Friday, November 5, 2010

[PS2] Silent Hill 4: The Room - Is it Silent Hill and how to rpg it?

I just finished playing Silent Hill 4: The Room (I refer it as SH4 further). It took almost 8 hours and three evenings, so the game wasn't that long but mediocre in survival horror and adventure games. The cover is cool as artwork and layout in user's manual, but was the game good itself?

Story In Short

You are stuck in your room. There are chains in your door, and you don't have a idea what is going on. But you find a portal in your bathroom what leads you out from your room to different realms. As travelling outside from your room through the portal you investigate what is going on and find out, that if you don't do anything, the 21 sacraments will be fulfilled and world won't be the same.


Is This Silent Hill?

Game looks like Silent Hill in graphics and controls are similar, but it doesn't feel like Silent Hill. In previous SH games you explored the sleeping and damned city of Silent Hill with horrible secrets and from time to time landscapes changed in horrible twisted ways to rust and blood. There is no this mood in SH4.
You basically travel between your room and portal to places what I see as levels. You don't explore continous setting, but travel from your room to the location and back. World doesn't change, it is at it is rendered at the first place.
This level based design does take a great amount of feeling out of the game. When you finish the level by running through it to the end, there is a cut-scene and you are back in your room and next time portal takes you to a new location where you travel as long untill you fulfill all the requirements to finish the level.

Levels are quite short. There are few areas you travel back and forth finding items to get a bit further to the end of the level. There are next to none brain challenging puzzles, main idea is to collect items and use them in the right place. Even though the aren't necessarily keys, their function is like keys to the lock. Find item, place it where it belongs and get further.

Monsters From Hell

In previous Silent Hills you had radio what went crazy when monsters were near. In SH4 this feature no long exists. You can hear monsters near from noices they make, or from music, but that's it. I really, really missed the radio, as in my opinion it is a part of Silent Hill game.
What about monster design? It sucked. There weren't many different kind of monsters in the count, and the design of them was quite dull. They were boring and far from scary. More like annoying. Worst monsters in game were monkey/gorilla type things what made noises like a chimpanzee. Lame.
Worst and most annoying monsters in game were ghosts. You can beat them down, but they never die. Soon they resurrect and continue haunting you again. In whole game there is total of five items you can permanently nail ghosts to the ground so they stop haunting you.
In some levels or rooms ghosts continue to follow you through the walls for some time where ever you go. I quess that the idea of these immortal and undestructable ghosts was that they are scary as you cannot kill them, but must run away from them. I found this more annoying. It is easy to kick ghost down for a small period of time even though they eat your healthpoints when near.

Level Design

Level design was a bit boring. Mostly you run corridors. Even woods was basically corridors with just different texture. And in a level there is lots of running back and forth finding items or unlocking doors or places after you find the right item. And areas are small.
Most of the places look ordinary. A bit deserted maybe, but not that twisted. When you get to the end game the surroundings start to look more like real Silent Hill terror, but that's it. World doesn't change as you walk by. It is twisted or is not when you enter the place.

Your Room Is Your Sanctuary, Or Is It?

You travel back to your room during each level through portals scattered here and there. In your room you basically do these things:
  • Save game
  • Put items in your item chest with unlimited space when your inventory's space is limited
  • Find notes to flesh out the story
  • Regenerate HP during time spent there
But at some point your room starts to be haunted. Windows clatter, TV shows static screen and you cannot turn it off, your slippers have moved with bloody foodprints etc. When the haunting starts, you don't regenerate your HP anymore and when you go near haunted spot (ie. windows or TV) you start to loose HP. But you can collect holy candles what you can lighten up next to haunted spot to prevent the haunting for short period of time.

Puzzles

As I said previously, most of the puzzles are just finding the right item and using it in a right place. There are few exceptions though, what were great and good variation. For example obtaining code to open door at bar and when re-visiting the place obtaining the changed code. Besides of those, there weren't much brainstorming. Basically you just needed to search everyplace to find items to use.

Mechanics

In survival horror games moving a character is a bit slow. They don't attack fast or are agile. It suits well. This is not an action game, so no need to ravageous and fast swinging of a pipe. At some points character's slow movement was a bit annoying though.

So Is It Any Good Then?

For a Silent Hill series? No. Silent Hill 1, 2 and 3 were way much better in all areas. Silent Hill 4 failed in mood, level design, monsters, locations, puzzles etc. It is not a bad game, but for Silent Hill brand it could be better. I think that only title Silent Hill gives a bit more credit for the game. But there was not that much Silent Hill in this, so it could have been called just The Room.

How To Use This As RPG?

I have to say, that SH4 did not give that much inspiration in running horror/mystery rpg adventure. It was too boring, unoriginal and straightforward. I don't reveal the plot, but it could be used as stand alone idea for rpg adventure but that's almost it. Monsters were too boring to convert into any system and locations weren't original or exciting enough.
So sadly, I don't see any rpg value in SH4. You might take an idea from here and there, but in general this game is useless inspiration. If you want to use something, here are what I could rip:

  • 21 sacraments story
  • orphanage story
  • two puzzles for opening bar door involving phone
 As I wouldn't run SH4 as a rpg campaign or adventure, there is no particular system or setting I wanted to use for those three ideas. They work fine with any horror or mystery game. But for Silent Hill series in general (especially awesome 1, 2 and 3) I would most definately use Kult as it has similar system with mental balance and reality twisting.

Should You Play It?

Yes and no. Game wasn't that bad, it was more a disappointment. Luckily it was fast to play through, so you wouldn't be committed to this game too many nights what is a plus for this boring and unoriginal game. I liked to play it though, but even if there are four different endings I won't play it again. One time was enough for this experience.
If this game wasn't Silent Hill, I'd give it 3 stars. Silent Hill in title and nice package gives ½ star extra. So total of 3½ stars from me.
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