Silent Hill 4: The Room Reader Review
Is it a giant disembodied abortion head screaming white noise? Silent Hill 4: The Room doesn't have too much to do with other games in the franchise, probably due to the fact that it was originally planned to have nothing to do with the franchise. Oh look, another retrospective on another game that everyone played four years ago. Shyeah! Let's get on with it. I have some catching up to do.
A lot of staples feel abandoned in this iteration of the series. No flashlight. Very little in the way of choking darkness and swirling fog. Your screeching white noise radio is a stereo in your living room that you can't lug about. Any sense of non-linearity is pissed down the drain. You are trapped in your apartment and now you will complete a level. When the level is complete, you will be transported back to your apartment to await further instruction. Silent Hill was never too good at giving you reasonable excuses for going into dilapidated schools and apartment buildings. Looks like the only way to the fairground is through this underwater prison because -- Oh! -- the roads have been ripped right out of the ground, and the subway seems to have a case of screaming vagina dentata. If nothing else, big crumbling welts in the main road certainly added to the atmosphere. Our bland protagonist of The Room simply crawls through a hole and finds himself magically transported to the survival horror equivalents of the ice level, fire level, et al. Of course, prisons and underground tunnels are staples of the franchise because they are fairly scary places, so one must not begrudge them that. One can begrudge them keeping in the Silent Hill staples of "shitty character who can't aim or do much damage" when they have exchanged the usual commodity of "obscure but occasionally interesting puzzles" for "corridors full of invincible enemies".
There is still something of the Silent Hill atmosphere lurking in the corners. The sound is fantastic. Aside from one enemy which seems to rather comically burp when hit, Akira Yamaoka still manages to make squirm-inducing squelches with the kind of professional panache that makes you wonder if he's not actually murdering people and dancing on their innards to get this shit exactly right. There are the obligatory corpses artfully placed for maximum disturbance as well. Hooray!
Harry Townshend is so without personality facets that I spent most of my time making shit up, convincing myself that he is in fact just a creepy stalker gone mad, locking himself in his house and making psychedelic excuses for the murders he commits. Honestly officer, I found her like that. I crawled through the hole in my bathroom wall and she was already hacked to bits, guts sprayed around the forest clearing like Silly String. Yes the forest was at the other end of the toilet hole. It'd certainly explain the peep-hole into next door's apartment. Hello, sexy neighbour.
Graphically, the game is a little less polished than the previous two PS2 outings. Without the fog or darkness to allow for a handily small amount of visible environment, they've had to scale back the polygon count on the finer details to allow you to be able to see right into the distance. And sometimes there is slowdown. HISS. Enemies are a little less imaginative and they don't have that disturbingly slick sheen of the last few games. They have definitely been reduced from night terror status to "occasionally irritating cannon fodder". The human cast are well-realised and fairly pedestrian, ciphers to the survival horror plotline, lining up to hand out useful items or be brutally murdered by the game's final boss, Kurt Cobain.
So, a fairly unsatisfying experience. I learned that I can still make my own fun though, so all is not lost. Seven out of F.
6 / 10