So you’ve had the game series for quite a while – What took you so long to play any of them?
I knew that the series wasn’t Resident Evil and had heard, overall, that the Silent Hill series had a less coherent storyline than the first four main Resi games. Having a story that I can follow is one of the main draws for me when it comes to games.
Down to the nitty gritty. What was your first reaction to Silent Hill 4: The Room?
“What the hell,” sums up my initial reaction to the game. It just was nowhere near the same as the previous games. That jarring of experience, with being thrust into an unexpected first person perspective, rather than the accustomed third person, was unpleasant and too intimate. Yet despite the intimacy, in those first few moments of crappy exposition captions that went up on screen, I had little to no idea of why Henry was experiencing the crap that he was.
None of the Silent Hills seem to like exposition. How does this one compare to the previous three in terms of exposition?
It handled the exposition badly. As I said above, the game opens with a series of screens scrawled with captions about Henry and his situation. It was perhaps one of the few times I have missed the use of cinematics. We were told, not shown and I just hate when that happens.
The controls of the first three seemed rather awkward. How does this game compare?
This one was probably worse. Where it was understandable that the first game didn’t have the chance to think about the finesse of these things, at least 2 and 3 gave you the option to switch between 2D and 3D schemes, but you were stuck with 2D in the fourth game. While I’d previously preferred 2D, somehow it just didn’t seem to work as needed in The Room.
There was also the mechanism of The Room itself, which you kept returning to, and it would heal you and the added item management demanded by the game… I just think they messed around too much with the core ways of playing the series.
This was developed around the same time as Resident Evil 4. Why do you think Resident Evil 4 stole the spotlight?
Story and characters. Many of the characters in Resident Evil 4 are quite memorable, from the merchant to the leader of the villagers: you don’t really forget them in a hurry. Plus, you knew straight from the beginning who Leon was and why he was there, while relying on a caption-esque method, the animations that went with it, narration and music really helped set the scene and the game’s atmosphere.
How do the visuals compare to the previous 2 (considering they were on the same machine)?
At least in the PS2 version, The Room doesn’t really improve on 3. In fact it’s a bit of a regression, because the game relies on way too many brown textures. The palette was just so unvaried.
Did the story make much sense? Was there a logical reason for this to be classed as a Silent Hill game?
The game’s main antagonist had links to the cult from the original Silent Hill games, but the supernatural elements could have all been conjured from some Lovecraftian nightmare. There have been rumours in the past that the game was originally not a Silent Hill game, but it was developed alongside the third game… it just has no necessary lineage.
The system seemed to step away from the separating of the puzzle and action difficulties. Why was this do you think?
It was more action and combat orientated with less focus on puzzles, so there was no need for separate difficulties. But where Resident Evil 4 managed to smoothly shift the focus on the series in itself, Silent Hill 4: The Room rewarded you with fewer puzzles and unrewarding combat.
Does this make you want to play more Silent Hill games, or stay away from the series completely?
I think I’ll revisit the previous games at some point and work on getting the different endings, but after a few hours of playing this game, I am quite sure that a) I don’t want to finish it and b) I’m not interested in the rest of the series. I said last week on Silent HIll 3 that I couldn’t see how a sequel could have been successfully spun from it. The answer was that it couldn’t.
Was the main character relatable?
Henry is less relatable than the series’ previous protagonists. You don’t experience much of his background, rather you have to spend time really looking at his apartment to get to know him, which is kind of un-appealing considering how Room 302 acts like this weird hub that you keep being thrust back into.
So, you’ve played 4 Silent Hill games in the space of a month. Was it as torturous as actually being in Silent Hill?
It was an enjoyable experience being scared by the first two games, and Heather is quite a reasonable character in the third, but it was quite torturous playing the games. Keeping an eye on ammo and solving puzzles can be a fraying experience and the games don’t really let up unless you play on Easy.
The idea of Silent Hill as a place with evil leaching out of it, infecting the people who come into contact with it was definitely done well. But I think the series should have taken a long break after the third main game.