Oh, Henry. Nothing ever phases you. I doubt even loud noises startle him. Did you see how laid-back he was right after a sniffer dog leapt out of a door at him? He seemed pretty okay with the fact that the others just showed up out of nowhere. Who does that? Henry does that.
Aside from his chill attitude, Henry doesn't seem to have much personality going for him. Perhaps this is for the best, though, since it allows the player to have more of their own thoughts in his head. (if that makes any sense) Sort of like how Gordon Freeman and Link never talk. Would it really add much to the game if they did? What would be the point? What if you didn't like their attitudes?
She's there to get hurt. That's all she is. She's a punching bag with boobs and a vagina. Yes, okay, she gets possessed and stuff. All you really do, however, is protect her. You can give her weapons, but I question their validity and effectiveness. Hell, she'll attack with her purse if you let her. But when you get right down to it, she's the baby and you're the babysitter. Her only purpose is for you to take care of her. She doesn't have enough personality to make you care much about her otherwise. She's always getting either hurt, stuck or grown to the size of a building to stare at you from the end of a hospital hallway with twitching eyes. What's her purpose? To be Henry's princess? Mission accomplished. I want a better character and I want one now.
For all the failure the protagonists bring to the stage, Walter just about makes up for it. He's creepy, mysterious, always smiling about something wonderful that you don't understand, and has an impressive portfolio of yaoi fanfiction for you to peruse at your leisure. (Don't you think blondes have more fun?) He laughs when he aims at you to shoot you, gives you an old dolly some kid gave to him because he thinks you should have it, honestly believes a shoddy apartment loves him and wants him to be happy, drops his keys into corpses just so he can search through them to find them (citation needed), and doesn't have some sort of awful, stereotypical villain hobby to make him seem "intellectual." He's a villain done right. Sure we can empathize with him, seeing as he's just a messed-up guy who was led way too far astray and had a traumatic childhood, but we still know there's no way he can be saved and that we must put a stop to his madness. Kudos to Konami for making a villain that we like and are pushed to sadness when we defeat him in a boss fight that amounts to a mercy killing.
Here's what I see this accomplishing in the game's favor:
1.) Correlation between the two games, establishing (in the cryptic nonsense way) that Mr. Sunderland who runs the apartments is the father of Mr. Sunderland who runs from angular rapists. Perhaps the apartment building is able to be haunted because of Frank Sunderland's own issues regarding his missing kid.
2.) Correlation between Walter and James. What is an article about a serial killer doing in James' version of Silent Hill? Is he really that messed up to be associated with him? It makes you wonder a bit.
3.) Pyramid Head goes from some half-baked idea of a punishment figure that James is able to conquer ("BCUZ HES SPESHUL!!11!!!" like other games choose to believe about the main-prophecy-saturated-character) into something that is specific JUST to James rather than being associated with Walter. It puts both characters in their proper places: James is grieving, mentally unsound, and knows he needs to be punished while Walter is some crazy bastard with guns and too much religion.
Here's what I think this link between games screws up:
1.) Walter would've been okay to leave as just some crazy that had preceeded James, Angela, and Eddie. The article in the newspaper was enough, making it seem like James wasn't the first to be in the town for awful reasons.
2.) Why did we have to get hints about Frank Sunderland being James' dad through the missing person stuff? Why couldn't he have just been the kindly landlord who tried to do the right thing by saving an abandoned child? Fanservice not appreciated, as far as I'm concerned. (It's fanservice. You can't convince me there's some plot purpose behind it aside from what I mentioned above. It's just there for the fans who wondered what ever happened to James.)
3.) What role did Jimmy Stone even have in Walter's life? Yes, he was part of the Wish House stuff and Order and blah blah blah, okay, fine... Here's my problem with even mentioning the guy and calling him the "red devil." The Red Devil didn't make Walter do anything. George Rosten was the one who had taught Walter scripture, thus letting Valtiel into Walter's consciousness, thus throwing him into the land of crazy. The part I have a problem with is that they went ahead and linked the SH2 article to SH4, yet only tenuously. The Red Devil didn't make Walter do anything, even though he easily could have. Why couldn't Jimmy Stone have been the one to push Walter off the edge instead of Dahlia Gillespie? (That's ANOTHER thing I hate) It was a link they could easily have strengthened, yet they didn't. Why?!
Don't get me wrong. Despite all this, I still think it's an amazingly good game. It has an interesting story that you don't get to see very often in a medium like video games, something that the Silent Hill series should frankly be far better known for. There are tactics to make people feel fear, but it's much harder to actually get a person's attention and make them feel genuinely intrigued. These are things this game accomplishes quite handily.
Henry Townshend's occupation has been questioned. Most people think he's probably a photographer or something artsy like that, but I wouldn't be surprised if Konami stood up tomorrow with a statement that says Henry is a professional poker player. His facial expression never moves, as the fans will tell you, and is actually… Pretty funny. Maybe that's just how he's supposed to be, though. Maybe he's just a bland person. (He certainly sounds like it) I won't say that we need to know what's on Henry's mind every second of the game via his facial expression, but come on. What would your face look like if you were cradling the dying body of a hot hispanic lady? You'd be a little upset, especially since she promised you a special favor. He doesn't even smile ruefully when she jokes about it WHILE DYING OF BLOOD LOSS. Can't even crack one for her, Henry? You monster.
Stone-faced heroes aside, the environments are pretty darn realistic. As I said, it's important, since normalcy during obviously abnormal circumstances add to the tension that the player feels. Concrete looks like concrete (in need of a wash at that), a couch looks like a couch, and creepy walls covered in gooey nasty bloody crap look like… Well. You get what I'm saying. It all looks perfect for its purpose.
The ambience in SH4 is truly fitting for the atmosphere of the game. It's creepy when you need creepy, scary when you need scary, and rather quiet when you need horror. (the best method, in my opinion) Still, SH4 is known for being the odd one of the Team Silent games, and odd it is. While little Walter calls out for his father over and over, you're treated to a soft, soothing synth track that repeats itself constantly. If the monsters, Walter, Eileen's big ugly head, the environments, and Henry's poker face didn't weird you out, that moment in the game definitely will.
Sad times seem to be something that you would expect from a video game series that centers around child abuse, murder, and teen pregnancy, but very few of McGlynn's songs in the series have actually captured that sort of sadness. If I had to choose one from the first three games that even starts to get close to it, it would have to be the main theme of the first game, simply because of the fleeting gasp of a cry that we hear in it. It sets the tone well for the rest of the song, but the whole song doesn't accomplish that by itself. It isn't until Shattered Memories that we get another song with depressing, upsetting lyrics, when we hear "Acceptance."
Before "Acceptance," however, there was "Room of Angel." To me, this is the essential song for the game, not just because they used it in the opening cinematic and title screen. At its core, the game is about a lost child who is longing for his mother. The song's slow tempo, child-like theme of lullabies, anxieties about whether or not the child is even wanted by the mother, and simple, repeating piano line all add up to make a truly remarkable song for a well-deserving game.
As the title of the game tells us, this game is about the room and Henry's confinement in it. The fact that he always just wakes up in his bed after his fantastic travels has led some to think that Henry is a drug addict (which can easily be said about any other character in this series) and this song doesn't really help his case. The game is very much about going in circles between the room and the otherworlds, and "Tender Sugar" definitely leads us in circles, round and round, up or down, every level feeding the confusion.
Back to Walter, though, the game's main focus for lack of interest in Henry or Eileen. "Your Rain" was remade as a terrible track for a dance game in which Cynthia Velasquez sits around on a dirty couch in an alleyway, singing about some sort of romantic business. The original, of course, befits the game much better than some Spanish whore on a sofa. The lyrics describe Walter's almost normal aspects, the aspects that connect him to normal people who don't kill in the name of getting a great deal on an apartment. He fell for a girl or two, he was homeless, and he was ignored either way. It begs the question of whether he would have been okay if people had simply paid some bloody attention to him. It helps "Room of Angel" in painting a good portrait of the main villain's psyche. He was abandoned, ignored, and mostly just wanted to be loved. His life was unfair and everyone seemed to be against him. Maybe he wondered if he deserved it, seeing as his father never loved him, his mother never held him, and people were content to let him rot on the sidewalk.
Henry and Eileen live happily ever after and everything is okay. The end. Who cares? They can go be happy and boring somewhere else. Whoop de freakin' do.
Henry and Eileen seem to be pretty okay, but Eileen still thinks the haunted apartment building is a great place to live. Is she really in love with the view that much or are there fond memories surrounding Henry's glory hole there that she's not willing to let go of?
Staggering, seemingly in pain, and probably drunk as hell, Henry is back in his apartment. Things are definitely not okay. He calls out for Eileen, then the screen goes black. Good! One down, one more to go. Get 'im, Jimmy! (This review is heavily unfair as I have little reason to like Henry and Eileen)
Walter and his younger self are both in room 302. Arguably the most interesting in my opinion, this ending was rather well-done. Though the whole news report thing would normally seem somewhat cliche, there have been news reports for every other character who died while Henry was aware of the problems, so it's not so much cliche as it is just a continuation of the style they'd set forth. It leaves a lot to the imagination. What happens afterwards? Is the Order's god in the world? Was it all just to get Walter to his mother? How is little Walter there? Is it in the real world or in the otherworld?
There was a UFO ending planned for the game which apparently never got far enough along to actually be implemented. However, there are items left in the game files that were to be used for the ending, so I will do my best to interpret what the ending would have been. Apparently, you would take the dirty stone to the cemetery courtyard, spit-shine it, place it on the ground, then throw the red oil onto the ground to exorcise it of the evil alien ghost living within the channeling stone. A UFO would come down, tell Henry he's a naughty boy, then take him away in the saucer. Perhaps it's all wrong, though. From the image of the items themselves, it appears to be a potato, a key, a bottle of nail polish, and an earring. Sounds like a hot date to me.