Silent Hill 4: The Room
Scare factor: 9
Fun factor: 6
Replay value: 7
Another Silent Hill game and I find myself reviewing it. It is actually hard to believe that there is a 4th addition to the series. I can remember when the first one came out and playing it for the first time. And now, years later, here is Silent Hill 4.
This game takes place in an apartment building's room. You take control of a new character named Henry. It seems that Henry lives in an apartment building owned by James and that he and his neighbors keep being pulled into another demension. Henry travels through different worlds that show locations in Silent Hill. Each time, he sees another one of his neighbors die and each day he recieves strange notes from under his door. The hole in his bathroom which serves as the entrance to the other demension keeps growing larger and his house slowly changes, as the line between the two is blurred.
This game feels different than the other ones, and not in a good way. There isn't an option to use 3D controls, which can be aggrivating in combination with changing camera angles (ie: the camera angle changes, and now you're walking left instead of foward). This is especially aggrivating to me because I am more used to the 3D controls and I, honestly, don't like 2D at all. The only time it's ok, is if the camera angle doesn't change every 30 seconds. Another thing that doesn't seem right is the way that the menus are set up, and the fact that you have to use the analog stick. Nope, can't use the d-pad which, to me, makes things even more confusing. I'm definitely not an analog person. Especially not when I am playing a horror game. There are certain things that I am used to. The menus are horrible. The buttons confuse me, there are 2 different menus for the map button. I don't know how many times I've pushed buttons trying to close the map and all it does is bring up the memos because I pushed the wrong button. And now, your inventory is displayed at the bottom of your screen. You can hover over an item and see a description of it. The thing that annoys me most about this, is that I can never remember which button to push to use it or see it's information. Also, if you push one of the d-pad arrows, it will bring up your inventory. I can't think of a better way to confuse me when I'm trying to walk in the game.
Also, the battle system is horrible. Probably the worst in the series. Basically it involves you aimlessly swinging a weapon around. Since it uses 2D controls, I can't tell where I'm even going, and I'm just swinging around like a complete idiot. If that didn't make the battle mode confusing enough, there are ghost monsters in the game that do not die. They will get back up, and if you return to a previously explored area, they're back to floating around. Ok, if the battle system sucks and you have to repeatedly fight the same monsters it's not good. I've actually died because I couldn't even tell what I was doing, I was just pushing random buttons. The battle system might not confuse people who are analog 2D players... But it confuses me, believe me.
Another interesting, and confusing, element that was added to the game is the ability to see in first person while walking around your apartment. You control it using the two analog sticks like you would a shooter game. You can change the options so that you only have to use one, which can be helpful, I guess. Personally, I was never good at that type of controls. I remember when TimeSplitters came out... No way I could ever play that! Anyway, I just thought that was important to point out, even though it doesn't really affect the majority of the gameplay.
The graphics in this game are good, though. They push the PS2 probably to its limits. I wonder if it looks better on the Xbox, though. I'm not sure how much better it could look, though, if they had to make it to work on the PS2 as well. There are some interesting grainy film effects (like you're watching an old movie) that they used on parts of the game and when you wake up in your room, the room is blurry and then returns to normal. Also, the environments and monsters are thoroughly creepy. Of course there are dog-resembling monsters, but there are also a lot of new ones to see; each world has its own resident monsters. You'll notice that as you go along, the ghost monsters resemble neighbors whom you've watched die. There are creepy details in the environment that you'll notice throughout the different worlds. The details add to environment of the game. Things that can't hurt you, but make you look twice.
The sounds in this game are very scary. They really make the game seem creepier. Loud strange noises are around every corner. You'll hear noises that will make you walk instead of run, only to find out that nothing is there. The music in the game is made up of eerie sounds, like any other game in the SH series. Which, I'm sure you know, definitely isn't a bad thing. The voice-acting is pretty well-done. I wouldn't say that it's as good as the acting in SH3, but it's very good, nonetheless.
All in all, this is a pretty good game. However, personally, I really don't care for the 2D controls and the inventory. The game also steals from RE by having a chest that you use to store items, which is a bit upsetting. Also, if you thought the storyline in SH3 was hard to understand, then Silent Hill 4 will confuse you even more. I understand the story of the SH games, but I do realize that they can be hard to follow for the casual Silent Hill player. But, if you're just in it for the scares, that shouldn't be a problem. This game is definitely a good addition to your horror collection, but I'd recommend Silent Hill 3 over this addition to the series anyday.