Game: "Silent Hill 4"
Published by: Konami
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: Konami's fourth excursion into the twisted world of Silent Hill tries a different angle to scare you. To begin with, the thick, permeating darkness from the previous games in the series is gone. Despite that, the game remains true to the old look, loaded with the same frightening atmosphere and grotesque imagery that truly define the series. Even the storyline, despite centering on a man stuck in his own apartment, is concurrent with what fans of the series expect to see. Without divulging too much, the game begins with you on the fifth day of being stuck in your apartment, and all of a sudden, a large hole appears in your bathroom wall. You crawl through it, and then you soon find yourself in the thick of things, fighting off strange creatures and trying to sort out the mysterious world you find yourself in.
The combat system has been totally revamped. The basic idea of locking onto your enemies remains, but now you can dodge a couple steps back or to the side to avoid monster attacks. A very handy edition, considering the kind of damage that some of the new monsters can dish out. Not only that, but there's a ton of different weapons, ranging from a lead pipe to a box cutter. You also have the addition of a meter to measure the strength of your swing with melee weapons. Charge up the meter, and you make a huge swing that will kill most monsters in one or two hits. Well, maybe not with the box cutter, but you get the idea.
Putting aside the new combat system, the beginning of the game is actually pretty slow. The casual gamer may be put off by the fact that the game's better scares don't come until much later, when the plot starts to develop. Of course, that brings me to my next point and the next strike against SH4: it isn't really that scary. I mentioned earlier that the game is much brighter than previous installments, which means no more waving your flashlight around to see if there are any unspeakable horrors waiting in a dark corner of a room. Unfortunately, the obscured vision concept was a tremendous help with past scares, accompanying strange noises to make you fear what you can't see.
Another thing that really hurts the scare factor is the game's difficulty. While exploring the strange worlds on the other side of the portal in your apartment, you can use other portals to return to your apartment and completely heal yourself as often as you like. Sure, it's very handy, and yes, I took advantage of those portals (and there are a ton of them), but without that sense of imminent danger, the game just isn't quite as scary.
Konami tried to put a different spin on Silent Hill, and for that, I respect them. Unfortunately, the game comes across as more creepy than genuinely scary. Still, I enjoyed the game. Your apartment (seen in the first-person view, as opposed to the rest of the game's third-person view) provides some classic moments of dread, and SH4 introduces something completely unheard of in the survival horror genre: a lifebar. No more guessing how hurt you are by looking at a vague color-coded meter, or watching your character for a noticeable limp. In short, give the game a look if you're in the mood for something different.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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