Silent Hill 4: The Room PlayStation 2
by Konami of Europe
Developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
Much has been made of the chilling atmosphere of the recently released Doom III on PC but those in the know will suggest that if you want a real blood curdling experience you should play the Silent Hill games. What surprises most people when they first play a Silent Hill game is that it's not a full on 'in your face' frightening experience and instead it's a rollercoaster ride of psychological fear that really can make you afraid to play the game with the lights turned off. The series that began life on the original PlayStation console has come a long way and here we have the fourth in the series and the third game on the PlayStation 2 console. Make no mistake it's a frightening as ever but this time there is more emphasis on action than in the previous games.
Silent Hill 4: The Room doesn't actually take place in the town of Silent Hill (we are told that we are a few miles away from that most frightening of places). You play Henry Townshend who awakens to find himself trapped within his apartment. Henry tells us that the chains that bar his front door first appeared when his nightmares began and that now he can't leave his apartment. The game begins with Henry having a nightmare. This is actually quite surprising for fans of the series because when you're in Henry's apartment you play from a first-person perspective whereas all the previous games have played out in a third-person perspective. Not long after Henry awakens you'll notice the chains across his front door and the message 'Don't go out!!, Walter' painted on the door. Not long after a hole will appear in Henry's bathroom.
The game is not entirely played out in Henry's apartment though, despite the title. His apartment acts as a portal to other locations such as a subway, a forest and a prison etc. Climbing through the hole in his bathroom at the beginning of the game will lead Henry to the subway for instance. You can only save your game in Henry's living room though so it's always a place you'll need to return to. Speaking of returning to places this is something that you'll do frequently in Silent Hill 4. As the game develops you'll notice changes to your main room such as items appearing under the door and inscriptions or marks appearing on the wall. You have to be thorough in your examinations of your main room otherwise you could miss various items.
Fans of the series will notice a fair few changes to the game play this time around. The original control scheme has gone for good (in previous games it was the default control scheme) and has been replaced with the more comfortable one that was an alternate control scheme in Silent Hill 2 & 3. A health bar will now appear to give you some idea of how seriously wounded your character is. There has also been a reduction in the number of puzzles you'll come across. In fact when you begin the game you just choose a single difficulty level (from easy, normal and hard) whereas in previous games you got to choose the difficulty for puzzles and action. There is now only one save point (in your apartment) which means you don't have to feverishly hunt for one like you did in previous games. The radio that provides an audible warning for nearby enemies is also gone. You can only carry a limited amount of items with a chest in your apartment being there to contain your excess objects. Do these changes make for a better experience? Well I suppose some of these alterations do whilst others don't. Personally I thought the previous mix of puzzles and action was spot on but if you never liked the puzzles you'll be pleased with the increased amount of action.
Graphically the game has a lot in common with the previous two Silent Hill games that have been on the PlayStation 2. Again the visuals have a grainy look about them that for some bizarre reason seems to make the atmosphere even more terrifying. While the monsters/evil creatures in the game look OK, few are actually what I would call terrifying or disturbing and the animations of these creatures is not always as good as you might have hoped. The game is played from a third-person perspective for most of the time but as we mentioned earlier when you're in Henry's apartment the game will play from a first-person perspective which actually works quite well. The environments within the game, the subway, the forest, the prison etc. all have that usual desperate look about them that the locations in the previous Silent Hill games had. You do get to peep into the outside world though as you can look out of your apartment window and this colourful scene provides quite a contrast to the miserable appearance of other locations.
The previous two Silent Hill games we've looked at have been subtitled and Silent Hill 4 is no exception to this. The subtitles are enabled by default and are once again excellent. We commented in reviews of the previous two Silent Hill games how the radio noise alerted hearing gamers to the nearby presence of enemies. The radio has now gone but hearing gamers will still have an advantage in that enemies can be heard before they can be seen. Sometimes you will see Henry hold his head when enemies are near to indicate he's being attacked from a distance (which is what some ghosts can do). Hearing gamers would have had the advantage of hearing the whine from the ghosts though before they could succumb to this damage. There are other problems for deaf gamers. Early in the game the phone will ring in your apartment. This phone call provides you with a clue and is a useful pointer in regards to what you have to do next. However there is no visual clue for this and deaf gamers will be unaware that the phone is ringing. Short of looking at a walkthrough for the game it's difficult to say how this obstacle could be overcome.
Silent Hill 4: The Room is a bit of a departure from the previous titles in the series. The game lacks any real depth of story and the emphasis is more on the action which is a bit of a surprise. That's not to say it's a bad game though, far from it. The aforementioned game play changes also give the game a different feel. Whilst the subtitling is great it's a shame that visual clues hadn't been included for the nearby presence of enemies or such occurrences as the phone ringing in your apartment. It's still a worthy edition to the Silent Hill series but for deaf gamers it's not as user friendly as it could have been and that in itself is a disappointment.
Game Rating: 7.8/10
Silent Hill 4: The Room sees a lot of changes to the established series, some of which work well and some which aren't that great. Overall though it's a good addition to the series but there are some problems for deaf gamers.
There are problems for deaf gamers which is unfortunate.