions. I might mention some details, but no major spoilers.
First of all - it's different. This is not just another Silent Hill game. While many of the hallmarks of the SH series make an appearance, the game is significantly different from the previous three games. You're not even in Silent Hill for much of the game. The game really centres around your apartment in Ashfield.
When you are in the apartment, you view the game from a first person perspective. Outside of the apartment, the game switches to the traditional third person view. This approach really gives the player a much more intimate connection with their home; one that is exploited as the game progresses. So you're trapped in your apartment, but are able to visit alternate worlds through a hole that appears in your bathroom wall. There is no more item screen, all item use or weapon switching is done on the main screen in real time (meaning that you may be getting mauled while you're at it). There are certainly loads of weapons to collect, though most of them are not terribly effective and many of them break after a while. The melee weapons feature a new charge up system, allowing you to wind up a really big swing. Without saying too much, weapons are not always the answer in SH4.
Voyeurism is the key theme explored in the game. While trapped in your apartment, you can look out through the peephole in your door, out the windows or even spy on your neighbour, though nobody can hear you no matter what you do. The voyeur theme is developed throughout the rest of the game too. Looking out the windows is very reminiscent of Hitchcock's Rear Window - one of many influences that SH4 wears on its sleeve. Japanese horror films The Ring and Ju-on (The Grudge) seem to have made their mark, and David Lynch and Stephen King also get a nod.
I've read many reviews of SH4 that have been critical of certain "flaws" in the game. In my opinion, many of those criticisms have been misplaced. You no longer have an unlimited capacity to carry items. You can only carry ten items and you can't combine them (ie- 10 bullets takes up one slot, so thirty takes up 3 slots). You can only drop items in the chest in your apartment. There are very few healing items. You can't save your game anywhere but your apartment. These are not flaws - they are deliberate changes to shift you out of your comfort zone. If you dive into SH4 expecting to get away with the same techniques you used in the previous three games you will get a rude shock. Right from the beginning, the game gives you clear hints that you'll need to play strategically. I can't say I have a problem with the new game mechanics at all. I've never even come close to using all my item slots.
There are far fewer puzzles this time around and IMO the game feels better for it. Surely the evil cult of Silent Hill had better things to do than go around setting up Resident Evil-style puzzles all day. That's not to say there aren't any puzzles - the Water Prison puzzle really did my head in for a while there. I thought I had solved it - I was wrong.
The graphics are at least the equal of SH3, so no complaints there. The game is almost entirely fog-free (and where there is fog, it isn't used to cover draw distance). The soundtrack is largely atmospheric and unobtrusive for the most part, creating a suitably ominous and oppressive feel. The action and puzzle elements take a backseat to the story and the atmosphere in SH4. I haven't finished the game, so I can't judge the whole story yet, but I like the way its developing and the little creepy ways in which everything is getting steadily worse and more messed up.
Silent Hill 4: The Room is a departure for the series, and a welcome one in my view. It looks like it will do little to develop the mythology around the SH cult (which is probably best left unexplained), but offers up another twisted journey into hell for those who want it.

Note that the screens above are all real-time rendered. Like SH3, there are no more pre-rendered scenes - Konami really have mastered PS2 graphics.


Blogger Kirôz said...

Wow, great man... I'm a big fan of those series, specially this one, with this big walter thing and Henry, I think your review it's the most fair I've ever read, keep going, it's a nice game, Ihope you had seen the end

8:52 am  

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