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December 7, 2004
Silent Hill 4: The Room - Review
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Quite bloody...
When you hear the name "Stephen King", you should automatically think of classic horror film and television. And when you hear "Silent Hill", you should probably think of the mother of all survival horror video games. And if you don't, you probably just aren't too much into the genre, or you're a fanboy of some other highly coveted survival horror brand, for example, Silent Hill's big brother series, Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan). It began for PlayStation in the February of 1999, when the original Silent Hill was released, and the legend began. Since then, a legacy has been built, and millions of fans have been won. And now, five years later, the fourth addition to the series is released, and it's as scarier than it ever has been.

The plot, this time around, is centred around Henry Townsend. He is a resident of South Ashfield Heights, an apartment block, in a town not so far from Silent Hill. Henry begins noticing very strange occurances within his room where he is residing. And terror and pain begins to taint his dreams, and now he finds that he can now no longer leave his room, which seems to be cursed. And now within these nightmares and this 'room', he must find an answer, or a reason for these happenings. And doing so, he's treading a fine line between life and certain death. His goal is to awaken from his dream alive, or he will die inside his dream, therefore being nothing but a dead cell. Sure, doesn't sound like the typical Silent Hill plot, simply because it's really not up to the standard we'd come to expect from Konami, they've proven they're unable to hire capable writers to create a decent plot.

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That's getting wierd!
The gameplay, however, can be described as 'your traditional survival horror game'. It's full of blood, gore, awkward camera angles, and well, more gore. And of course, the basic fighting stance button, coupled with a swing/shoot weapon button, and that's how simple the fighting can be. But this time around, there's no puzzle difficulty options, it's basically the game difficulty this time around, consisting of easy, normal, and of course, for the real hair-chested men, hard. But the game is easily enjoyed on all modes, however it's just extremely difficult on hard for those who weren't born with a copy of Silent Hill in their mouth.

Luckily, you still manage to carry an impressive arsenal of weaponry, including shovels, guns, and heck, even the traditional ole' steel pipe. Seasoned Silent Hill players will have to get used to some minor changes. You now move around the screen by using the analog stick, rather than the traditional directional pad. Your HUD (heads-up display) now consists of a health bar, which gradually dwindles down as you take damage from your nightmarish villians, and along with that, is a 'swing gauge', where as you hold down the 'swing/shoot' button, when you're using a melee weapon, the gauge gradually fills, and the more consumed it becomes, the more severe your stick will become. The highest possible move I saw was a swing that seemed very similiar to a 'homerun attempt', where Henry literally goes for it all, and swings his heart out.

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Looking outside the room.
Another big change is the inclusion of 'real-time' item selection, where you now simply press across on the directional-pad and select your item, rather than take a break from the gameplay to find your desired item. This will take some a while to become used to - many used the 'item selection' screen in previous games as a brief pause, and a toilet break. And now without the option, gamers are now lodged into battle, the way it should be.

Unfortunately, as mentioned before, a major problem within the game's mechanics and programming is once again the awkward and obscure camera angles. Chances are they were implemented to provide a tense and intense fighting space, but really all they do is make the gamer stress and become unaware of what they're swinging at, half of the time. They can make the game extremely awkward and sometimes even unenjoyable, depending on how seriously you take this matter. But other than that, the game is just fine - they really need to work on camera angles, though.

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The Future Gamez kitchen!
Graphically, Silent Hill 4 shines above many others currently on the market, and it does so with a certain gory and disgusting flare. The character models look gorgeous, and stunningly realistic, with all of the expressions resembling real-life emotions, and feeling. The cut-scenes look simply brilliant, with the eerie atmosphere to make it feel like 'Silent Hill', and the monsters in the game also look amazing, in a freakishly scary kind of a way. From floating and crawling corpses, to lanky spiders with baby heads on them, they're all here, and they're right in your face as soon as they see you, and that is extremely intimidating. The maps are well-designed with a very 'dead' feel to the whole room, and the subways, and the further buildings, everything looks dirty, and grungy, which is obviously what developers would have been aiming for, to create the horror theme.

As far as the sound goes, it's easy to say some effort has been placed into creating a very horroific soundtrack. I mean this in a good way though, because no doubt that is what they were aiming for. With epic and eerie themes from the 'Mozart' of PlayStation gaming, the sound artist of this game has done an immaculate job in creating a compliation of beautifully arranged music. The introduction theme for the game alone is simply amazing. And only the sounds of cackling monsters and footsteps can draw your ear away from this soundtrack, because it's quite simply one of the better composed game soundtracks in recent time.

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But that's enough on the great soundtrack, onto the voice acting. Unfortunately, it's not great, but this is kind of lucky, because it's really not needed to feel the meaning of the game. Henry is obviously a man of few words, as his current three favourite words are: "What the hell?", sometimes with a few brief pauses in between each word, and he'd even throw in a stutter sometimes, for variety. But generally, the voice acting by other characters, or what there is of them, anyway, can be seen as impressive. But as mentioned, the voice acting isn't necessarily a huge factor of the game.

Generally, Silent Hill 4: The Room is an experience that can really be felt fully when you play it at midnight with the window open, so the cold breeze sends a shiver down your spine. This is one hell of a scary video game, and quite possibly one of the scariest, if not the scariest, games ever made. It should probably be packaged with a complimentary pair of y-fronts, but it's okay that it isn't. If you're a veteran of the Silent Hill series, you may be surprised by some of the changes that takes place within this game, possibly even disappointed, but for those who are new to the series, much like myself, you'll find it's a horror-packed rollercoaster ride of emotion as you struggle to find your way home after losing yourself in a 'bad dream'.

Review By: Brodie Gibbons

GRAPHICSVery dark, but with good reason. Everything is modelled beautifully.
SOUNDAn amazing soundtrack, great voice-acting, one of the best.
GAMEPLAYA bit of a let-down, due to the hype, but still enjoyable by a long shot.
VALUEIt takes decent time to complete, with a variety of difficulty levels.
OVERALLSilent Hill 4: The Room is a typical survival horror video game, it's got scares, it's got bloody violence, and it's got an average plot, but hey, we love survival horrors, and I love beautifully composed music, so this game is just fine in my books. I'd recommend renting to those unsure, just to avoid any disappointment, though.

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