After playing P. T. last year, I quickly rushed to my IGN blog to pour my excitement for it and the upcoming Silent Hills into an article. With the sad news of the game’s cancellation and the demo being taken off the PlayStation store however, I figured now would be the best time to post that article here in memory of what could have been. I’m beyond disappointed by this outcome, and hope we can at least find solace in the mystery and excitement that surrounded P. T. and intrigued so many. Even though the full product will never see the light of day, I’m confident that its Playable Teaser added some new fans to the Silent Hill series and horror games in general. Rest in peace Silent Hills.
I’ve always enjoyed the horror genre; Silent Hill is one of my favourite series with Resident Evil 4 as my second favourite game of all time. I try to watch a decent amount of horror movies spanning from the first Frankenstein film in the black and white era to recent films like Cabin in the Woods. I’m no expert by any means, but I do love and get excited about horror games, and I know what makes me scared. And I feel that P.T. nailed every single aspect of fear in a horrifyingly genius way.
Your goal in P.T. was a simple one; walk through seemingly endless hallways until reaching an end, if there is one. If the door at the end of the hall is locked, find a way within the hallway to open it and keep moving. I feel this simplicity is a key aspect of horror games, and a large part of what makes P.T. so memorable. Some horror games lose their focus when too many different elements are brought into play and that feeling of pure terror is watered down by other unnecessary aspects. In many ways the game felt reminiscent of a nightmare, with the looping hallways, clever tricks on your perception, apparently random instances, and specifically the running sequence nearing the end. The layout of the house is perfectly crafted, filled with elements that can easily invoke horror when framed right, yet also believable enough to be a real home. Simple things like the 90 degree turn in the hallway half way through, the tables strewn about with different portraits and objects, the dark lit balcony hanging over the end of the hall, and of course the dreaded bathroom (a staple in Silent Hill games), are all perfectly placed to contribute something terrible to your every footstep down that dreadful walk.
The structure of the game itself was something I greatly admire. The process of walking through a looping hallway which gets increasingly more disturbing (or seemingly going back to normal, which can be even more unnerving) was brilliant and lends itself to a perfect situation for horror. Many players had undergone different events in their journey through P.T., whether a window breaking as they pass by, or something watching them from above on the balcony, and this random nature is a huge proponent of horror. Predictability can destroy any sense of fear, and from what I had seen P.T. was far from predictable. I grew tenser and more uneasy as I progressed through the game, expecting events I’d heard about online and from friends who’d played it, only to be horrified when incidents I had no idea of occurred instead. You never had any idea what would happen in any given hallway you’re walking through, leaving you feeling completely helpless and uncertain, in an absolutely horrifying way.
To me, horror games can be 90% sound. Creepy voices, sound effects, eerie music (or a lack thereof), can truly be the core of a horror experience. P.T. completely perfected its sound design, and playing it alone in the dark with headphones on had me frozen in fear in more than a few instances. The sounds of P.T. are remarkable. From the subtle things like your creeping footsteps and the looping radio, to the loud thumping of something horrible outside a door and a baby’s otherworldly wailing, the sound alone in this game will haunt me for some time. Visually, nothing actually needs to occur, but the sound of a second set of footsteps behind you, or the voice on the radio suddenly switching its usual pattern to saying something ominous and unexpected is frightening beyond explanation.
Despite what I said about sound being such a large aspect of horror, P.T. also managed to utilize amazing photo-realistic graphics and lighting to achieve something far beyond what many other games are capable of. The lifelike look of the game completely immersed players into its world, and everything looks so real and tangible that it couldn’t be more disturbing when something goes wrong. Coming around a corner to see someone standing at the other end of the long dark hallway with such convincing visuals taps into a fear I’m sure we’ve all had ourselves at times when walking through our own houses in the middle of the night.
Overall, P.T. is why I love the horror genre. It’s meticulously crafted in every way to make you as uncomfortable as possible before terrorizing you over and over again. If this teaser was any indication of what was to come from Silent Hills, it could have been the pinnacle of horror in gaming, and with the minds of Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima behind it, that very well could have been a possibility. It’s tragic for a fan of video game horror, as the genre has only just managed to stay alive these last few years in the smaller scale indie game community, with larger games in famous horror series such as Resident Evil 6 and Dead Space 3 moving towards being primarily action oriented. Would P.T. and Silent Hills have truly refreshed and sparked interest in the genre? Who can say, but I’m eager and hopeful to see what comes next for Kojima and team.