You stated in SH 4 about Henry safe room : since the player understands that he can leave at will, the feeling of tension induced by the Otherworld is dramatically reduced.
I actually had played SH 4, never finished it since it's really hard and frightening for me also my SH 4 game is lost and i still don't bother to buy again.
But let's back to the topic, actually i am little disagree with you about Henry safe rooms. Because Henry can go back to his room anytime player wants, it does not means the tension is reduced when compared to other series.
In fact it add shrill terror to our play through, namely because exist small haven namely the room itself whom provides shelter and sense of security in contrast with our other world with full pack of monsters (and ghost !) ready to chew Henry.
So the player will trying to as much as possible get back to the room whenever in danger, thus make a possible result when a player refuse to leave Henry room for the sake of safety rather than progress !. Because thanks to the new mechanics : Immortal monster, most of monsters who can outrun Henry even when he is running and giving much portion to melee fighting rather than shoot from safety. All of this can force some players to sit in safe rooms rather than progress the game.
Taking from my experience when in Subway level after Cynthia going to toilet, Henry immediately surrounded by those damned dogs, curious about Cynthia and my safety, I make a dash to toilet to find a hole in the wall. I examine it and when the option appear to give me chance for a ride to my room, I promptly agreed.
The first thing I got when I am back to room is a feeling relief and yes that is. Never I thought I can get a breath for a while after meet two abomination hounds. So after make some preparations, I go into the hole again but when I am back at same exact toilet, I got an immediate chill vibe through my palms and body. It’s because those two dogs still waiting for me outside of toilet and getting a feeling “This subway is a nightmare why I must venture this again ?!”.
The subway feelings is what I am talking about, the contrast feeling between the room and other world subway level can induce some fear to some players, making their movement become sluggish while playing and feeling about “ I want to go to my room” in every moment during the nightmare other world. And this feelings is one of the reasons I cannot advance to next level due to my cowardice.
But sadly all of these things is not very greatly pulled by Konami, when I knew from magazines that Henry rooms will invaded by spirits in later levels, I got an impression it makes the contrast feeling won’t induce fear anymore and also SH 4 is somewhat not playing with darkness element which is very important to keep the horror like the first and second game.
But after all it’s good game and nice post as always.