Silent Hill 4: The Room

Konami's claustrophobic PS2/Xbox survival horror title is unveiled.

Being locked in your own cursed pad is something I can relate to. A typical day here at EG generally doesn't involve a whole lot of outdoor activity unless we need emergency supplies, and issues with the sticking front door meant that a recent birthday turned into a farce as no one could get in or out. True story. The fact that Silent Hill 4: The Room appears to have been based on the life and times of Eurogamer can only be a good thing.

So, trapped in his own "cursed apartment" the latest in Konami's survival horror wheeze - out later this year on PS2 and Xbox - sees the latest unfortunate lead character Henry Townshend forced to endure a world of fear, apprehension and terror against a myriad of locked doors, unnerving other-worldly noises, and a new family of strange slimy creatures with limbs protruding from inappropriate places.

A day in the life of an everyday fellow with portals in his apartment

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Five minutes of typically grainy footage was shown off to the assembled press late on Friday night, and gave little clues as to the series' alleged "new direction", with the sinister, scratchy graphical style and bleak, unsettling mood that has entranced many of you over recent years apparently unchanged. According to the accompanying press blurb, it's only when Henry begins exploring 'mysterious portals' in his humble abode (I'd say that was bloody mysterious, wouldn't you?) that it leads the hapless chap into "disturbing alternate worlds".

Naturally, the poor fellow has to uncover the reason why he's trapped (presumably in his own drug addled psychosis), and the traditional Silent Hill gameplay kicks in with its fair share of brain taxing puzzles, grotesquely vile undead creatures (such as a beautiful two headed-baby/birdchild) to do battle with, as well as the usual oddball cast to help/hinder you every step of the way. It doesn't look or sound like a radical departure from the previous titles in the series, but given how good they were, that's not something we're upset about. As with the other Silent Hills, the stories and characters are independent from any of the previous games, so newcomers needn't feel put off by entering the series at this point. If anything Konami should just drop the number, as it's misleading.

It wasn't especially evident from watching the video (which Konami reckons will hit the net in the coming days, so you can judge for yourselves) but KCET is using "all new technology" that enables the team to create "a host of unique effects designed to add to the game’s oppressive atmosphere", which is nice. By the sound of it, the plan is to dynamically alter the environments, which fans will recall happened on one memorable occasion in Silent Hill 3. With reality firmly tainted, it could well be the most unsettling episode yet.

First person horrors

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The one radical change to the latest in the series is the addition of a first person perspective, hinting that the combat mechanic may resemble a traditional FPS rather than the notoriously unreliable third person camera swinging bugbears that often have us waking up at night in a cold sweat. It could also affect the puzzle mechanic if players are called upon to look around more, so we'll look forward to seeing how that pans out. So far Konami is keeping tight lipped on most aspects of the game, and it's unlikely we'll have a chance to get a hands-on until around E3, but judging from the intricately designed environments, it'll make a pleasant change to see them in all their glory for once.

But after last year's decision to release SH3 in PAL territories first, it would appear that normal service will be resumed for The Room, with a PAL release following shortly after the Japan and US releases. Formal dates have yet to be confirmed as yet, but it's looking likely to be towards the back end of the year, with September mooted as the preferred date.

In the absence of any more concrete information at the moment you'll just have to take Konami's word for it as being " one of the scariest games you will ever play" with "beautifully designed environments, a haunting soundtrack and a roster of macabre and misshapen monsters". They also said something about "worst nightmares", but surely they can't have played some of the awful festering tripe that comes into our offices on a daily basis. Colour us interested.

A good year for the undead

All round, it's shaping up to be a vintage year for horror-adventure fans, with Project Zero 2 coming soon, not to mention two Resident Evil titles, Forbidden Siren, The Suffering and now Konami's latest, and possibly best example. Expect us to pick the bones over their rotting corpses over the coming months as we scrabble furiously to pluck playable code from the dying fingers of our long-suffering PR chums in our mindless, relentless pursuit of terror.

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