There have been many times I thought something in my apartment was trying to kill me. It usually revolved around a two week old piece of pizza I neglected to throw away — sometimes I could almost see it looking at me. In Konami’s recent Silent Hill adventure, one mans apartment becomes a prison filled with much more than just old pizza.
Silent Hill 4: The Room revolves around the life of Henry Townsend who wakes up one day to find his windows sealed shut and chains covering his front door. I’m not talking about little tiny door lock chains; I’m talking about big ole Jacob Marley haunting Scrooge kind of chains.
About five days prior, Henry starts having nightmares and then wakes up to find some heavy chains and red lettering on his door that not-so politely advises “Don’t go out, Walter.” Who the heck is Walter? Could he be the person responsible for all this?
Henry starts searching through his apartment and finds little clues and scraps of paper that will slowly unveil the story. In his bathroom, there is a large hole just big enough for man to fit through. Instead of taking him into the unholy netherworld of toilet paper and urinal cakes, the gateway takes him to a subway and the first of many trips through the hole in the bathroom. Think of it like Alice in Wonderland meets the friendly neighborhood plumber. You’ll explore a subway, a forest cult compound, a hospital, and more.
The Room is a departure from the standard fare of Silent Hill. While there is a definite connection to previous games in the games in the series, the game takes place in the nearby town of South Ashfield. Another departure is the emphasis on combat instead of avoidance like the in previous games.
There are some seriously bad enemies that you have no choice but to wail on them with your big metal pipe or even a golf club. Then just to make sure they are dead, you have to step on them and actually hear their spine breaking. Avoidance is rarely an issue since you can just pound on enemies except for a type of zombie-like creature that spawn from the walls. When these creatures are around, all you can really do is run because a disembodied spirit voice does damage to you.
Inside Henry’s apartment, the view is first person. By looking up or down they can examine different objects and areas to find new clues. His apartment changes as the game progresses so there is always something new to find. Henry can also look through the peephole in the door, see the outside from the window and even look into the neighboring apartment. It provides a hint of realism and hopelessness as Henry watches life going on normally outside his apartment while hell continues to envelope him inside. When he goes through the hole into the different worlds, the view shifts from first person to third, which with lagging camera angles can make enemies difficult to see.
Graphics wise The Room is on par with other Silent Hill games and uses the same film noir grittiness and intricate facial features that fans are used to. Darkness and shadows are prevalent throughout, so the creepiness factor is pretty high. Developers did an excellent job of integrating the high-end graphics and sound effects to create the ultimate survivor horror experience. Players with surround sound systems may find themselves looking over their shoulder to make sure a devil dog isn’t breathing down their neck.
There is little sound track to speak of other than the main title theme which is used sparingly throughout the game. The eerie stillness and quiet does a lot to increase the “I’m going to die” factor.
Henry is a lot of things but a nimble mover is not one of them. The game lacks the fluid motion, which gamers may expect from a PS2 game. The way he moves I kept expecting Henry to reveal himself as a one of the lost Muppets.
There are a few drawbacks of Silent Hill 4 that can drag down game play. Henry only has a limited amount of space in his inventory, so players may find themselves heading back to the apartment just to drop off supplies. Also, Henry can’t drop anything. If your inventory is full up and you want to pick up an important item, you either have to use an item unnecessarily to take the long trek back to the apartment to the only storage chest.
Saving can only be done at the apartment as well, so if Henry is low on health and there isn’t a portal back anywhere near, his goose is cooked.
The game is not exceptionally difficult and a good game player can defeat it in about 10-12 hours, it sports four different endings and some minor unlockables that gives The Room some decent replay value.
All in all, Silent Hill 4 is a departure from the regular Silent Hill universe, but die-hard fans will enjoy it just the same. The chills and suspense that is a trademark of Silent Hill is still there, but the new aspects can provide an interesting twist to people bored with the old Silent Hill format.