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The final chapter on the current generation marks one of the finest moments in the survival/horror genre; truly terrifying...
Survival/Horror is a genre that emerged thanks mainly to two Japanese companies: Konami (Silent Hill), and Capcom (Resident Evil). Over the course of both franchises, they have continued to push the levels of horror in video games to new levels.
So when it was announced that Silent Hill 4 would have the subtitle of â??The Roomâ?, weâ??ve got to admit that we were quite curious as to how Konami would make a room scary, as opposed to an entire town. Then we started to play the gameâ?¦
The main character in Silent Hill 4 is called Henry Townshend, who lives in Room 302, South Ashfield Heights, in the medium-sized city of Ashfield. Henry has been living at the apartment for two years, but for the previous five nights, heâ??s been having a recurring dream. The dream that he has is the first part of the game that you play. Henry finds himself in his apartment bedroom, but everything is covered in â??blood and rustâ?â?¦nice. Pictures and mirrors are obscured, and Henry says, â??My Red Typewriter is gone.â? Moving into the living room, Henry observes that his Gramophone has been moved, and that the fridge reeks of foul smells. This get even stranger when he notices that part of the wall has a defect that resembles a face. As you go to leave the room, a human-like creature bursts out of the wall, and writhes on the floor. Run title sequenceâ?¦
After the titles have ended, you find yourself playing Henry after the dreamâ?¦the rust and blood has all gone, but Henry remarks that all of the windows have been sealed. To make matters worse, the front door to the apartment has been locked from the inside and has several massive chains and locks, securing it in place. Compounding this is the fact that the phone line is dead, the TV and VCR no longer work, and no-body comes when he calls for help. Then you find hole in the wall of your bathroom that you can crawl throughâ?¦Along the way, Henry finds various weapons, including broken bottles, pistols and a metal pipe, but he also carries a scrapbook â?“ because thatâ??s the other strange thing about The Room â?“ there are bits of paper with fragments of various texts on them, and even old books with some damaged writing to found. The scraps start to talk about macabre rituals taking place, but what does it have to do with Henry, and The Roomâ?¦? And did we mention that Henry has spent some time travelling, and has visited the town of Silent Hillâ?¦?
Silent Hill 4: The Room is a game that plays on your nerves. Traditionally, and like any good horror film, the franchise has been all about subtle musical themes that build up the suspense, getting the player ready for the scare; and this game certainly follows suit. Its probably better described as being anti-music, since there is little in the way of melodies being played. Echoing voices are also played as part of the soundtrack, although only there arenâ??t many distinguishable words being said.
Visually, it has to be said that the game has been inspired by a certain Japanese film (later re-made in America) about a video tape that kills peopleâ?¦When Henry climbs into the hole in the bathroom, you find yourself looking down a tunnel with TV static playing at the other end; scratches and marks appear on screen like old film reels, and the screen even jumps about like dirty filmâ?¦The game has graininess to it, and you wonâ??t find many saturated colours leaped out of the screen at you. Environments in the game are dark, dingy, and eerie. Again, it all adds to making the suspense in the game ratchet up to the next level, ready for the shock.
One of the key visual aspects in the game is that when Henry is in his room, the game is played in the first person. This changes over to the third person, once he goes through a portal. Does this mean that when Henry has passed through the various portals, away from his room, that heâ??s Astral Projecting (for more on Astral Projecting, check out the TVG review of Second Sight)? Whatever the reason, the fact that you switch to the third-person away from the room is an opportunity for Konami to use their book of crazy camera angles. You can find yourself looking at the world from the ceiling or from other points in the environment. Once again, this is a trick that helps create suspense. However, improvements have been made to what was one of the biggest gripes of any previous Silent Hill games.
The cut scenes are straight out of Japanese horror, specifically The Ring, and add to the horror and disturbing imagery that the rest of the game includes. Although the in-game graphics are really good, the cut scenes are truly cinematic indeed, and are very high resolution in quality.
The fact that you keep coming back to your room after going through the portal and explored/unlocked areas means that some things have changed. For instance, perhaps the phone will ring, or the radio will work for a time. Things start to happen, and the â??portal worldâ?? and the â??real worldâ?? start to merge. When you are in the room, you can save your game, and replenish your health again. It best if you check the windows, the phone, and look for any changes to the apartmentâ?¦these changes just keep on happening. Even the portal hole gets bigger as the game progresses. This is as much of an exploration mystery as it is a Survival/Horror, and a key difference between this franchise, and the Resident Evil series.
It also means that one of the key criticisms of the earlier titles, namely that you can end up running around aimlessly for ages, with little direction, has been removed. In The Room, you feel that you have completed a level every time you come back to the apartment. Thereâ??s the distinct feeling that you are progressing through the game, and not just going round in circles.
Enemies are very difficult to kill in The Room. This is down to the fact that they keep on getting up, they are more stunned than dead. Stamping on them when they are down seems to help, but they will keep on getting back up, so leg it while you still can!
We played the PS2 version of the game, and to honest the control system wasnâ??t the best weâ??ve used. It can be confusing to use the thumb-sticks in the first-person view because the right and left motion on both sticks is used to look around. If the right thumb-stick (which you use to look up and down with) used strafe for left/right, then this problem wouldnâ??t have emerged; instead, strafe is found on the shoulder buttons. A minor criticism, but it is one that will take time to get use to.
The sound and visuals work together really well to develop a strong sense of suspense, and has really been developed on the foundations of the earlier titles. It has been confirmed that this will be the final Silent Hill title before the next-generation of consoles arrives, so if you are after one of the most suspense filled, strong storyline driven titles around, then look no further than Silent Hill 4: The Room.