This year I wanted to tackle a Silent Hill game, but didn’t want to do what many consider the best game in the series, and with Shattered Memories and Downpour already covered, it was time to jump to a classic yet under-appreciated take on the series.
Here we have Silent Hill 4: The Room. Developed after Silent Hill 2 and along side the 3rd instalment, The room was a break away from what we had seen in the series prior. The Room opens up the series up to show that the evils of the town doesn’t end at the famed “Welcome to Silent Hill” sign.
The story starts 5 days into a incident where Henry Townsend is locked in his Room, with chains mysteriously covering his door, Windows are bolted shut and none of the electronics appear to be working. Henry is unable to yell for help despite best efforts, and no one can enter the apartment. On top of this, Henry has been having disturbing dreams involving his apartment being haunted with ghost coming after him.
When a hole opens up in his bathroom, Henry cautiously sees this as an escape. Yet, this brings him to a nightmare version of locations he’s familiar with that have been warped by a sadistic killer who is out to ritualistically kill people he has dragged in as part of a spell. Henry attempts to save the people who are trapped in this world, as well as himself.
There is a lot going on in the story to keep Horror fans and fans of the Silent Hill franchise going here, and makes it extremely hard to explain without going into full on spoilers (the game came out in 2004, so I really shouldn’t have to worry about that.) The story features Dimension shifting, psycho serial killer bent on preforming ritualistic sacrifices, a cast of characters who are not innocent, and an overwhelming sense of dread.
The Room is different compared to most Silent Hill games in it’s gameplay. First is The Room and the second is through the Hole.
Going through the Hole, players take on a familiar 3rd person set camera feel that we’re used to with Survival Horror games. As Henry, players will traverse through 5 different locations, a Subway, an Orphanage, a Water Prison, Henry’s Apartment complex and a Hospital. Through his journey to each of these worlds Henry will have to solve puzzles, find keys for locked doors and fight off various monsters.
This is the first time Silent Hill experimented with their combat system, paving doors for the likes of Silent Hill Homecoming later on. Henry was able to pick up an array of melee based weapons (and firearms) however most weapons are breakable leaving Henry for a fight or flight moments. Henry also has the ability to charge his attacks, leading for more damage the series of quick strike he can preform. While these are good to have, there are some extremely difficult and frustrating enemies, like the 21 Sacraments who are a series of ghosts that will not die unless you use a rare item that is best saved for later on.
The Room gameplay is completely different and help push the story along. Taking ques from Alfred Hitchcock, Henry is able to become an observer at the situations outside his apartment by looking out the windows, listening to conversations outside his door or spying on his neighbor, who becomes a major plot point, through a crack in the wall.
About half way through the game both the Room and the Hole becomes different. With the exploration of the nightmare world becoming more of an escort mission as you protect another sacrifice from being killed guiding her through the haunted locations you have previously visited with new puzzles and pathways to explore, this also opens up for the Super Ghosts bosses who like the 21 Sacraments mentioned above, cannot be killed.
The Room changes in a more subtle way by experiencing hauntings. The Room which was a safe haven previously, will now start decaying, causing you not to regenerate health and cause a slew of different problems later.
Like always the audio in Silent Hill The Room is amazing, and is probably at it’s best here. With an original soundtrack from series conductor Akira Yamatoka, Silent Hill 4 featured some of the creepiest music and audio effects the series ever had. The game’s main song, titled Room of Angels, plays a big roll in this thanks to it’s chilling piano work and lyrics, which is played perfectly at key moments in the game.
Silent Hill 4: The Room has a lot for fans of the Silent Hill Lore. Especially with throw backs to Silent Hill 2 (“There was a Hole here, it’s gone now” , and Walter Sullivan’s news paper clippings) and Silent Hill 3 (The Order and Hope House Orphanage.) Silent Hill 4 even has a couple of references in the Playable Teaser for Silent Hills.
At it’s time, The Room was an under appreciated addition to the series, however today it is one of the best examples of pacing, combat and storytelling in horror games. If you can find yourself a copy of the game on PS2, Xbox or PC and are a fan of the series, then I recommend picking this one up or giving it a second chance.