David Newton (davidn) wrote,
David Newton

Silent Hill 4

It would seem that one of the disadvantages of using GameFly for older titles is that the order you have your queue in might bear very little resemblance to what you actually get. We were expecting Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time next, but have unexpectedly received Silent Hill 4 instead. And while it might not be a fantastic idea to traumatize myself with it a couple of weeks before Whitney goes to visit California in a couple of weeks, leaving me alone in the flat, we started playing it last night.

I should say right now that I've never been particularly good with horror films. Just about the only ones I've seen are Braindead, Cube and Night of the Living Strawberry Pie, and half of each of those were watched with my eyes closed. But horror games are slightly different - they can be cleverer when you're in direct control of the action, and somehow I have a lot of respect for something that can successfully scare me in that way rather than resorting to jumping-out surprises or gratuitous flying body parts. The Silent Hill series has had some of the best examples of those that I can think of, and combined with the excellent and confusing storyline, I became something of a fan of it after finishing the first game in 2001 or so.

Silent Hill 4 changes a lot of the normal formula. Instead of wandering helplessly around one nightmarish location after another hoping you don't suddenly find yourself in another dimension, the storyline dictates that you have a single sort of base camp room that acts as a refuge, and you switch back and forth between it and several other places that you access through an increasingly-sized hole in your bathroom wall. (I'm trying to think of another way to say this, but it feels strangely like a grimmer version of Narnia). So far we've fought our way through a ghost-ridden subway and dark forest, while the main character's dialogue very gradually increased from "What the hell?" whispered lazily to himself about five times near the start. He just doesn't seem to have any life at all - it's like listening to Ben Stein reading out the phone book.

It's not just the plot, but the whole feel of it is very different to the other Silent Hill games. The new inventory system, as much of a shock as it is to change it after this long, actually works rather well. Instead of pausing the game and having to go into a separate screen to heal, change weapons, or do much of anything, you just have to hit the D-pad to bring up a list of items that you're currently carrying and manipulate them from there. But combined with that change, other classics have gone out the window as well - you have no torch, and the classic radio has been replaced with each monster doing odd things to the game soundtrack whenever they're nearby.

To put it bluntly, in a statement that is bound to come back and bite me several times over later on, it doesn't seem to be particularly frightening. Even going into the abandoned orphanage, which as anyone with half a brain cell will tell you is a tremendously bad idea in anything in a horror setting, doesn't produce anything that'll stay with you. And somehow, even though I'm not someone who exactly reacts well to scares, that's disappointing. For example, after turning it off last night, transferring to my laptop and then realizing that my pen drive was still sitting on my desk in the front room, I was able to go out into the dark apartment and walk all the way across the room to take it without any hesitation. Well, no more than usual, at least.
Tags: games

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