Saturday, October 27, 2012

Silent Hill 4

Playing through this series has been like riding on a roller coaster of difficulty.  The first game was decent in terms of challenge.  Then I played Shattered Memories where you literally can't die except in the motion controlled sequences.  Then I played Origins and Homecoming, and their combat was far too difficult.  Playing this game right afterward, I think I know why.  This game has enemies, but they are ridiculously easy to avoid or beat.  There are also no boss battles up until the climax of the game.

In this game you play as Henry Townshend, a young man who finds himself trapped in his apartment and suffering from recurring nightmares.  You can peer out your windows and peephole, and people pass you messages under your door, but otherwise the only way out of the apartment is a strange hole that appears in the bathroom and keeps getting larger.  This hole leads to the nightmare world that we're so used to seeing in Silent Hill, though technically Henry lives in a town called Ashfield.  Every time you go through the hole, someone ends up dead and another bloody hand print appears in the hallway opposite your room.  The victims also have ascending numbers carved into their chests.

The strategy of this game is really about avoiding enemies rather than killing them.  One of the most common enemies is in fact unkillable.  You can temporarily knock them down but they will always get up again, and standing near them drains your life.  There are health items around the nightmare world that give you health back, or you can just jump back into your apartment and that will regenerate your health up until a certain point in the game.  It definitely takes the survival out of the survival horror genre.

There are occasional moments when you're trapped inside your room that are truly creepy.  You view the room through the first person perspective, and that really helps.  Unfortunately these scares are few and far between.

As usual there are puzzles to solve, but I found nearly all of them ridiculously easy.  There was no real need to write down information for later use, and definitely no need for me to consult a walkthrough.  A little trial and error and I quickly found my way past it.  I really felt more like I was just watching a story unfold than I was playing an actual game. 

And how is that story?  As I mentioned in my Silent Hill 2 review, this story builds on bits and pieces you read in newspaper and magazine articles in both that game and Silent Hill 3.  I'm guessing the creators thought up this story idea back then and couldn't logically fit it into those games, but when commissioned to do another sequel figured they might as well give it a try.  The problem is it's just not that interesting.  I stopped playing this game for over a month about halfway through.  Jak lost interest in watching me play, and without him to egg me on I couldn't bring myself to complete it until the HD Collection was released and I reminded myself that I really wanted to review the whole series in as complete a fashion as possible.

I won't spoil the ending for you, because this being an incredibly easy game, you may want to try it out if you can find it cheap and want to see what this series is like.  But don't get your hopes up, because the big reveal is pretty ridiculous.  If you don't mind spoilers, I'll just say that the antagonist shares something in common with the protagonist of a certain children's book.  Seriously.

I feel a little bad that this review is so short, but honestly, with a mediocre game like this there just isn't much to say.  As is so often the case when we get this far along into sequels, the original ideas have simply become stale.  The idea of being trapped in your apartment had a lot of potential, but considering that you spend a lot of time outside of it, they mostly squandered that idea.

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