Silent Hill 4: The Room
|Silent Hill 4: The Room|
|Developer(s)||Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo|
|Release date(s)||JP June 17, 2004 (PS2)
Silent Hill 4: The Room is the fourth installment in the Silent Hill survival horror series, published by Konami and developed by Team Silent, a production group within Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo. The game was released in Japan in June 2004 and in North America and Europe in September of the same year. Silent Hill 4 was released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Microsoft Windows. A soundtrack release was also made at the same time.
Unlike the previous installments, which were set primarily in the town of Silent Hill, this game is set in the fictional town of South Ashfield, and follows Henry Townshend as he attempts to escape from his locked-down apartment. During the course of the game, Henry explores a series of supernatural worlds and finds himself in conflict with an undead serial killer.
Silent Hill 4 features an altered gameplay style with third-person navigation and plot elements taken from previous installments. Upon its release the game received a mixed critical reaction due to deviations from the original Silent Hill style.
The objective of Silent Hill 4: The Room is to guide player character Henry Townshend, as he seeks to escape from his apartment. Gameplay centers on the apartment, which is shown through a first-person perspective and contains the only save point. The other areas of the game are reached through holes formed in the apartment. For the first half of the game, the room restores Henry's "health" (a measure of the amount of damage that he can endure before 'dying'); in the second half of the game, however, the room becomes possessed by hauntings that drain his health.
In the main levels of the game the player uses the usual third-person view of the Silent Hill series. The player has a limited item inventory which can be managed by leaving unneeded items in a chest in Henry's room. Silent Hill 4 emphasizes combat during gameplay, with a near-absence of complex puzzles in favor of simple item-seeking tasks. In the second half of the game Henry is accompanied and helped in combat by his neighbor Eileen Galvin; Eileen cannot die while she is with Henry, although as she takes damage she succumbs to possession. The damage Eileen takes in the game determines whether or not she dies during the final boss fight, directly affecting the ending achieved.
Combat in Silent Hill 4 follows the pattern set by the other games with a few key differences. The player has access to a variety of melee weapons but only two firearms. Certain melee weapons are breakable. Items which can be equipped such as talismans (which protect the player from damage from the hauntings in Henry's room) will eventually break after a short period of use. Another key difference in the combat system is that melee attacks may be "charged" before they are used, inflicting a greater amount of damage to an opponent than a quick attack.
One of the most significant changes is the introduction of unkillable ghosts of antagonist Walter Sullivan's victims. The ghosts have the ability to hurt Henry, which can be nullified by two items. These items can also exorcize the hauntings in Henry's apartment. Ghosts can also be knocked down for a long time with one of two special bullets and pinned permanently with a special sword.
The protagonist and player character of Silent Hill 4 is Henry Townshend, a resident of the South Ashfield Heights Apartments building in the fictitious town of Ashfield. Henry is an "average" man who has been described by Konami as an introvert in his late 20s. For the most part Henry navigates the game's world alone, although he eventually works with his neighbor Eileen Galvin. Henry also deals with the new supporting characters of Cynthia Velázquez, Andrew DeSalvo, Richard Braintree and Jasper Gein.
Silent Hill 4: The Room incorporates two unseen, minor characters from previous installments: investigative journalist Joseph Schreiber and deceased serial killer Walter Sullivan. Joseph was first referenced in Silent Hill 3 with a magazine article he has written condemning the "Hope House" orphanage run by The Order which the game's protagonist, Heather, can discover. In Silent Hill 2, Walter is referenced in a newspaper article detailing his suicide in his jail cell after his murder of two children. Sullivan appears in two forms: an undead adult enemy and a neutral child supporting character. Walter's previous victims play a small role in the game as enemies.
At the beginning of the game, Henry Townshend has been locked in his apartment in South Ashfield for five days with no means of communication and having recurring nightmares. Shortly afterwards, a hole appears in the wall of his bathroom, through which he enters alternate dimensions.
His first destination is an abandoned subway station, where he meets Cynthia Velázquez, a woman convinced that she is actually dreaming and who is soon killed by an unknown man. On his radio, he hears confirmation she is indeed dead in the real world. The same thing happens to the next three people Henry finds: Jasper Gein, Andrew DeSalvo, and Richard Braintree, a resident in Henry's apartment complex. The cases seem similar to the deceased serial killer Walter Sullivan's modus operandi, and Henry finds scraps of the diary of his apartment's former occupant, journalist Joseph Schreiber, who was investigating his spree. Henry learns Walter was in fact an orphan who had been led to believe his biological mother was Henry's apartment, where he had been found.
It is revealed Walter is in fact attempting to carry out a ritual, which requires twenty-one murders to be committed, to try to "purify" the apartment, and is in an undead state. Midway through the game, a child manifestation of Walter interrupts the murder of the intended twentieth victim, Eileen Galvin, and she joins Henry trying to find Joseph. At the same time, hauntings begin to manifest in Henry's apartment. The two eventually find Joseph's ghost, who tells them that their only escape is to kill Walter and that Henry is the intended twenty-first victim.
Shortly after Henry acquires Walter's umbilical cord, a tool required to kill him, Eileen leaves Henry and returns to room 302, either hoping to stop Walter from completing the ritual or under possession. He finds her with Walter, possessed and about to walk into a deathtrap, and a fight between the two men ensues. After Walter is killed, there are four possible endings, determined by whether or not Eileen survived the fight and on the condition of Henry's apartment. The "21 Sacrements" ending sees Walter and his child manifestation in Henry's apartment, while the radio reveals that Henry and Eileen have died, along with Frank Sunderland and several others. In "Eileen's Death," Henry awakens in his apartment, and learns from his radio that Eileen has died, to his sorrow. In "Mother," Henry escapes from his apartment building, and brings flowers to Eileen, who plans to return to the apartment building. Room 302, meanwhile, has become completely possessed. "Escape" begins similarly to the "Mother" ending, but Eileen resolves to find a new place to live, and the apartment is not shown to be possessed. There is no UFO "joke ending", a staple of the series.
The fourth Silent Hill game was begun by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo's development group Team Silent shortly after the release of Silent Hill 2 and alongside Silent Hill 3, with the intentions of creating a new style of game that would take the series in a different direction than the previous games. News of the game's development was made public by October 2003, and official announcements by Konami followed at Gamers' Day 2004. The game was produced by the series' recurring sound designer and composer Akira Yamaoka. Its working title, prior to its incorporation into the rest of the series, was simply Room 302.
The main concept behind the new game structure was to take the idea of "the room" as "the safest part of your world" and make it a danger zone. The first-person perspective was included in this area of the game to give the room's navigation a personal and claustrophobic feel. The producers nonetheless retained the classic third-person perspective in all other areas to accommodate the increased emphasis on action and combat. The developers re-used locations already explored in the first half of the game to show the changes undergone by each character introduced in the locations.
It was noted that the game, like previous titles in the series, refers to the film Jacob's Ladder (1990) and that the protagonist Henry Townshend shares a likeness to actor Peter Krause. The architecture of the apartment and the addition of the hole is comparable to a similar non-Euclidean space in author Mark Z. Danielewski's novel House of Leaves (2000). Other nods includes the novel Rosemary's Baby (1967), American television series Twin Peaks (1990–1991), and American horror author Stephen King. The creators of the game have acknowledged writer Ryu Murakami's book Coin Locker Babies (1980) as an inspiration on the game's premise.
The soundtrack for Silent Hill 4: The Room was released alongside the game in 2004, composed by Akira Yamaoka with vocals by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Joe Romersa. The Japanese version featured a second disc containing music by series composer Akira Yamaoka played along to the reading of traditional Japanese stories. The American version contained 13 exclusive tracks and remixes.
A short remix of the song "Your Rain" was featured in the Northern American console release of Dance Dance Revolution Extreme and the multi-regional arcade Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova a few years later. Several tracks from the game were also featured in the promotional UMD Silent Hill Experience.
Silent Hill 4: The Room was first released in Japan on June 17, 2004. The game was shipped for its subsequent North American and European releases on September 7, with pre-ordering customers receiving the soundtrack for free with the game in the former market. The game, alongside its two PS2 predecessors, were rereleased in 2006 as part of The Silent Hill Collection European boxset, as a tie-in with the release of the Silent Hill film, and again in 2009. Microsoft has confirmed that their Xbox 360 console is backward compatible with the game's Xbox port.
The previews of Silent Hill 4: The Room provided at E3 2004 lead IGN to name it the best PlayStation 2 adventure game in show. Upon its release in 2004 the game also attracted the attention of mainstream news outlets CNN, the BBC and The Times. Silent Hill 4 topped game sales charts in Japan during a video game sales slump, but dropped to tenth place one week later. Official statements by Konami referred to sales of the game in North America as "favorable."
Review aggregator Metacritic shows an average score rating of 76 out of 100 for both the PS2 and Xbox versions, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Marc Saltzman of CNN wrote: "Unlike Hollywood horror movies that often get worse with each new sequel ("Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan," for example), Konami's scary Silent Hill series gets better -- and creepier -- with age." Video game magazine Game Informer praised Silent Hill 4: The Room, stating that its "disarming voyeurism, bizarre camera angles, and exceptionally well-placed tension is what the series has been trying to do all along, but The Room is the first entry to do it right." According to a reviewer for the United Kingdom video game magazine Edge, "[l]ook at it one way, and it's a choking journey with unprecedented attention to unease and psychological horror, a game framed with unparalleled sophistication. From another angle, it's just a clunky PSone throwback, with all the design wit of a dodo." The New York Times, however, found it completely lacking in "true terror."
The plot of the game was generally well received by reviewers, who praised it as horrifying, compelling, and "dark". 1UP.com praised the titular room as constantly maintaining a sense of unease for the player. Game Revolution enjoyed the relatively normal appearance of the environment outside Henry's room at the game's beginning, writing: "Are these strange otherworlds real, or are they just the nightmares of some lunatic shut-in who chained up his own door? It effectively blurs the line between reality and delusion, leading to a singularly creepy game." In contrast, IGN's Douglass C. Perry felt that the familiarity of the story as compared with the other Silent Hill storylines detracted from its horror appeal, although he cared about its characters more than in previous games. Critics were, for the most part, pleased with the voice acting in the game, although it did receive criticism for the characters' calmness. Nevertheless, producer and composer Akira Yamaoka said that the characters were, to him, "a little weak."
The graphics of the game environments were praised as detailed. According to Bethany Massimilla of GameSpot, "The game looks its best in corroded, bloody, gritty environments, like the damp, steel halls of the water prison or the subterranean subway layers that, at one point in the game, are walled in living, moving flesh." The character and monster designs received praise as well-done. Reviewers generally commended the audio as contributing to the horror of the game, although 1UP wrote that it was sub-par for the series.
The gameplay's departures from that of previous installments in the series drew a range of reactions. GameZone enjoyed the changes, writing that they were needed to keep the series fresh. The decision to place the only save point and storage area for items in the titular room, with no option to discard unwanted items, was generally criticised, with reviewers finding it inconvenient to have to return there. The puzzles had mixed reactions. Kristan Reed of Eurogamer expressed disappointment with the degree to which the game had been geared as a combat game with an absence of standard Silent Hill puzzles, while GameSpy's Bryn Williams worried that the puzzles' obscurity and "non-lateral" nature might discourage more casual players. IGN disliked the replacement of logic-based puzzles in favour of obtaining various items, and was also displeased by the lack of boss fights. Another source of criticism was the repetition of the first four environments during the second half of the game.
Metacritic shows a lower average rating of 67 out of 100 for the PC version, indicating "mixed or average reviews". IGN's Perry complained about "the blurriest textures we've seen in years and some serious graphical glitches" and "extremely low mouse sensitivity" inhibiting gameplay. GameSpot's review praised the graphics as having "been optimized well for the PC" but acknowledging "keyboard and mouse controls just don't fare that well in an environment of constantly shifting perspective views that can make navigation frustrating."
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- Opening Narration: It was two years ago that Henry Townshend moved into Room 302 of South Ashfield Heights, an apartment building in the medium-sized city of Ashfield. (Silent Hill 4: The Room, Konami, 2004.)
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- Teaching Despair: "Hope House": "Hope House", an orphanage on the outskirts of Silent Hill. But behind its false image is a place where children are kidnapped and brainwashed.[...]The cult religion that operates "Hope House" is known by the locals simply as "The Order".[...]I intend to continue my investigation of "Hope House" and the cult behind it. I've always believe that "telling the whole truth" and showing the children the true path, is our most important duty. - Joseph Schreiber. (Silent Hill 3, Konami, 2003.)
- Article about Murder Incident: The police announced today that Walter Sullivan, who was arrested on the 18th of this month for the brutal murder of Billy Locane and his sister Miriam, committed suicide in his jail cell early on the morning of the 22nd. (Silent Hill 2, Konami, 2001.)
- Joseph's diary - June 11: Walter Sullivan did kill himself. He died in his prison cell of blood loss after he stabbed himself in the neck with his spoon.[...]After that, his name became famous all over the world and it looked like his string of mass murders was finished at 10 out of 21. (Silent Hill 4: The Room, Konami, 2004.)
- Joseph: [Walter's] boyhood desire to return to the bosom of his birth has divided him. Now his child self has manifested itself in this world... (Silent Hill 4: The Room, Konami, 2004.)
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- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: Room 302. "Henry: Five days ago...That's when I first had the nightmare. I haven't been able to get out of my room since then. The phone doesn't work, the TV doesn't work...I can't even get anybody to hear me when I yell..."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. "Cynthia: Huh? This is my dream and you don't even know my name? It's Cynthia... / Henry: Your dream? / Cynthia: That's right. This is just a dream. And a really terrible one too. I hope I wake up soon."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. "Cynthia: ...Henry, I found the exit. Come to the turnstile... ...Hurry, hurry...! It's him...! ...He's coming!"
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. "Police officer on radio: Looks like another one, captain...got "1...121"... on his head...It's just like that case from 10 years ago...Yeah, that Walter Sullivan case...But Sullivan's dead. They even got the body..."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. "Joseph's diary - April 4: I've been investigating the mass murder that took place 7 years ago in which 10 people were killed in 10 days. [...]The name of their killer...it was carved in as well...His name was...Walter Sullivan."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: Apartment Building Part 2. "Joseph: Let me tell you something about "him," Walter Sullivan. When he was a little boy, he began to believe that my apartment was actually his birth mother. He decided to "free" her from the stains and corruption of this world."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: Apartment Building Part 2. "Joseph: At the orphanage, [Walter] learned of the "21 Sacraments," the only way to purify her. He then performed the ceremony of the "Holy Assumption" and created this...twisted world. Now...he's become nothing more than an inhuman killing machine. Well, he's dead now, but he's still trying to complete the "21 Sacraments."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: St. Jerome's Hospital. "Henry: I got this letter from [Joseph]. He told me to go down, down into the deepest part of him, and to look for the ultimate Truth. Let's do that. There must be something down there. /Eileen: Okay, I'll do it. You're the only chance I've got. I'll stick with you."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: Apartment Building Part 2. "Joseph: Follow the Crimson Tome. Stop [Walter]. If not, wherever you run, He will catch you. Find him. His true location...It must be nearby. You must kill him...you must kill him...kill...kill"
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: Apartment Building Part 2. "Eileen: Henry? Are you okay? It's Walter... He's crying... Even finishing the 21 Sacraments... It won't help that boy... I'm going back, Henry... To the room where he is... We're the only ones... The only ones that can stop him."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: Apartment Building Part 2. "Eileen: (possessed, and in a childlike tone) Daddy? Mommy? Why did you leave me? I'm scared... I'm so scared... It's dark and I'm so scared... Mommy....? Mommy....? Are you asleep...? Mommy? I'll wake you up... I will... (runs off)"
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: "21 Sacrements" ending. "Child Walter: Mom...Mom...I'm home. I won't let anyone get in my way... I'm gonna stay with you forever. / Newsanchor: And now the news... Yesterday in Ashfield and the woods near Silent Hill, the bodies of five apparent murder victims and a sixth severely wounded female were discovered. The woman was immediately rushed to St. Jerome Hospital, but died a short time later of her injuries. She has been identified as Miss Eileen Galvin of Ashfield. The last body discovered was found in Room 302 of the South Ashfield Heights apartments. It is believed to be that of its occupant, Henry Townshend. The body was reportedly disfigured beyond recognition, making identification inpossible. Once again, we've got late-breaking news... Five unnamed police officers have been found death, for reasons unknown, in the South Ashfield Heights apartments, along with its superintendent Mr. Frank Sunderland."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: "Eileen's Death" ending. "Newsanchor: Yesterday, in Ashfield and the woods near Silent Hill, the bodies of five men and women were discovered. [...] Four of the victims were found dead at the scene, and the fifth victim, a Miss Eileen Galvin, was transported to St. Jerome's Hospital, where she died a short time later. [...] / Henry: (falling to the floor) Eileen......"
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: "Mother" ending. "Eileen: Well, I guess I can go back to South Ashfield Heights now..."
- Team Silent (2004-09-17). Silent Hill 4: The Room. Konami. Level/area: "Escape" ending. "Eileen: Guess I'll have to find a new place to live, huh?"
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