Have You Played… Silent Hill 4: The Room?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Much of the praise for horror series Silent Hill is directed at its second entry Silent Hill 2. I’m not sure it was entirely understood when first released in late 2001, however it’s since become a marker against which psychological horror games are judged. Silent Hill 4: The Room [Wikipedia page], on the other hand, isn’t discussed nearly as much but it’s arguably the scariest game in the series.

After becoming locked inside his inner-city apartment with little explanation (see all of those chains in the header image there?), protagonist James Townsend travels to and from various monster-filled locations via an equally strange hole-cum-vortex that mysteriously appears in his bathroom. He steadily uncovers more about the twisted world of Silent Hill and the people and horrors within, and while his home acts as a refuge in the first half of the game – it regenerates Townsend’s health and is the only save point throughout – it becomes haunted in the second, posing as big a threat as the terrors that stalk the other side.

Critically, it was rightly marked down for some irritating escorting and repetitive environments in its last third, however The Room is the first horror game I was genuinely terrified by. Its atmosphere, story, and setting (I still shudder at the thought of the Panopticon stage) were pitched so well which is why it’s an absolute shame that it’s so often overlooked. It also made me revisit these fantastic words from horror aficionado Adam.

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  1. MsYutani says:

    *Henry Townshend

  2. A7ibaba says:

    I finished SS 4 The Room 3 times,and even today i run it sometimes in PSX emulator.One of the best game for me.

  3. Bullett00th says:

    I felt like it was a bit of a sidestep from the main series, and I genuinely disliked some changes.
    But there is no denying that the Room is one of THE scariest SH games in terms of atmosphere. On par with SH2, but in a different way.

    Never managed to beat it though since I got really bored on that backtracking bit

    • Maxheadroom says:

      I believe that’s because it wasn’t developed as a Silent Hill game at all. It had a completely different title until fairly late in development when it was ‘rebranded’ as Silent Hill because marketing

      • natebud says:

        Actually that isn’t really true, the developers did want it to be a silent hill game and we’re working on it since the second game, it is a little loosely connected but you can find mention of the main villain of 4 in a few places in silent hill 2. It was essentially being made alongside 3.

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    Risingson says:

    None of the silent hills actually. Tried the first one and after 1 hour or two its mechanics and, above it all, narrative devices left me cold. Same with the second. Same with probably most survival horror games, and I loved the 3 Alone in the Dark games.

  5. samination says:

    I think people were tired of these games when 4 came out and it was sadly shrugged off. While Silent Hill 2 and 3 get all the praise, I can’t really see understand why. When revisiting them both today I feel they are very repetitive and plain boring. I would say 4 is the best Silent Hill game in the series (excluding the first) and both need a re-release.

  6. kolesGhost says:

    Anyone else stare out of the apartment’s window way to much?

  7. mnemos says:

    Silent Hill is one of those series where I love the world so much I can have a good time just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. Which is probably why I stuck around long after the wheels started to come off, and even sort of like the more objectively mediocre entries like Homecoming.

  8. Kingseeker Camargo says:

    It had a handful of great ideas and some enemies were pretty good (although you could easily recognize the sources they were ripped off of), and the first couple hours or so showed a lot of promise (the idea of the protagonist being a sort of bystander of the actual story was a nice twist); but it falls flat halfway through, once the escort missions take over and the villain starts chasing you with guns and a Maniacal Bad Guy Laughter (TM).

    Plus I don’t think it’s anywhere near “the scariest game in the series”: The burping nurses, the wacky bumping wheelchairs, the monkey men –the game had so much perplexing stupidity going on that I could never take it seriously, let alone be scared.

    • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

      strange hole-cum-vortex

      I’m always game for exploring a strange hole-cum-vortex.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      Forgot about all those stupid fucking things (Burping nurses etc). The worst offender for me was the guy hanging down from the ceiling. “Kill him. Kill him. Kill. Him. Kill… Him.” Awful. Truly awful.

  9. inspiredhandle says:

    Second one was the best. Only because the first one had such terrible looking graphics. After playing ResEvil 1/2 the 3D environments just looked a bit jagged and wonky. The Room is a close 3rd place for me. Had a nice change of pace/environment/lore. 3rd instalment was a bit pants (except for the room with the mirror where your reflection froze and went red).

    • inspiredhandle says:

      The bit in the second game with the room (think it was in the hospital?) that had a googley eyed face on one wall made me lose my shit. Was the only time a SH game made me laugh out loud.

      • natebud says:

        That was the forth game. Actually there is a Taser that’s kind of hard to find in the prison, and if you zap the head with it, her eyes flash and go nuts.

        • inspiredhandle says:

          Really? Well then, let’s just put it on the SH4 awful pile. Was it also the 4th game that had the 2 headed, walk-on-hands things? They were fuckin’ creepy

          • Kingseeker Camargo says:

            Yep, the porcelain doll-faced hand-walking Brazil-looking things were from SH4. As were the floating old ladies and the Ju-On-style hairy crawling girls.

            Those are the ones I was talking about when I said they were good but blatant rip-offs.

          • natebud says:

            It was more of an easter egg, that Taser is really hard to find unless you know exactly where it is, or find it by accident. The pile is already plenty full as it is with all the backtracking, constant escort quest, limited inventory space, Henry’s voice, and the fact that this game is based on a truly awful movie called The Cell

    • samination says:

      For a PS1 game, it looks pretty darn good. I enjoy those old-school looks as they’re actually pretty charming and give the game a weird feeling.

      • Kingseeker Camargo says:

        More importantly, even with any visual shortcomings you could care to mention (even in its day the shaky polygons drove me crazy) it drips with atmosphere like nothing else. Seriously, gaming has never again managed to create an experience that can compare to that game.

        If someone plays the first Silent Hill and can’t look past its lack of dynamic lighting or antialiasing or pixel shading or whatever, I really pity them.

        • inspiredhandle says:

          No doubt. It was the scariest thing ever when I first played it. Just that I was used to the prerendered backgrounds of the ResEvil games. All that had to be rendered in those was the character/monster sprites. SH had to do the whole lot. Probably why everything was either fog or darkness.

  10. inspiredhandle says:

    This “Have you played…” Has come at a funny time. Just finished watching the last of Stranger Things last night. The whole way through, the wife was saying “it’s a bit like Silent Hill.” (She only ever played the room)

  11. mr.earbrass says:

    This is my second favorite entry in the series,after the second one of course.

  12. Eight Rooks says:

    I have played it, though like other posters here, the backtracking was so god damned tedious I never finished it. Really, really liked the opening stretch, though. At the same time I struggle to praise Silent Hill as a franchise because quite honestly none of them were ever very good games. I totally bought into most of the horror iconography, don’t get me wrong – I’ll happily argue the story in 2 is amazing, the world-building in 4 scared the crap out of me and 3 is one of very few works of fiction to actually make me feel physically ill (the dark world with the hospital trolleys in particular). But 2 is an awful game, empty, tedious and far too easy, and 3 and 4 aren’t much better. Tank controls and awkward, stilted combat can die in a fire. They were every bit as godawful as “classic” Resident Evil, it was just the narratives were usually sufficient compensation I could grit my teeth and get on with it.

    Still, again, there’s nothing in any other game quite like that story arc up until the chase kicks in. I really ought to go back and try and beat the damned thing.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      This guy. Classic Resident Evil is faultless.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        This guy. I played them when they came out – I was working in a videogames shop for the Director’s Cut of 1 and I think the release of 2 as well, so I spent a nine to five schedule among the nerdiest of the nerds, and we thought they were hilariously awful even back then. The romanticising of Z-list trashy plotting, a cast of nonentities, cliched production design devoid of any spark and contrived tension through godawful UI and terrible controls never fails to amuse and frustrate me in equal measure. If you think that tying lead weights to your ankles for no reason equals exquisite terror your opinions are bad and you should feel bad, basically. There are many, many reasons why I love Resi 6 best of all the franchise, but the fact it threw practically every trope-y piece of design the other games reveled in straight out of the window like the hackneyed technological compromises they were certainly helps. “Faultless”. Christ almighty.

        • tnzk says:

          In Mortimer Adler’s book ‘How To Think About the Great Ideas’, Adler demonstrates quite convincingly through logic and reason how people can actually have an opinion that is wrong.

          But you needn’t read the book. You can just snap this comment from Eight Rooks that Resident Evil 1 and its survival horror ilk are ‘godawful’.

          I’m not a guy prone to nostalgia, but the original Resident Evil has been remade/re-released twice, and because of its inspired design it’s still a brilliant play through no matter which side of the 3D era you jumped in. And as a guy that bats for the Silent Hill team almost exclusively, I have to say Resi 1 is pure class from top to bottom. It’s one of those games that is dated, but never gets old. You can see the developers battled their way through the nascent 3D era and used their technical and creative limitations to bloody good effect.

          But yes, 90’s survival horror had driven itself into a corner. So Resident Evil reversed back a bit and took the highway, resulting in Resident Evil 4, simply one of the greatest games ever made.

          But fuck me if REmake can release itself several times and still make an impact that doesn’t ride purely on nostalgia. That’s Super Mario Bros. level classic.

          • TeePee says:

            As is usually the case, the truth is most likely somewhere in the middle.

            Saying the early RE games were ‘faultless’ is madness. The tank controls were hideous, and the dialogue was absolute rubbish (although hilariously so). They were excellent, excellent games, but there were some pretty glaring flaws in there too.

            On the same note, like ’em or not, they paved the way for pretty much the entire Survival Horror genre as a mainstream entity (please note that I’m not trying to claim it was the first survival horror game!), and the original has been remembered so fondly by so many that it’s been remade on more than one occasion, and continued to sell well.

            Now, Dino Crisis on the other hand, THAT’s a perfect game! :P

        • inspiredhandle says:

          I was being a touch facetious. I am acutely aware of the faults of the ResEvil franchise. The early entries made a tremendous impact on me (as I was only 8 or so years old).
          Btw, the ResEvil 1 remake was faultless.

  13. vahnn says:

    I have this on a good old fashioned DVD-ROM somewhere. I’d dig it out, but my pc doesn’t have an optical drive these days.

    I never beat it, but I’d love to give it another go.

    • tnzk says:

      Pretty sure if you have a legitimate copy of the game you’re allowed to have a copy of the the ISO on your computer, if you know what I mean.

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