Review: Silent Hill 4: The Room - PS2, Xbox

Has the survival horror genre passed its peak?

The Silent Hill series has had its respectable share of the survival horror market. More notable than Fatal Frame, but under a few shadows of Resident Evil, Silent Hill boasts a unique brand of horror for the everyday Joe. Silent Hill 4 takes the series in a slightly different direction with mixed results.

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Mr. Henry Townshend is imprisoned in his apartment, escaping only through a portal that leads to a horrifying alternate reality. He finds himself piecing together a plot with clues scattered through many different creepy environments. Your apartment "room" is basically your hub to rest, save, store items and go to other worlds. There is a bit to explore while you're there however. You can even spy on your woman neighbor, watching her every move as she does her daily routine. Might this come into play?

One thing Silent Hill fans will notice immediately is that many of the brilliant puzzles that Hill is known for are used sparingly. Instead, a buttload of find-and-seek quests await you. And since you have to always return to the room to save and store, this process can get old real quick. Not until you are five hours or so into the game will you really encounter boss monsters. The pacing in SH4 is tremendously suspect.

The combat remains very familiar to SH fans and the underlying story fits in well. However, I believe it's the least scary Silent Hill in the series. The twists and scripted scares really don't grab you like the ingenious instances in Silent Hill 2. However, the presentation of the entire story is so well done, you may find a ton of entertainment value in the story alone.

There are so many weapons and items to use at your disposal to dispatch your enemies. Auto-targeting helps the slow pace of the fighting, but overall the action engine feels old. As with many survival horror games, you can't expect fast-paced or complex fighting. The genre needs a revolution in this area.

The graphics are wonderful, musty, grimy, oozy, dreary, dark and beautiful. The characters are wonderfully detailed and certainly display the emotions of fright. How well that's communicated is an entirely different story. The audio is also upper crust. The voice acting is very good and the creepy creaks and voices are haunting. Some of the weapon sound effects and interactive objects are a little weird, though.

Silent Hill 4 is fair. It's not bad, but it doesn't break any new ground. It definitely puts the survival horror genre in a critical position. Will we see any more innovations in this arena or is Silent Hill 4 proof that the genre is on its last leg?

Graphics: A-
Sound: B
First Play: C
Last Play: B
Gameplay: C+

Overall: 81% B-

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