Hands-On Preview: "You call this 'room service'? I do not like them Sam-I-Am. I do not like twitchy green legs after 8:00 a.m."
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it (unless we're talking about BIG BUTTS). Silent Hill is THE game series that scares even the shit out of your crap. It's genuinely the sickest horror in a box, and one of Konami's finest franchise achievements. From mid to late nineties, Capcom may have dominantly ruled households with their shocking zombiefied Resident Evil lineup, but it was Konami in the 90's end who gave gamers that psychological mind-fuck they would not soon forget. Three installments in the bin already, and Konami has gathered enough layers of rotting flesh, leaky organs, and fresh bone marrow to contribute toward the creation a fourth ride on the one-way train into Silent Hill's hell this year. We've chopped hands to prove it. Er, Hands-On anyway...
If we're not safe in our own homes, then where can we go to shelter ourselves from whatever lurks in the dark parts of the world? This is exactly the kind of notion Silent Hill 4: The Room plays around with. What if instead you came to the fear, the fear were to come to you? For Henry Townsend, he's about to find out. Located in a town just outside of Silent Hill, Henry wakes up in his apartment one day to discover a cluster of locks and chains sealing him inside his own home. Without any means to make contact with the outside world, Henry waits a week until something new comes to his attention. A mysterious portal appears inside his bathroom. Questioning what this is, where it goes, and what will happen to him if he were to seep through it, Henry is given no choice but to make his leap inside where Silent Hill becomes his playground. His only option now is to head straight into the mouth of madness, as his only chance for survival evidently is a path made more deadly than just waiting to die.
Sealing Henry inside his apartment, Silent Hill 4 will explore many new elements no Silent Hill has ventured into before it. For one thing, instead of staying committed to a ritual of third-person navigation the entire time, Silent Hill 4 introduces first-person elements. And not just in gameplay, but starting from within Henry's apartment. Only able to view the insides of his living area from a first-person perspective, it is here that Henry can also peek through peep holes to often catch a glimpse of grisly murders occurring on the outside. Henry's other option from this "real world" is to step in and out of multiple paths that will eventually begin to drape all around his apartment. Going inside each supernatural window will lead him to a different sector of Silent Hill, where he can then later return again to his apartment only to repeat this harrowing process.
While in his visits to Silent Hill, Henry will shift into third-person (and is able to switch into first if he needs to) to come across what you might expect the illicit town to offer. Possibilities of death and mayhem from vile creatures, weapons to get by with, and a plethora of puzzles to enlighten the oh so stir-crazed mind. Waiting in town for Henry will be a host of freaks and ghouls the likes of which you've never seen (and then some you have). Aside from the return of the skinless dog monster, Henry will have to confront such deformities as hairy and crawling torsos with a set of baby heads attached to it, and bloodied ghostly beings that can peel like skin off a wall and float after Henry to darken his days. Unlike in past editions of Silent Hill, these apparitions are the first creatures to be invulnerable to all weaponry -- except for silver bullets, which Henry won't find until a late point into the game. To counter their threat until that time, Konami will lend Henry two types of special blades that serve as a temporary instrument to slow down their advancement for limited periods of time. Called The Sword of Obedience and The Sword of Despair, Henry will be able to immobilize the ghosts until the moment arrives when they're free again and on the hunt.
Another change for trademarks is that players will no longer have to cycle through weapons by pausing the action in the game, since now Henry can choose from both melee and ranged types directly while the game is in motion. Possibly the most intriguing addition to Silent Hill 4 though, will be the fact that Henry will receive backup. One of Henry's neighbors named Eileen will follow Henry through his adventure at certain periods. Able to wield a chain weapon, the disturbing thing about Eileen is that her body will over time reveal more and more injuries that presumably are meant to turn her into something other than a chain-whipping cutie pie. And while I didn't get a chance to experience any of Silent Hill 4's puzzles first hand, I did get to walk around and battle some inside what appeared to be an aged building of some sort. With several ladders, doorways, and revolving corridors to give access to hands that would stick out from the wall, hellish hounds that would gang up and hurt Henry, and the aforementioned humanly ghost things, Silent Hill 4's control scheme felt familiar to Silent Hill 3's style of play -- so fans shouldn't expect anything too different.
Continuing to situate its Silent Hill franchise as one of the leading games in visual technology, Konami is only doing the series more justice with some supplementing enhancements. Throughout its levels, the game will part its paths into the inside and outside locales of a misty forest, a water prison, and also a dank building. In every one of Henry's return trips to his apartment, it'll be possible to witness the gradual deterioration of its insides. And with richer textures, tar-like globs that stick to monsters as they breach through the walls, and the inclusion of a grainy static effect, there is no doubt that Silent Hill 4 shouldn't be one of the year's most graphically satisfying titles.