Partially let down by the gameplay and uneven difficulty.

User Rating: 7.5 | Silent Hill 4: The Room PS2
As much as I love the Silent Hill series (people who read my SH: Homecoming review, or just generally know me will be very much aware of that), there will always be one or three games which I've barely played (like every other series). Silent Hill 4: The Room is one of them. It wasn't supposed to be part of the Silent Hill series to begin with, but it became one, once Konami started getting worried on the game's sales (which weren't that great anyway, from what I heard). I randomly began thinking about it, and thus I booted it up again.

Henry Townshend lives in South Ashfield, in an apartment complex, room 302. One day, he can't get out of there. Someone barricaded the door from within (with chains and a lot of locks), he can't open the windows, power for the most part is out and no one can hear him if he bashes or screams for help. Amidst all that, a strange hole appears in his bathroom. A hole that's big enough for him to crawl through. Something has gone seriously wrong somewhere, and Henry is out to find out what's going on.

The story has a neat concept that's perfect for a horror story, and while it's a more traditional horror detective story (similar to many American horror movies), it does keep you interested, and it never becomes forced, hammy or clichéd (again like many American horror movies). Plenty of connections to the previous games also give something for the fans to look forward too, especially some documents, which fleshes out a few things from previous games.

If the story has any strike against it, then it's Henry himself. He's not a terrible character, but he's so bland, he might as well be a mute. Whenever something big is happening, he either just stands there, or says very little. If he weren't the main character, he'd have nothing to do in the game's story. He doesn't ruin the story, but why he's given so little to say is weird.


Gameplay wise, the game bears the sign that the game was built up as an entirely different game. There are no flashlights or radios in the game, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. Not to say they weren't a nice thing in the previous games, but a SH game doesn't always need to have them. The combat is vastly different too. It's possible to charge up your attack for "massive damage" (sorry, the pun was too hard to avoid). The combat is a broken as the previous games, largely due to the controls. It's ungodly easy for enemies to inflict damage on you, while it can be tough for you to land a hit on them.

Sluggish combat isn't new to the SH series, yet it's never been something that's been in need of fixing. The sluggish combat always represented you, playing as an ordinary character with no combat experience whatsoever. It always helped build up the tension and ultimately made the game scary, along with its atmosphere. And while most of that is true here as well, it seems that the developers almost misunderstood the concept. The game doesn't have a problem with facing you off against a few enemies, and they're a lot more aggressive than the in the previous games as well, so avoid them gets increasingly difficult, especially as the environments aren't big enough to allow that. The ghosts are a real pain. They can't be killed (though they can be put in place with a sword that's a bit rare to find), and they don't even have to touch you in order to hit you. They just have to float around you for a little bit and voila, you're losing health. It's really annoying.

Throughout the various locations, you find other holes which leads back to your apartment. That is where you can save, regenerate your health and manage your items. Yes, the game employs a Resident Evil style inventory system, with limited spaces. Though it does add a handy quick inventory which can be accessed at all times during the gameplay. What's annoying though is that items don't stack up. It leads to a lot of situations where you have two sets of ammunition for your gun and two health drinks, which can prevent you from picking up key items. It can become a pain, but if you use the items right however, it never becomes a huge problem.

So far, minor problems right? Well sadly, halfway in, it gets worse. After a visit to a hospital, you gain a companion, named Eileen. She's a bit slow and can't climb ladders, but you can give her weapons, which means she isn't completely useless. She will drag you down though, and that will become a huge pain. While you're walking with her, new ghosts will appear, and they can chase you from room to room. A man in a coat also starts chasing you, and like the ghosts he can also chase you from room to room. The only difference is that while you can put the ghosts down with those swords, the man in the coat is invincible, and all you can do is stun him.

Your apartment doesn't fare any better either. Ghosts try to invade it and like outside of the apartment, they can damage you quite a bit. You can always repel them with holy candles however, or a saint medallion (though it can only use with weaker invades), which incidentally acts as a temporary shield against ghosts, if equipped. The problem with that however is, that you're less likely to use the candles on your apartment, and instead spend them on Eileen… at times. See, if you leave Eileen alone, she'll start having some weird red thingies crawling on her body. That's an indication that she's literally turning insane, and depending on how long you leave her alone (or how much you let her take damage), it'll be all the harder for you to have her with you.

While it is actually a good concept (which I do admit I like), it would be better if Eileen weren't so slow to begin with… or at least could climb ladders.
It honestly feels a bit too much. The game can be difficult in the first half, but here you're drowning in conditions that you have to keep in order to make it through. It makes the difficulty a bit uneven, scaling from minorly difficult to almost majorly difficult. It can be enough to scare casual horror fans away for good.

The game's puzzles, for the most part, aren't too difficult. Though there is a rotating tower puzzle in the Water Prison, which is annoying as hell. It has you realigning the rooms with bloody beds at first, which isn't too difficult. Then it asks you to do the same with the water pipes surrounding it, which took me an hour to figure out.

Also, did I mention that while you're doing all of this, your navigating through the same environments as before? That's right, every single environment before the Hospital, you have you revisit. They don't even offer a lot of new things either. Sure there's a new ghost here and there, new documents and slight changes (or severe in the last level), but it's unacceptable. If there was some kind of court system for video games, SH4 would have gotten a high penalty in jail.

What can make it a bit more bearable (besides the story), is the horror. The game is much more claustrophobic than its predecessors (though they were a bit claustrophobic too), which is both a good and a bad thing (as mentioned with the combat). But it really helps selling the horror. The apartment itself is a great example and, for a time, acts as your only safe heaven. When ghosts try to invade it, the safe heaven is gone. The ways they try to invade it is actually scary.

The game has a decent length too. It should take around 8-10 hours through your first play through. After which there's new modes (depending on your rank), and 4 endings in total to uncover, though sadly there isn't an UFO ending this time around.

The game isn't boring or bad by any means. It has frustrations, but it is still fun to explore deserted, dangerous environments, with a spooky atmosphere, never knowing what's going happen next. It's just a shame that the game gets so majorly difficult later on.


Graphics & Sound
As is typical of Silent Hill, the graphics are amazing for a PS2 game. Characters look, and animates, life like, while the environments are all claustrophobic and creepy. The monster design is good too, though there may be one or two weird designs here and there. Playing it on the PS3 however (if you got one of the early PS3 models), will make the environments glitch however. Their colors will look incredibly weird, though it's nothing distracting, as playing Silent Hill 2 on the Xbox 360.

Voice acting isn't the best in the series, but it could be worse. Though like the story, it's Henry who's the weakest link. Atmospheric sound design is both scary and excellent, and the monster sounds are pretty good too… though there is one monster that sounds like someone burping every time you hit them. It's comical to say the least. The music, as usual, is outstanding. But then again it is composed by Akira Yamaoka, which says a lot.


Silent Hill 4: The Room isn't the best in the series (though it isn't the worst either, thanks to SH: Homecoming). It has a great concept, a good story, and lots of genuine horror, but it's somewhat let down by the gameplay and uneven difficulty. Especially the final part prevents me from recommending it to just about everyone, but SH fans should be satisfied with their excursion to Ashfield.