Broken Silence: Why Silent Hill 4 Needs Love

When someone asks me which Silent Hill game was my favorite, like most fans, I say part two. The story, level design, and characters just resonate with me, and I love it. But when someone asks me which Silent Hill scares me the most, I say Silent Hill 4; and not because some people think it sucks. Because, it doesn’t. It has its flaws, but it’s extremely unsettling and disturbing. Silent Hill 4’s unique design and scares go overlooked because of its gameplay changes. Here’s what many of you might be missing out on.

Silent Hill 4 puts players in the role of an introvert and borderline creepy voyeur named Henry Townshend. Already we can see where the scares start. Henry is the type of guy you would catch starring at you on public transportation when you decide to look around. In his apartment he has a peephole in the wall behind some furniture that looks into the next room. On special nights he peeps at his neighbor Eileen, while presumably increasing his chances of blindness and hairy palms. While players can peep at Eileen during the course of the game, I expect Henry did this way before then.

Henry awakes one day to find that he is locked in his apartment. His door is completely chained up, and he has no means of contact with the outside world despite being able to watch it from his window. The premise of Silent Hill 4: The Room is a creepy one. Henry can not leave his apartment nor can anyone enter or hear him. After several days trapped, a mysterious hole opens up in his bathroom. With little hesitation, Henry crawls right in.

Through the hole in the wall, Henry ends up in the nightmare world of Walter Sullivan, a psychotic killer hellbent on completing a ritual to bring his mother back to life. That’s cute, right? No. His mother is Henry’s apartment–or so he believes. Looking like an estranged Brad Pitt, Walter spends his time giving Henry a fuss and killing people despite having already died. The story of Silent Hill 4 is beautifully deranged. Despite Walter being a sick man, the game exposes you to the life he had to endure that made him a psychotic killer. He’s a tragic antagonist that suffered abandonment. It’s hard not to feel bad for the guy. Walter and his nightmare world give Alessa some competition for the most disturbing nightmare world.

Henry isn’t a bright man. Upon seeing his new friend Cynthia in a room where her blood has added a new coat of paint, he asks her if she’s OK. His lack of real emotion is somewhat aggravating, but I think it also adds an element of discomfort. His limited dialogue in the game allows for the player to imprint themselves in the story and not really have to follow a protagonist.

The art direction of Silent Hill 4 is extremely striking for me. Environments look bare and sterile, but also lifelike and dirty; Gray tones and neat layouts create an odd feeling of familiarity but also a slight dissonance when it comes to the games’ locations. Despite being abstract, the game does a great job of bringing immense realistic detail to its environments. The abstract areas in particular really do a great job at striking up that nightmare feeling: being somewhere familiar, but ultimately wrong in some unexplainable way. The game also adopts a distinctly Japanese style. South Ashfield, the town in which the game mostly takes place in, looks Japanese in design. From the subway to the apartment building, the locales just have a modern day Japanese look to them.

The Japanese influence continues past the level design. The first three Silent Hill games were attempts at emulating American horror. What we got was a unique style and amalgamation of both cultures interpretation of horror, but Silent Hill 4 turned up the notch on the Japanese horror influence and it’s clearly seen. It gives the game a different style I think. A style that is different, but welcome.

Japanese horror centers a lot around ghosts. Silent Hill 4’s main enemies are the ghostly apparitions of Walter’s victims. Ghosts aren’t scary? Call the Ghost Busters? Shut your mouth. These things are terrifying. They can’t die. They will follow you from room to room and with them comes a sound you will become all too familiar with. While in the nightmare world, you’ll see them ooze from the walls like bloody, black ink and float toward you. You can beat them until they’re stunned, but the only way to stop them is to use disposable holy swords to pin them to the ground.

Because the game operates around Henry’s apartment, you must go back there after every new area. But you’re not safe. The ghosts will start to seep into your world. Slowly Henry’s apartment becomes dirtier, scarier, and more haunted. You can use holy candles to exorcise hauntings, but your room becomes the center of the games creepiest moments. Having the game switch to a first person perspective doesn’t make this any easier on you.

The monsters from Silent Hill 4 have to be the strangest in the series. From monkey-kids to burping nurses, Silent Hill 4’s enemies will freak you out.

The dog enemy type in Silent Hill 4 bother me a bit more than the dogs in Silent Hill 3. Sure, the Silent Hill 3 dogs should be scarier because of their split heads, but these mutts have long shriveled tongues and cancerous skin. When struck, they scream like jaguars. Jaguars!

In the hospital portion of Silent Hill 4, there are tall, slender female patients with gray, rotten flesh. They walk around with pipes in hand. They’re pretty menacing–like all extremely tall women are. They move toward you with monstrous grace and don’t hesitate to slap you silly.

When these lovely ladies get hit back, they burp at you. It’s a little weird and not very lady-like, but one swift hit by the hand of Henry causes these women to make a sound similar to a burp. Their stature and tendency to attack in small groups makes them dangerous.

Both the Rubber Faces and the Twin Victims are quite large and move fast. The Rubber Faces screech and move like apes while the Twin Victims move excessively fast. While the Rubber Faces are scary due to their speed and use of golf clubs as weapons, the Twin Victims scare me to no end. Nothing is worse than walking into a room only to see a black mass with the face of two children rush at you. Who would stoop to such a low and fuse the body of two small children and chicken legs together just to incite fear? It’s not fair I tell you! I was not prepared when I met my first one.

The other enemy types are also scary in their own way. There are these strange fungi that sprout from the ground. They don’t attack you, but their appearance raises many questions. At the end of their stalks is a mass that looks like a screaming face. They’re easy to destroy, but come on. Who thinks of this kind of depraved stuff? I love it, but I’m afraid for the person’s family.

Another subtle but odd enemy type in Silent Hill 4 are the wheelchairs. No, they’re not distinct looking, but they’re moving wheelchairs that chase you. Can you imagine that? Seeing a wheelchair often brings to mind the person who unfortunately must use one to get around, but for the wheelchair to start doing the moving alone, now that’s an uncomfortable thought.

Stepping away from the enemies, I will move on to the rest of the game’s creepy aspects. Something that turns off a lot of people from Silent Hill 4 is the fact that half of the game is an escort mission. Once Henry saves Eileen from Walter, he must go through the same locations he has already been through, but with her in his wake. Escorting Eileen through these nightmares is particularly unnerving because now you must fear for her own life as well. Just like your apartment, Eileen can become possessed as well. Letting her soak up too much damage will cover her in blood and lead her to become possessed. If she’s really far gone, you have to put her on suicide watch as she starts to hit and even shoot herself.

There are very few games that genuinely scare me these days. Silent Hill 4 remains one of them. The way the game looks, the nightmare world, the story, and the feeling of helplessness permeates from Silent Hill 4. It’s a shame this game is often considered the black sheep of the original Silent Hill games. I think the premise alone made this game great. It’s the most unsettling and disturbing game in the series for me. It’s a shame a lot of people don’t see this game for the terrifying–although flawed– gem that it is. Even Konami overlooked it when they decided to do the HD Collection for the series. Hopefully more people will give this game a try, and approach it from a different perspective so they can why this game is truly, the scariest Silent Hill game.

               
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COMMENTS

  • lostchance

    Awesome. I’ve always appreciated sh4, and never quite understood what everyone seems to have against it. I agree with your statement about the larger Japanese cultural influence as well, I’ve always maintained that sh4 felt the most like any one of those Asian horror films that are near and dear to my heart. Happy Samhain!

  • mike

    i appreciate the article but sh4 was not even meant to be a silent hill game. the game has no connection except for little things here and there. for me it was the worst of the bunch. seemes like a cash in and alot of recycling. we expect more from silent hill than this

  • postapocalyptichalo

    I think its funny how some fans keep trying to convince others that it wasn’t meant to be a Silent Hill game. Keep thinking that all you want, doesn’t make it true.

  • I like this game for the atmosphere and story. Just like I do with the other Silent Hill games. Since that’s the most important thing about a SH game to me, I am happy with it.

    It doesn’t matter that the game was meant to be something else before it became SH4. It is a SH game. It had a singular story just like SH2, and the power of the town stretched out just as it did in SH3.

  • Punkity

    I agreed with this review until you said “On special nights he peeps at his neighbor Eileen, while presumably increasing his chances of blindness and hairy palms” Henry didn’t know about that hole in the wall until he saw the furniture had been moved!

  • It was a joke to highlight how much of a weirdo Henry might actually be since we know very little about him.

  • Punkity

    So you assume he’s weirdo just because you dont know much about him?

  • He was clearly devoid of much emotion, and he had little personality. That can be considered weird. I gave examples. And again, the comment was a joke.

  • postapocalyptichalo
  • Punkity

    Well IMO I think Henry had a lot of emotion, at the start he may have not seemed that way during the Cynthia death but I think he was afraid, he was thrown into a crazy world with no real explanation.. his head must have been all over the place, and while trying to comfort Cynthia while she was dying he must have been worrying about himself.. as I would too, as selfish as it may seem that’s human nature! The only person who he has met in that world has been brutally killed, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the bubbliest person in the world! And I’m sure he cared about Eileen, he went though enough to save her as well as himself! But I guess I just look deeper into into a persons character before writing them off as weirdo!

    Happy Halloween
    Unlike & Unfollow ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Pyramid_FN_Heart

    Silent Hill 4 was ALWAYS intended to be a Silent Hill game. The only difference is that it went from a spinoff title, to a numbered title. The only thing that changed was the name.

  • JB

    I read that Konami, while in the creative process, didn’t actually thought of it as a SH game but later on they decided to add it to the franchise. And, if I remember correctly (since I never finished this game unfortunately) the only link to the other SH games was actually Walter Sullivan, who was referred in SH2 (I think as a murderer) in some newspaper found in a garbage container in the Blue Creek Apartement area. I never finished the game because it annoyed me to stroll the same places all over again with Eileen. And was it just me or there was no radio in this game?I sure didn’t have one and it scared me even more. It was probably the scariest of them all I agree. And those dogs were a pain in the ass! I couldn’t go past them, they would strike me if I tried. It is for me too one of the worst game of the franchise but still a good one though. I’m gonna try it again when I have the chance

  • gtc92

    This guy gets offended FOR a fictional game character when the point of the above article was to defend the game from naysayers?

    What a weirdo.

  • Punkity

    Not nice to call people you dont know weirdo’s, especially when they are just giving their own PERSONAL opinion, which is also defending the game!

  • Miles

    I just recently re played SH4 and I really liked it! It was definitely creepy! [8/10] The game play was not bad. I just wish they didn’t change the UI around. [5/10] The story was okay. It DOES have a story! Its about rebirthing God and the sprites of the Cult! [7/10] People say it has no connection to Silent Hill and it does! If anything its SH2 that doesn’t except you’re walking around the town. Overall [7/10]

  • Ahmad S. Al-Hamily

    Yep, SH4 was THEE game with the weirdest plot ever in my opinion. In regard to the emotions of the characters. I THINK THEY ARE ALL NUTS XD. But seriously, Walter Sullivan was a badass character if we look at his face he is devoid of emotions yet he has this weird devilish smile that spells this “Mother … I will be with you soon ….. AFTER I KILL’EM ALL!”

    Oh yeah, Henry was put in the most unfortunate situation. His only link to the town was that he went there and took some pictures if I remember correctly.

    Thanks for another one CJ. Keep it coming.

    P.S.: okay this might have nothing to do with this Broken Silence entry but this question is directed @ CJ and everyone else.

    Don’t you think that the Silent Hill series has lots of Freemasonry elements and symbolism in it? I mean the checkered floors in the Diner right before other world transformation in Downpour.

    Pyramid Head and other stuff that would take ages to mention. Sorry, if this question seems silly but I dunno I just wanted to share it anyways.

  • gtc92

    @punkity if you were harrased while growing up and called weird, I’m sorry. But you’re still overreacting to what was a joke toward a videogame character. No one should be insult others because they’re different in real life. Its wrong. Seeing as how this is about a character that was shown to be a social outcast in some way, the joke seems justified. So just take a breather and enjoy things for what they are. Ok? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • postapocalyptichalo

    I searched and could not find a single official article declaring Silent Hill 4 was not meant to be a Silent Hill game. So honestly, if you’re going to claim it wasn’t meant to be a Silent Hill game, present some evidence of such a statement.

  • Hans

    sounds like someones got hairy palms for Henry…

  • Faceman

    CJ this article is friggin hiliarious! JAGUARS!!!!!!!!

  • JB

    I read in a (portuguese) gaming magazine, prior to the game’s launching that SH The Room was not meant to be a SH game at all when the people at Konami started the project and later on they decided to add it to the franchise. I don’t know how “believable” that article is but I would say pretty much. Strange that you can’t find any other evidence of it though. I’m not the only one who says it so i guess I’m not the only one who read that info…just to be clear, I’m not 100% sure that the info is correct. It was the first time you fought some ghosts, the radio didn’t make an appearance (or i just missed it :p )…I don’t know but it seems to me that (probably) it wasn’t made to be a SH game in the beginning…I’m glad it turned out to be though

  • Good article! I too noticed the Japanese influences, as they were very modern and visible throughout the game; even the title, “the Room” should be a major hint lol. While I did love this game, and for as creepy as it was, I still don’t hold it higher than SH2 because I just dont think it holds the same water. I do like how it ties in to SH2 with the landlord being James’ father, Walter Sullivan (who made his appearance in newspaper articles around town in SH2), and the two headed baby monster which I can only assume were the children Walter killed and that were referenced in SH2’s newspapers. So I enjoyed that. I liked it better than 3 for sure…I know SH is based on a lot of religion and cultist ideas, but I could give or take that stuff, which is why SH2 holds such a dear place in my heart, because it’s amazing, it’s silent hill, and it doesnt have all that, lol.

  • Jason

    I find it funny how people get so hostile against someone who is just giving their own opinion, @Punkity did not insult the OP but gave their own opinion, was there any need to call them weird? NO! Maybe we need more people like that and less trolls who suck ass! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Pick

    I like SH2 and SH4 equally as the best in the series. And about that rumour The Room wasn’t meant to be a SH game originally: it’s false. The developers already confirmed in an interview The Room was thought up as the next entry to the series after SH3 had been done. What they ACTUALLY said was that the Room wasn’t originally meant to be SH “4”, but a spin-off to the series, hence the subtitle.

  • Murphy Pendleton

    Personally I thought Henry Townshend was a great protagonist. He is the unlikely hero. Who would ever suspect a shy, introvert to prevent the rebirthing of God and overthrow a psychotic undead serial killer, made pure evil by the infamous Order of Silent Hill?
    Henry’s reticent, shy personality is symbolic of the potential everyone has to accomplish great feats. He shows how good in its simplest will always prevail over the worst of evils.

    Your assertion of Henry as devoid of emotion is also unviable. He exhibits emotions many times throughout the game, i.e. Cynthia’s death, when he tries to intervene on Richard Braintree’s electrouction, his recurring affection for Eileen and the angst he shows when he fails to prevent Older Walter from kidnapping young Walter (proclaiming “damn it” at the Toluca Lake”)

    Furthermore, the peephole he uses to spy on Eileen was made by the previous tenant Joseph Schreiber (refer to silent hill wiki) whom we can infer as being a pervert from the memos (mike’s diary) dictating him giving “rare porn magazines”

    “The last few months, Joseph, the guy next door to me who gave me that rare
    porn magazine, looks like he’s been working super hard.
    He said if he found another rare one, he’d give it to me but he hasn’t shown
    his face around much lately.

    He said he was a journalist and he is always investigating stuff.
    But I think something strange is going on with him. He’s been shut in his
    apartment and I can hear all these weird noises coming from there.

    July 1 -Mike

    Henry is anything but a pervert. He doesn’t even respond when Cynthia offers to perform the “special favour” for him if he helps her get out of the subway world, accentuating his shyness.

    Nonetheless nice analysis of the gameplay.
    The use of graphics, particularly in the cut scenes and in the 1st person view were impressive for its time. I also like how Konami inverted the concept of the room as being the safest place in the world for a person. Overall I though the game was one of the best. It combines many great features including a plot which is deeply interwoven with the silent hill lore, good gameplay, graphics and one tough antagonist.

    I give your article a 9/10!

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