The fourth trip to our favorite town.
Not going to lie, this game never grabbed me when I was younger, and to this day it seems to be lacking in many areas. Silent Hill 4 departs quite a bit from the previous entries. First and foremost, you are in the town of Ashfield playing as Henry Townshend as he tries to escape from his apartment.
The game feels similar to 3 in the sense that your time in the dungeons is basically never-ending. I felt as though I was frequently going over the same ground, and getting lost or stuck is fairly easy to do. The story itself is interesting, but lacks the heft of any of the other installments. A serial killer completing a ritual is simply not as exciting as a doomsday cult or a psychological hell.
The gameplay mixes it up this time around. You get to be in first person mode whilst inside the apartment. I don’t really think this adds anything to the game, and is much better deployed in P.T. (which will be reviewed in the future). Silent Hill 4 is not a failure, but it isn’t exactly a success, either. The game feels like many other fourth iterations in series in that the formula is more-or-less established. Despite the small risks taken, it now feels familiar.
The storyline is dark, but to an extent familiar. Serial killers being connected to esoteric ritual is something we have seen before. Perhaps this is the biggest disappointment. Although the story is well told, it is recognizable. The familiarity of the narrative is hard to shake once it sets in. I am not saying that the game is not worth playing, if one is itching for some more Silent Hill, this will scratch that need. However, it simply doesn’t last in the mind as long as the others.
I never finished the game when it first came out. To be honest, other games were doing more exciting and captivating things. While Henry is stuck in his apartment, it feels like the series was stuck in the past. While there are some changes, the gameplay is more-or-less the same as it was in Silent Hill 2. Sure, they added breakable weapons (a terrible mistake) and a “wind-up” action—(stupid), but it is the same. The reason I think breakable weapons are a terrible idea is that it makes the combative encounters more frustrating than visceral. Silent Hill: Downpour is the guiltiest of this sin. However, in this game, I opted to run from enemies more than fight them.
Creating a tense environment can be hard. I imagine this is something the developers spend countless hours trying to master. For example, the combat was excellent and tense in Resident Evil 4, but didn’t work as well in Resident Evil 5 despite being very similar. Slight changes can drastically alter the overall punch of the game. Here, the repetition and distance you cover (I feel like this is the walkiest of the games) simply makes the combative moments a delay to the goal, not part of the experience. Further complicating my opinion on the combat is the absolute mess of a final boss fight. I imagine some had no trouble, but I have never been able to get the “good” (and what I see as canon) ending. It is a bit of bummer to have to visit Youtube to see how the story is meant to end. Granted, some of this is on me. I am not the most sophisticated at the game (and didn’t take opportunities to get better at the combat), so I can’t really knock the game too hard on this particular issue.
Another shortcoming in this game are the characters. Not kidding, I had to relook up some of the names after replaying. No one really left a significant impact on me. Part of the reason I am not going into more depth on the characters in this review is that it would be slightly disingenuous—a manufactured reaction.
In short, Silent Hill fans will find a bit to appreciate. However, if there is a turning point in the series, this might be it. The highly divisive Homecoming comes up next. Is 4 worth a play? Yeah, but I wouldn’t be putting this in a top 50 games list anytime soon. 6/10.