Silent Hill 4: The Room has been resurrected on PC by the necromancers over at GOG – has this aged classic passed the test of time, or is it about as scary as Netflix‘s attempts at compelling horror?
Well… It’s a PS2 era game, and we’ve been positively spoiled with an abundance of exciting, innovative horror games since 2004, where The Room originally saw release. In that time, Silent Hill has gone from one of the genre’s biggest names to something associated with Konami’s unpleasant treatment of Hideo Kojima, but the earlier games are still touted as masterpieces in psychological horror. The Room could be considered something of a black sheep, as it eschewed the staple puzzles in favour of more combat.
Our hero Henry Townshend is a nondescript bloke in his twenties who’s been locked in his apartment for days on end – before it was the fashion, obviously – suffering from bizrre, horrific nightmares whenever he tries to sleep. What struck me, playing this game again, was how relatively chill Henry was about his predicament. “Fifth day of being stuck in my apartment with no explanation as to why as the world continues on normally around me. Oh, bother.”
His lax attitude contributes to an uneasy dream-like feeling in the “real” world, which is limited to the apartment and what he can see from the peephole/windows. Is Henry really locked in, or is this Silent Hill manifesting his introverted nature as real barriers? These are the questions the story asks, in a mostly indirect manner, as a hole opens up in Henry’s bathroom and he decides to clamber through instead of calling a repairman.
The holes in Henry’s apartment lead to alternate dimensions, terrifying reflections of the real world in which people he espies from his windows suffer and die. There’s a real sensation of voyeurism – at one point early on you’ll examine a hole in the wall, expecting some dimensional shifting or a good scare, and you’ll just be spying on the cute neighbour. It all paints a picture of Henry as a lonely shut-in who can only really engage with the world around him from afar.
Despite its age, Silent Hill 4 does a decent job of building atmosphere and layering themes. Although the combat wouldn’t feel out of place in a PS1 game, which must have been slightly jarring back then, and especially so now – the psychological aspect of it is still really solid. Monsters and environments look suitably gross, and a strange grime seems to coat everything even in the normal world. Everyone looks dirty and tired, and nobody is up to anything that makes sense when you stare out of the window.
The camera angles further foster the sensation of claustrophobia and imprisonment, intentionally obfuscating even the more open areas outside the apartment. While the old-school controls and stand-still combat can sometimes pair with this decision to create frustrating moments. It can feel like a bit of a slog sometimes, but it will reward newcomers with a thoughtful and layered story if they persist. To really enjoy Silent Hill 4 now, you have to embrace the wrinkles and scars that come with its age, and try your very best to immerse yourself in the positives. Like dating someone at a carehome, which is especially perilous these days.
The game is at its best when it leans entirely into the corrupted otherworld. Even with the relatively limited graphical tools available at the time, the grim and blood-spattered environments are fantastic, and they’re improved tenfold by paying attention to the story cues that slowly build to a horrifying conclusion. Half the fun of Silent Hill is the speculation, the elements left vague enough to grasp at, the mystery that survives even when everything is said and done, and that’s a real testament to The Room‘s status.
Silent Hill 4: The Room overall thoughts
This is not a remaster, and nothing has been enhanced for the sake of it. This is simply a re-release of the Silent Hill 4 PC port, which has been unavailable digitally for some time. That alone is probably enough to entice fans of KONAMI‘s cult classic horror; with a price point low enough to lure in anybody curious. The controls are clunky and it might not be the best Silent Hill game there is, but it’s still a pervasively interesting experience and valuable part of a franchise that laid the groundwork for the horror games we all love today.