"Silent Hill 4: The Room" (Xbox, PS2)
Game Web Site: Click Here
ESRB Rating: M
If a game is lucky, it might get a sequel. If a game is really lucky, it might get two. Silent Hill is one of those game series that just won't die—but that's only because it was undead to begin with. After three installments, we're treated to a slightly different take on the terrifying world of Silent Hill. This one's "Silent Hill 4: The Room." Konami, developer of the Silent Hill series, has designed The Room to encompass a sequence of concise worlds. Playing the role of Henry Townsend, you'll visit each of these worlds through a gaping hole in your bathroom. No, not the toilet.
Someone needs a new paint job.
Henry has a bit of a problem in room 302. Not only does he have recurring nightmares wherein his apartment is wallpapered in entrails, but he can't actually leave his apartment when he awakes. His door's chained up from the inside, and nobody can hear his cries for help. Something sinister and supernatural is of course responsible, and we all know where that great evil comes from: Silent Hill, that little town on the edge of hell, and apparently a conveniently-short drive from Henry's city of Ashfield. When a hole appears in the wall of Henry's bathroom, he decides this is his best (and only) option for escape. What a fool. The poor lad ends up knee-deep in trouble, but becomes wiser by the minute. Beating zombie dogs to a pulp with a lead pipe will make anyone wiser (try it sometime and you'll see.) Henry must be guided safely through such haunted and hazardous environments such as Subway World, Water Prison World, and Building World. Each will be very familiar to players of previous Silent Hill titles, but are still enjoyable places in which to pee your pants with fear.
Silent Hill 4 scoops the cream off the top of all previous editions in the series, focusing on short tasks, and reducing the need for drawn-out exploration. Each world contains multiple pathways and points of interest, but doesn’t overwhelm the player with too many decision-making chores. The controls are similar to the rest of the series, but the style of play is slightly different. Henry's health status is clearly visible when in attack-mode, as is a sort of strength meter that increases as you hold down the attack button for a "charged" swing. While Henry can wield a startling array of blunt weaponry and other instruments of destruction (such as a pistol and bottle of wine), he can't lug too much around on his travels. His apartment serves as a base of operations (albeit, a paranormally-deteriorating base of operations). Room 302 not contains a save-point as well as a storage chest for the knick-knacks Henry picks up during his misadventures. His health regenerates at home, making the apartment as good a refuge as any. There are ample diversions to be experienced in the sparse and grimy bachelor-pad, including the front-door peephole; a second peephole that allows Henry to leer at his female neighbour; a telephone; and the windows—which give a constricted but intriguing view of outdoor Ashfield. The world outside is actually quite detailed, replete with cars on the street, pedestrians, and a slightly-disturbing view of apartments across the courtyard.
I never have dinner-guests like these.
Of course, the real disturbance is that pesky town of Silent Hill and the dangerously demented cultists therein. Revealed in detail in Silent Hill 3, the cult is again exposed in The Room, complete with their house-pets: otherworldly spirits. We've got a decent assortment of monsters this time around, from the familiar skinned dogs, to legless, baby-headed fiends, to monkey-like ghouls, leeches, fungus, and more. While The Room's critters are creepy, few seem to pack as disconcerting a punch as the "victims." These moaning ghosts—each a sequentially-numbered serial-killer victim—are able to push through solid surfaces in order to throttle you, and are accompanied by a disconcerting controller-vibration effect as they come within striking distance. The ghosts can't be killed in the first few levels of the game, merely pinned to the ground with a single-use weapon. The best strategy is to run screaming like a little girl.
Silent Hill 4: The Room might not be quite as scary as previous installations in the series, but what it lacks in bite, it makes up in improved game-play. The design is tight and controlled, providing players with direction rather than frustration. The environments are every bit as detailed as earlier versions, swathed in mood-inducing lighting, and draped with madness-inducing audio layers familiar to returning players. While Silent Hill 4: The Room isn't a total departure from earlier titles, it does come with some refreshing changes, making for another tense and deliciously dreadful installment in the series. Silent Hill 5 is planned for next-generation consoles, and will hopefully continue in the vein that The Room has sliced wide open.