Sunday, October 3, 2010

Video Game Assessment: Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004)

A room? Well, rooms are frankly terrifying. This must be the scariest game that there ever was! And a door! Oh, jeez, I'm frankly and seriously terrified and quivering over here! OH BOY.

Silent Hill 4: The Room was released in 2004 as the fourth game in the Silent Hill series. I'm not going to go crazy about this game and say that it's the best video game ever or anything, because it isn't. That being said, it's not a bad game either, and certainly not as bad as people tend to say it is. I think people like to throw hyperboles around all the time. This game is also quite different than the other Silent Hill games, so, of course, people are going to have a lot of issues with it. Now, getting all of that out of the way, I like this game much more than most reviewers tend to, even if it honestly pales in comparison to Silent Hill 2.

In saying that I feel like I should mention that I really never cared for the third game in the series. I never finished it. (EDIT: I did finish it. Not worth it in my opinion.) It was a direct sequel to the first game and I never played the first game... which is probably why I have no attachment to it. As for the other games in the series, the prequel to the first game is short and easy but has a few good moments, and in the fifth game of the series, I became stuck in a particular room and was unable to proceed. The fifth game is also quite bad in my opinion. It doesn't have the polish or the originality of the earlier games in the series. I know there's also Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, but even though I own it, I've never actually played it. I probably will at some point...

So, getting back to the game I'm supposed to be reviewing right now, I like it. It's nowhere near as great as the second game, but I think that this game is a much more experimental game, and I can respect that. And when I say experimental, I really do mean it. It changes a lot of staples of the original three games, having first person perspectives in parts, unkillable enemies that constantly pursue you, and a strange combat system that, although better than the earlier games, is still incredibly awkward. I will say that I find this game having both first and third-person elements really adds to the immersion though, and really let's you sympathize with the protagonist even if he's quiet and a little slow.

Also, just to point it out, the game is not incredibly scary either. I mean, sure, it has its moments, but it is nowhere near as scary as other entries in the series. On its own, its not a bad game, but when compared to Silent Hill 2, it simply isn't as good.

I'm not going to get really in depth with this review because this game's story is so convoluted that you'll never understand it in one playthrough without knowing everything beforehand. The story isn't bad exactly, it's more that it doesn't make that much sense, with as serial killer needing to kill a certain amount of people to do a ritual, all the while being dead himself, a victim of his own ritual. Kind of crazy, huh? Very Japanese in my opinion.

I also like just how much of this game is taken from horror and suspense culture. The main premise of the game is based upon Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, which just so happens to be my favorite movie of all time. A man is stuck in his room and can't get out. In that case it was because he had some broken bones and a wheelchair. In this case it's because the protagonist seriously cannot physically get out of his apartment. The real problem is that he shouldn't be stuck. As you can see in the first image, the door is locked from the inside and nothing Henry Townsend, the main character, does will open that door. And that's creepy enough unto itself. How the hell did the door get locked from the inside if it wasn't our pal Henry doing it...?

So, the plot is Henry trying to find out how to get out of the room while simultaneously trying really hard to figure out why he's stuck in his room to begin with. The game goes away from the Silent Hill series staples of mists ad Silent Hill itself, and goes on to focus on outskirts of Silent Hill and a little side story from Silent Hill 2. The idea of being somewhere other than Silent Hill is a big part of Homecoming as well, although I wish they hadn't done that. It did not work as well there as it worked here.

I enjoy this game a lot. I like how it takes elements from so many great icons of horror, like Jacob's Ladder, Hitchcock as mentioned before, and a novel called House of Leaves, which just happens to be my favorite book. It does the references well, making the atmosphere both creepy and a bit of an easter egg unto itself. I like that.

So, this game should be fantastic. Well, I think it is... or at least its imagery is. The plot is... well... it really doesn't matter, which is why I'm barely mentioning it. The characters are pretty terrible too, but they do have their moments, just not many of them. So, the imagery really makes this one... mostly because without that the game would be nowhere near as good... hell, it would probably be pretty terrible actually. With the great imagery though and interesting easter eggs throughout the game, I find this was a memorable experience that I'd love to have again. I suggest anybody who really likes horror imagery to really check out this game.

Anyway, it's 2AM and that's my review.

Edit: Cleaned up this crazy review because I wrote it at 2AM and parts of it made no sense.

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