Silent Hill 4 was considered the black sheep of the series for a short period and caused one of the first schisms among the fans. A somewhat new approach to the series, but still retaining the spirit of the series. However, the approach isn’t without merit and manages to deliver in surprising ways. Released in 2004 for PS2, Xbox, and Windows, contrary to the popular internet myths, it wasn’t developed as a separate game that later became part of the series. Silent Hill 4 was always meant to be part of the series and news of its development was made official in October 2003.
One of the concepts of The Room, is what if the place that was thought of as safe, your own place suddenly became, hostile and dangerous. The game introduces a new perspective, a first-person view, that’s only used while you’re inside your apartment. It adds to the atmosphere of isolation and claustrophobia.
The plot follows Henry Townshend, an ordinary man who suddenly finds himself locked inside of his apartment, with no way of asking for help and having weird recurring nightmares. Just when you thought about giving up, a hole appears in the bathroom, and in desperation, you decide to crawl into it. Appearing in a seemingly, dreamlike world you decide to press on and figure out a way out of this whole mess.

 

As the mystery unfolds, you will collect and gain little clues, and most importantly diary pages from the former resident of the apartment that will give you crucial information. However, Henry can still view the outside world going on from the confines of his apartment, and changes in the real world. One of his neighbors Eileen Galvin, notices something strange about your apartment, but sadly can’t help you.
Further investigating the apartment, you discover that your and hers apartments are connected, and you can also peak into her apartment. As things escalate she will prove crucial in the story, and a helpful companion.
The game is played from two perspectives, first-person view and third-person view which is used for the majority of the game. Gameplay in third-person is largely unchanged and if you played the previous games you will feel right at home. However, there are a few changes when it comes to combat. There is a big variety of melee weapons and only two handguns to choose from.
The important thing to pay attention to is the durability of weapons and talismans. Weapons, such as bats, pipes, clubs, and so on can break down after repeated use. To balance this out, the melee weapons can be charged for the maximum amount of damage. Similarly, equipping medallions or candles will protect you against supernatural powers, making them slower and dealing less damage.

 

The levels that Henry visits are all in the dream dimensions, and get more bizarre as the game goes on. This is understandable, since in a dream places rarely make sense, and are sometimes based on memories. Puzzles aren’t as complex as in the previous games and are more of a far simpler fetch quest. All you need to do is collect the items, and put or give them in the correct order. This simplified approach gives headway to the horror and thriller but leaves a taste of wanting more complex puzzles.
Enemy variety while fairly small is unique and makes sense in the context of the story. The biggest plus of the game is its levels with plenty of memorable locations and scenes. You will encounter mostly humanoid enemies, and the usual monster dogs and symbolic monsters. The game also takes very little place in the actual Silent Hill and most of the stuff happens on the outskirts of the city.
Each level has at least one unique puzzle, and the most clever one is when Henry gets stuck in a loop, due to missing an important item. It requires a bit of out-of-the-box thinking to solve it, but it’s a good attempt where you need to pay a bit of attention to the story.
The levels while seemingly structured randomly, slowly start making sense in the story, and at a later point in the game, all of them can be revisited to obtain crucial pieces of info, so the story can progress. This is a rather clever solution to the story and also saves space on the disk. The most memorable levels in my opinion are the Prison (due to the way it is structured), St. Jerome Hospital, the Sprial Staircase, and of course the apartment.

 

While Silent Hill is no stranger to having a companion follow you, The Room is also the first game where a companion will fight beside you, and Eileen is quite the competent companion. However, it is crucial to keep her healthy and protected, but there are a few secrets if she’s really low on health, where she can reveal small tidbits of information.
She will follow you around, but the AI is good enough so that she doesn’t get stuck in the level and doesn’t get lost, fortunately not turning the game into one boring escort mission.
Which brings us to the game’s shortcomings and flaws. One of the first things that might make a problem for the new players is introducing the “ghost” enemy. The ghost is encountered very early on, and the player can easily spend their ammo or weapons, trying to defeat this unkillable enemy. The only thing that you can do is slow them down until you get a special item designed to deal with them.
Also, the problem with the ghosts is that they will follow you through the level sometimes, often clipping through walls and other obstacles. So, my advice to the new players is not to engage with them, unless they get too close, then just whack them a few times and run.
The concept behind them is interesting, but in some cases, they lack the context. While the story in Silent Hill 4 is interesting, in certain places more context would do a game a huge favor. Parts of the backstory can be found in the additional materials, but you shouldn’t need additional reading to enjoy the story.

 

The other problem, depending on how you look at it, is the inventory. The inventory is now limited, and you can no longer stack items, like bullets for instance. The unnecessary items can be put away in a chest in Henry’s apartment, which has unlimited space., but a backpack would be useful to have. This could have been mitigated by giving Eillen an inventory as well, but the devs didn’t choose that option.
The cutscenes while good, might feel odd at first since Henry doesn’t talk. This makes sense in the context of the story, as he’s referred to in some places as the “Receiver of Wisdom”, so it makes sense that he doesn’t speak as much. If you pay attention to the details, this fact makes perfect sense in the game.
Silent Hill 4, looks and plays good even today, despite some of its minor flaws. Graphically, it isn’t much different from SH 3, but it seems that the previous game is a bit better looking. As always the soundtrack is on point and creates a good atmosphere of fear and dread. The game was received relatively well, but some fans viewed it as a new approach to the series but came back to praise it, after not-so-well-received future games.
Despite all of this, Silent Hill 4: The Room is a game that you must play, if you’re looking for a good horror game, with an interesting premise, and also to see how the series has changed. The game is more combat-oriented, as puzzles are in the backseat, but this isn’t too much of an issue.
The new ideas are welcome, while the game still stays true to its predecessors, so it’s changed just enough. I would recommend getting the PS2 version of the game, as that one is in my opinion the best version of the game, out of the three. Do yourself a favor and enjoy a good mystery and a horror experience.
Make sure to check out more of my reviews (HERE).
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