Hideo Kojima stole the show as Gamescom with P.T., an alleged demo for a first-person horror game on the Fox engine available for free on PSN that, once completed, revealed that Kojima and acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro would be working together on the new Silent Hill game, Silent Hills.
It was a deft move and set the internet ablaze. It turned out that ‘P.T.’ was a complete horror experience in itself and the teaser was an unconnected bonus for whoever managed to complete it. At around an hour or two in length, I’ve played and reviewed shorter horror games (Saturn 9 comes to mind).
Despite the fact that it is a stand-alone horror game, the motifs of the Silent Hill series run deep through-out. There is even a dirty mirror and bathtub with bloody water in it. The entire game takes place in the corridor of a large house in which the time has frozen at 23:59. The unnamed, unspeaking protagonist wakes up in a dingy room and makes his or her way down the corridor. News bleeds from the radio regarding a spree of families murdered by their fathers.
When the player passes through the door at the end of the corridor, they find themselves at the beginning again. The corridor is stuck on a seemingly endless loop. After traversing the corridor a few times, things begin to subtly alter around the player and what at first seems like a completely normal home begins to fill up with rubbish, filth and cockroaches.
Eventually, one of the doors on the corridor opens a crack and a baby’s cry can be heard from within. From that point, P.T. hits its stride, almost suffocating the player with its atmosphere and constant surreal horror.
What I really respected about P.T. that bodes well for Silent Hills is that, despite the odd jump scare, the most frightening aspects of the game don’t need to jump out of cupboards accompanied by loud shrieks to terrify. I never thought I’d see the baby from David Lynch’s Eraserhead in HD, but there it was, led in a sink like some kind of nightmarish aborted foetus.
The horror comes from the twisted surreality, something that has always defined the Silent Hill series. As a player, I can never feel at ease when the world around me is suspect. How can you possibly know what is behind you if what’s in front of you constantly changes? In terms of its fear factor, P.T. gets a huge thumbs up. It will make your skin crawl. Considering its brevity, its impressively effective.
Kojima claims that he reduced the visual quality of P.T. so that people wouldn’t instantly suspect it was made by a major developer. If that’s the case, I cannot begin to imagine what Silent Hills is going to look like, because P.T. looks amazing. At times it feels photo-realistic, making the subtle horror feel that much more real.
In terms of gameplay, the player has only the two analog sticks at their disposal, with other buttons coming into play in some fiendishly clever puzzles. Alongside movement and camera controls, the player can also zoom in on puzzle objects with R3.
Now, up to this point I’ve been completely enthusiastic about P.T. and what it hints at for Silent Hills, but the game does have a sticking point. With no combat on the cards, it relies on its puzzles for substance.
Some of its puzzles and intelligent and obscure, exactly what you’d want in a Silent Hill game. Some of its puzzles involve searching for tiny, easily missed objects shrouded by darkness and grime. They’re tedious, but can be achieved simply by meticulously searching the corridor.
However, the final puzzle, which Kojima made ‘intentionally difficult’ and predicted it would take a week to complete, is ridiculous. Although the aforementioned auteur claims it isn’t random, every walkthrough I’ve seen and every testimony I’ve read claims that a different sequence of actions brought them to the end of the game. Some people claim that involves making the Eraserhead baby laugh twice, but then some people say that the baby doesn’t need to laugh at all, and so on.
For the record, I still haven’t managed to finish it. It got to the small hours of the morning and it just didn’t seem to be worth the effort, considering I was already aware of the reveal. I won’t spoil the end of P.T., but it implies to me that only certain downloads of the ‘demo’ could achieve completion. If you are going to play the demo, which I’d recommend, be prepared not to finish it.
The conclusion to P.T. is unequivocally terrible. After all the ominous radio chatter and symbolism, upon completion (which I watched on YouTube) all you get is a measly paragraph of ambiguous text. I was actually quite drawn in by the vague story, but there wasn’t any kind of resolution. The Silent Hills reveal distracted most people from the poor ending, but not me. If P.T. is a standalone horror experience, then a bit of reward in the form of a conclusion for the sickeningly difficult puzzles would have been nice.
Despite the conclusion, P.T. exists to hype up Silent Hills and in that sense it’s a complete success because for the first time for as long as I can remember, people are saying positive things about the venerable horror series.
In terms of what it tells us about Silent Hills, I don’t believe it reveals much. P.T. is first-person and features a silent protagonist, but we can assume that Silent Hills will be third-person with a voiced main character by the fact they’ve got The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus in the lead role. They aren’t about to spend all that money getting a star to play the protagonist and then not show his face. What it did tell us though is that the most influential horror series ever is in very, very good hands.
A jaded horror enthusiast, I get my kicks hiding in cupboards from whatever hideous creatures happen to be around. However, I'm more than happy playing a wide range of genres on both consoles and PC. Apart from writing for Z1G, I'm also a History student.