Hey, hey FOLKS! Lumpz the Clown here, and I have recently obtained the illustrious honor of beating Silent Hill 4! Knocking this game off my bucket list has been a pet project of mine this last month, and I’m stoked that I saw it all the way through! What makes this entry different for me is that I have the Playstation versions of Silent Hill 1-3, whereas my copy of Silent Hill 4 is the XBox version. Regardless if that makes a difference or not, I dove in head-first for the first Silent Hill adventure that significantly differed from the formula presented by the original three. What makes it different, you ask? We will get to that shortly…
The Basic Premise
In Silent Hill 4, our main protagonist is a man named Henry Townshend. Henry is a man with no past to speak of and appears to be introverted and even awkward in many of his interactions with others. Even his landlord and neighbor, Frank Sunderland and Eileen Galvin respectively, only know him in a passing manner. So then, given his introverted and private nature, what would prompt him to suddenly find himself a prisoner in his own apartment, which is curiously chained from the inside? Even when Henry tries to call out for help, his cries are not heard. His phone still works, but he hears strange noises when dialing out. Also, his radio appears to work intermittently, and his television only picks up static. For all intents and purposes, Henry is alone, restricted to peering out of his windows and peephole as the world continues on around him normally. Upon further investigation, a cryptic message is found scribbled on his door in what appears to be blood…
During his initial investigation of the room, Henry hears a strange sound coming from his bathroom. Henry walks over and cautiously opens the door. He immediately notices a large hole that has somehow materialized in his bathroom wall. In front of the hole, Henry discovers a steel pipe, which can be used as a weapon. But why would he need a weapon in his own home? Suddenly, Henry hears voices coming from the hole, like a distant conversation. Some of the voices are even child-like. Throwing caution to the wind, Henry enters the hole and begins his nightmarish descent into the demented mythos of Silent Hill…
As Henry treks through various locales, encountering disturbing monsters and fellow survivors, he begins to piece together everything happening around him. Henry learns about The Order, a cult founded in Silent Hill. Over time, The Order was able to infiltrate public institutions in town, thus gaining more power. With this newly found power, The Order constructed the Wish House Orphanage, which on the outside seemed like a benevolent institution that took in children without parents. In actuality, the orphanage served as a factory that would brainwash impressionable and defenseless children into adopting their own warped dogma. Isolated in the forests outside of Silent Hill, there would be no one around to intervene in the horrific activities contained within its walls.
Henry learns that one of these poor children was a boy named Walter Sullivan. Walter’s tragic story began when his parents abandoned him shortly after he was born. Frank Sunderland, the superintendent at South Ashfield Apartments, found the baby alone inside Room 302. Concerned for the baby’s safety, Frank drove the child to a nearby hospital, where the child eventually fell under the care of the Wish House Orphanage. Dubbed “Walter” and brainwashed by Dahlia Gillespie into believing that Room 302 was Walter’s mother, the little boy would make the trek all the way to South Ashfield to visit his “mother.”
Even though many of the residents weren’t very nice to Walter, especially Richard Braintree, he would continue to visit Room 302, even if that meant furtively peering into the peephole. As time wore on, Walter was driven from the complex by Richard, but after being told about the 21 Sacraments ritual that would bring his “mother to life,” Walter returned to Room 302 years later as a grown man, hell-bent on completing the ritual. The steps to that goal are etched in blood, and his list of intended victims range from total strangers to those who have wronged him in the past. Walter feels no emotion towards his victims, but rather sees them as necessary steps to complete the ritual.
So how does Henry fit into this sick game of brainwashing and heartbreak? Only time will tell.
Henry will experience many locales throughout his journey, which include the Wish House Orphanage, the South Ashfield Apartments, a dilapidated children’s prison and many others. Including Henry, there are three major characters in Silent Hill 4, but how do they fit into the grand scheme? What are their motivations? Perhaps peering into their past will help provide clarity.
Henry Townshend: By all accounts, a man with a lackluster past. Henry has visited Silent Hill in the past and has pictures of town landmarks throughout his Room. He is introverted and minds his own business, so why has he found himself a prisoner in his own home?
Eileen Galvin: Henry’s next door neighbor, Eileen has only exchanged conversations with Henry in passing. Kind and compassionate in nature, she begins to grow concerned for Henry after hearing strange noises coming from his Room and not seeing him around the complex in quite some time.
Walter Sullivan: Brainwashed by Dahlia Gillespie into believing that Room 302 is his “mother” in conjunction with the warped dogma of The Order, Walter has grown to abhor society and is determined to carry out the 21 Sacraments. He believes that after completing the ritual that he will be reunited with his “mother,” but at what cost?
Henry will also meet others throughout his journey, but their fate and how they have come to inhabit this “dream world” are undisclosed at this time. Even though Henry’s reserved and introverted nature dictate much of his behavior, he still exhibits empathy towards others by escorting them through dangerous areas or by providing them with items. These characters play an important role in Henry’s “safe” return to his Room, even if at times their motives seem clouded or misguided. Henry mustn’t forget about their needs or to listen to their stories when they feel the need to share them. In Silent Hill 4, knowledge truly can make the difference between life and death.
Bringing it All In
Silent Hill 4 departs from the tried and true formula of the original three titles and offers the player a different perspective mixed with familiar elements. When Henry is walking through his apartment, the camera switches to a first-person perspective that invites the player to truly soak in the unsettling surroundings. The player can peek through peepholes and inspect various points throughout the Room. Some of these points might even provide Henry with some clues if he looks hard enough. When Henry enters his apartment, his health is restored and he can swap out items using the chest in the living room.
However, the apartment will eventually stop healing Henry as malevolent spirits begin to invade his home. Henry can eliminate or repel these spirits using some of the items he finds along his journey, but it forces the player into being more cautious with their healing items and the risks that they take while exploring. After Henry travels outside of his Room, the camera switches to the standard third-person perspective that has become a mainstay with the series.
While many of the monsters Henry encounters are truly frightening in their level of bloodlust and detachment, some will truly take the player by surprise. There are even some instances where the very environment itself seems to attack Henry’s very psyche with unsettling phenomena. It is up to the player to guide Henry safely through the areas, fight off the enemies, and make it safely back to his room with a few survivors in tow. Perhaps Henry’s actions will dictate whether or not he will be able to leave the Room.
If you are looking for the same approach provided by the first three games, Silent Hill 4 is not for you. However, if you are curious to see how Team Silent was able to expand upon the original formula by incorporating new elements, I would say give it a try. Silent Hill 4 is not a perfect game by any means, but it did nail down one important aspect that seems to define successful games within the franchise: atmosphere. You hear every creaking hinge, every primitive cry, and every crunching pebble throughout Henry’s journey. The enemies will make you uncomfortable, the environs will make you question your sanity, and the final boss fight will have you biting off what’s left of your ragged fingernails.
If you haven’t yet, give Silent Hill 4: The Room a try and allow yourself to be absorbed into its tale. You won’t regret it. Lumpz the Clown OUT!