My hands are still shaking.
Or maybe it’s my soul.
Discreetly nestled in the middle of the Sony Gamescon briefing on August 12 was the mystery responsible for my dread. P.T., the world’s first interactive teaser, was unveiled with scant details. It was my gushing excitement over some very different news, however, that got me Googling this subtle sampling of horror. That news, which I found on the Silent Hill: Revelations 3D Facebook page, was that Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro were collaborating on Silent Hills, with Norman Reedus as the protagonist. At long last, a next-gen showing of my favorite horror series.
Whatever you’ve heard from social media, the warped journey through P.T. is simply beyond any other video gaming experience.
From the get-go, things quickly unravel as you walk through a large L-shaped hallway of the most sinister house in history. Liquor bottles and pill packets line the baseboards and dusty edges of a wooden console. Pass through a door to the basement, only to be warped back to the start of the long hallway. Every nuance demands – nay, has to be – studied for the player to progress.
The insidious shifts in reality are an outstanding demonstration of Kojima’s Fox Engine. Crisp reflections of light on the hard wood floors add just as much to the mind-bending atmosphere as the shrieks of a baby and distorted weeping of something inhuman. Brace yourself when the voice on the radio tells you to look behind you. I don’t think I’ve ever held my breath every single time I did a 180 in a video game.
The time it takes to actually complete the demo seems incalculable. That’s because there appear to be no boundaries between required puzzles and secret alternatives. Does the game ever end? Pages upon pages of Neogaf discussion boards suggest that a single conclusion awaits players at the end of an unknown number of routes. You can collect picture fragments by zooming in with R3, if you have a sharp eye. Writing on the wall and the radio announcer provide precious few hints, and it is easy to descend into a frustrated madness as you ask yourself, “What do I do next?”
Yet despite all the obscure riddles, I never felt the intentional lack of answers to be misguided. Those who have been playing Silent Hill for years may even find themselves smirking at the realization that Kojima and Del Toro have hit home here. In a world of horror, it’s the unseen and illogical that turns us into insomniacs.
It’s a challenge to sit through other playthroughs and see players’ initial terror give way to annoyance. Youtube user Farfromsubtle uploaded a playthrough on August 14, and the first 30 minutes of sheer fright and immersion was broken after their progress kept coming to a standstill. In a video game market where innovation and action come out on top of immersion and problem-solving, P.T. is going to continue to be a dead-end for many players who decide that exploration isn’t gaming. Should a game reward players who don’t search every nook and cranny? I guess that would be the simple way out. Besides, there is little immersion when the controller is in someone else’s hands.
Overall, this demo is brimming with promise. I can’t shake this feeling of dread, and that’s a very good start. Even if it is an illusion, the variability of ghost sightings, jump scares, and psychosis-like twists all make P.T. a treat to replay as soon as night comes around. Here’s to hoping the 10th installment of Silent Hill is this trippy and nightmarish.