Silent Hill 4: The Room PS2 Review

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under PS2, Retro Content, Retro Reviews

The Silent Hill series has always been one of the best for provoking terror and the shocking images that the games depict so well just keep on becoming more disturbing. The fourth game in the series is a slight departure to what we are normally used to, without some of the mainstays that made the series famous; Silent Hill 4 showcases some brand new and rather neat ideas.

Always an asset of Silent Hill is the mind-bending plot and four is no exception. Our new protagonist is Henry Townshend, who literally finds himself locked in his apartment thanks to unwieldy chains and sealed windows keeping him prisoner from the inside, his only connection to the outside world is a mysterious hole that suddenly appears in his bathroom and notes being slided underneath his door, cue plenty of weirdness that only the guys at Konami could have dreamt up.

Henry’s apartment soon becomes realised, as one of the games biggest changes (a first person view works well here and doesn’t feel detached from the rest of the game) and it’s as focal to your progress as it is to the compelling plot. The hole that appears leads to various places and Henry is able to journey back to his apartment at will thanks to the holes that are dotted around the environments. This is obviously a necessity as many of the new play devices are to be found here, for instance this is the only place you are now able to save, injuries sustained gradually recover and a new item management system (reminiscent of Resident Evil) allows the apartment to act as a storeroom for some of Henry’s things.

We found this new item system to be pleasingly convenient and journeying back and forth to the apartment never feels like too much of a chore thanks to the large amount of holes in the walls that always seem to be at hand around each environment. When placed into the storage box, items are helpfully divided into weapons and other items, which assures that there is nothing clumsy about the new system and things feel nicely organised, as they should. You can also swap weapons and use items during real-time by bringing up a quick select bottom-screen menu, which is a blessing for this type of game and there’s no need for any abrupt pauses.

Apart from the new means of storing your items, some of the enemies are also radically different and other items apart from your weaponry come in use to defeat them, although defeat is definitely the wrong word here. Silent Hill 4 introduces floating ghouls that cannot be killed, but only incapacitated for a short while. You can bash the ghosts over the head and down them, but seconds later they are floating around relentlessly after you again. Plan B is to pin them down with a special sword, which can be retrieved from your pinned down foe when you are finished exploring but results in the ghost being revived. Then there’s the candles and medallion, which ward them off during use as well as the silver bullets. These new enemies are great additions, although we do prefer the old tried and tested “floor and stamp on” way of killing, fortunately there’s still plenty of that to be done with the usual lumps of flesh.

Combat now gives you the ability to power up each melee strike, thanks to a new addition that allows you to hold down the attack button to put some more muscle into your attack and unleash a mighty strike, which takes time but can pay off well. Some of the weaponry also breaks after a number of uses. So there are a few new ideas but the combat on the whole does still feel a bit awkward, whether you’re using guns or melee weapons.

About half way through the game the environments start repeating from the first portion of the game, making progress less interesting. You are also laden with a character, who requires far too much babysitting. The game frustratingly and almost criminally denies you the ability to give her some basic commands, which would have helped the cause a great deal. Your female companion just happens to do her own thing at times and there was even a moment we lost her completely, although comically she initially bashes enemies with her purple handbag. These are the main culprits for what is an otherwise sturdy enough title.

Silent Hill 4 is graphically stunning with that famous grainy look and those macabre environments. The lighting and shadows are also very impressive, although what the game criminally lacks is the flashlight. Without the dark environments and torchlight, things just don’t feel as atmospheric anymore, which is a real shame. Still the excellent roving camerawork does it job well as do the odd sound effects which are effective enough in their own right.

Not quite the classic that Silent Hill 3 turned out to be, but it’s still a stunning addition to the horror stable. The problems are few and are far away from devastating the game, although having to repeat the same environments feels cheap and the loss of the torchlight hit us quite hard. It’s a nice departure but part of us prefers the traditional way of visiting this warped world, it’s still one of the best horror titles out there though.

8/10

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