Silent Hill 4: The Room
Content at a glance:
Computer Platform: Xbox (Microsoft)
Produced by: Konami
Price Range: $11-20
Learning curve time: 1-30 min.
Age level: Mature Teen to Adult
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Reviewed By: Zach Walton
VOLUNTEER GUEST REVIEWER
Christian Rating: 1 of 5 (awful)
Gameplay: 3 of 5 (average)
Violence: 1 of 5 (extreme)
Adult Content: 3 of 5 (mild)
Silent Hill 4 is a weird game to review. It started out its life as a game separate from the Silent Hill series but was converted over to Silent Hill halfway through development. None of the development teams from Silent Hill 1 through 3 worked on it except the series music composer, Akira Yamaoka, served as the producer. The game plays similarly but differently to past games to the series. Does the changes to the classic formula ruin the Silent Hill experience or does it serve to better it?
The story starts out with our protagonist, Henry Townshend, waking up in his apartment to find his windows locked shut, his electronics not working and his door locked from the inside with industrial strength locks and chains. It’s not long that he finds a hole in his bathroom that leads to an unknown location. Sensing his only chance of escape, he goes through but ends up in an alternate nightmarish world.
The biggest difference in the story this time is that the game doesn’t take place in Silent Hill. Instead, it takes place in South Ashfield, a small town that borders Silent Hill. The story, however, is tied to Silent Hill and its mythos in a big way. It explores the main working force behind the events that occur in Silent Hill. Fans of the previous games who want to know more about “The Order” will get their fill in Silent Hill 4.
The game is violent. That even seems to be an understatement. The beginning of the game opens with, “Some parts of this game may be considered violent and cruel.” They hit the cruel part right on. Part of the game is witnessing murders and they are always quite gruesome. In previous games, you could perform a stomp to kill the enemy after you downed them. This game focuses on combat more and therefore, the stomps are brutal and Henry even seems to relish in it. Some weapons also provide unique finishers such as the shovel where he impales the enemy in the back with the shovel and then stomps on the shovel. Hitting enemies causes more blood to appear than previous games.
Usual PG fare language. It’s more frequent than past games but still nothing horrible. It never made me feel like they were cursing just for the sake of cursing like some games do.
One of the first characters you meet asks you to accompany her. She promises a “reward” for your efforts. Granted, she never gets to fulfill this “reward” but it’s still there. Upon multiple playthroughs, you can unlock different outfits for characters. One of the characters is dressed in an S&M (Slave and Master) outfit and the other is a revealing nurse outfit. Neither is necessary as they are rewards for completing the game several times.
This is where every Silent Hill game gets its bad press from. The occult does play a major role in this game. More so than any of the previous Silent Hill games. What sets this game apart however is that your character is never participating in the events but rather fighting it. You read memos that explain the horrors this cult did and you really want to stop this. The main villain is a production of the cult’s twisted teachings. By the end of the game, I felt truly sorry for this man. I wanted to save him from all this. One of the other major gameplay innovations is that your room can become haunted and you have to use certain items that you find in the worlds that can exorcize these ghosts. The hauntings range from windows opening and closing to blood coming out of the faucet to demon babies appearing on the wall.
The gameplay is standard Silent Hill fare. Usually involves exploring environments, finding items to solve puzzles and fighting the various monsters that inhabit the worlds. The game puts more focus on combat so there are very few logic puzzles in the game. Most of the puzzles just involve gathering certain items and putting them somewhere else. The one that comes to mind most clearly is finding all 5 parts to a doll’s body and reattaching them to open an entrance.
The combat isn’t changed at all from previous Silent Hill games. You hold the Right Trigger in and press A to swing your weapon. The only change is that now you have a small yellow circle by your health meter that you can hold in the attack button to perform a charged super attack. It’s a high risk/high reward system that I found useful only in the most difficult of fights. Most fights you can do the usual regular swinging to down most enemies.
The other change is that you can no longer carry an infinite amount of items. You can only carry ten items on you at one time and same items do not stack. So if you want to carry two med-kits, that takes up two slots. This is why carrying guns and bullets is not wise as they take up so many slots. This adds a dose of strategy to item management as you must carry a weapon and some essential items but allow enough room for the items that you’ll find in the levels to solve puzzles with.
You can save at only one spot in the entire game. That spot is your room. Most levels have multiple portals back to your room though so it’s like having multiple savepoints per world but it’s kind of annoying sometimes having to travel back and forth. I think I watched the traveling through the hole scene back and forth from my apartment over 200 times.
About halfway through the game, it turns into an escort quest. You must escort Eileen through all the levels that you visited before with the villain constantly chasing you. If she dies, it’s game over. It’s an interesting mechanic but it gets really old especially when you’re doing it for the latter half of the game. The AI is smarter than Maria showed in Silent Hill 2 but it’s still pretty bad. At least she can equip a weapon and defend herself but this proves to be more problematic than it should be. When you’re trying to get to a door and exit the area, she’ll go after any remaining enemies to kill them instead of following you.
The graphics are fantastic. The environments have great texture work and really show off how far these games have come in making things look degraded and rusty. The character models are all motion captured so the facial expressions are spot on. The only problem is when you’re playing this game on the Xbox on an Xbox 360, there are some unfortunate graphical glitches that prevent the awesome facial expressions from truly shining. The problem is that whenever a character’s face changes expression to speak or make a different face, the facial model starts to crack open and holes appear in it. This is most annoying when a character has their eyes closed and you can see their eyes through their eyelids.
The voice acting is pretty good. The lines are delivered with enough “oomph” to keep it from sounding force but never get any better than that. They get the job done. The sound work is fantastic. You want to play this game with good speakers or headphones to hear all the industrial sounds and various screeching effects put into the levels. The music is also another reason the sound excels. Akira Yamaoka has definitely outdone himself this time with the music. The best part about the music is the vocal work that appears many parts in the game.
Silent Hill 4 is a worthy addition to the series. It’s definitely the most disturbing of the games thus far and it has a great atmosphere about it. A lot of the changes offer a different way of playing the game but don’t necessarily make it better. My final verdict is that Silent Hill 4 is a must for fans of the Silent Hill series but if you’re new to the series, this is not the game to start with.
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Year of Release — 2004
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.
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