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SummaryRevitalizing the series, much better than SH3
The GoodAfter a series of three successful games, it is very easy to expect the release of another one. The last of them SH3 was very poor in comparison with SH2, the best of the series, and most of the SH fans were fearing for the series to go worse and worse with every new part. When the first trailers and screenshot appeared, you could see the typical trailers from SH series which showed very little about the gameplay and the screenshots showed a worrisome amount of combat scenes. This was not a good indication, as I find the excess of combat in SH series the worst feature. But the game ended up being a very proud Silent Hill.
I have had a lot of luck with this game, relative to the situation I was in, when I played this game. It was Christmas time, and I was barely alone in a residence for students, in the last floor, in a rather creepy room (it was the cheapest of the building, you can make an idea), so this game became a personal experience. Indeed, this is a game with a lot of claustrophobic terror as I'm going to explain. If you have read a bit about this game, you will be surely puzzled by the base idea of this game, a game about being trapped in a room?, well, there is more than just a room, and I can assure you that the room, actually apartment, gives a lot more game than you can think.
This game is about a guy, trapped in his apartment, who slowly discovers what is its story (of the apartment) through visits to places related with a previous inhabitant of it. But more deeply, this game is about the desperation of a man who sees himself prisoned in a place that becomes more bizarre and menacing for every hour he spends inside. And the first person view while you are in the apartment helps a lot to make the player to feel the same.
The level structure of the game is very obvious, even if the disturbing nature of the game makes you think that everything can happens. You visit some different places, like a subway, a hospital and a tower, and in each of them, you meet a NPC, so lost like yourself and who will eventually need of your help. You will soon understand (and "suffer") the role of those characters. In the second part of the game (DON'T READ THIS if you want to play it for yourself) the evil forces that maintain you in the apartment start being more visible and even your apartment is no more a safe place. With this, and like it is usual in SH, you will revisit some levels, but with more difficult this time, and with your young neighbor girl trapped in that world with you and will accompany you (READ AGAIN!). And even if you can think this, when you have the possibility of going outside your apartment, maybe you wont want to...
And all this is because the story in SH4 is very immersive and surprising and every little detail counts. Like in SH2, the "terror" is not administered in great doses at concrete moments, it will be a part of the story and you will be disoriented, tense, uncomfortable and, at some point terrified. That is the spirit of SH and that is what differentiate a good terror story and an average "jumping form your seat" one. And, in addition to the usual formulas of the SH series, in this game you will experience claustrophobia too to as a mayor part of the feeling of the game. As you go on in your quest for understanding what happens with your apartment, this will transform slowly in a cursed place, and you will end up finding yourself more secure in the bizarre outer dimensions than in your apartment.
Of course, like in any other SH be prepare to enjoy a sublime artistic direction, which can be found resumed in any of the trailers.
The BadFirst of, this is a Silent Hill game, and, like any Silent Hill games, it has some habitual failures to the series. The more obvious one is the excessive amount of enemies and their lack of context, which makes them frivolous after some combats and which forces a break in the atmosphere, as you fight creatures that you can't really relate to the game as a whole. This was worse in SH3 and they haven't solve it for SH4. Still the ghosts are a hell of an enemy, in every meaning of the word.
Another endemic demotivation of the SH games is that they are too linear, specially this one, that happens no more in an apparently open city, but in a series of manifestly closed areas, one after another. This is specially annoying in this game, as you see the level design as a series of little rooms communicated by doors, it really kills the pleasing feeling of freedom you felt in SH2, where all the city seemed to be accessible.
But "The Room" has some negative points by his own too. Some of them appears compared to other SH games; you will miss, for example, the fog, the lantern, the city of Silent Hill itself. Aside of those, there are some minor failures we can point at, like the very poor graphics for what you can see through your windows and the fact that you visit twice a lot of levels.
Plus, there is no "W.C. moment" in SH4!!, even if there is a W.C., that was an icon for SH2 and SH3, when you enter a W.C. and you knock the closed door and... nothing, in SH4 you can't even knock, too bad!!
The Bottom LineEven if you like it or not, find it an unnecessary SH, you must admit that this game is unique. If you like playing strange games here is one for you, and if you are a fan of SH games, I really think you should give it a try. In any case, this is not a game for everyone, but it's a SH you can play without having played the others.
It is always good that game designers experiment, let's hope the SH series hasn't died yet or have some good substitutes.