If you haven’t heard of it by now, a mysterious new horror I.P. showed up at Gamescom 2014. It bore the nondescript title “P.T.” and was made by “7780s Studio.” Horror games are still in the Amnesia/Slender renaissance, so it’s no surprise that it drew attention. When people played the PS4 exclusive demo, they were struck by how scary and well-made this demo was, and how hard it was to finish.
The demo takes place entirely within a hallway and a few different rooms, an economical setup if nothing else. Without giving away too many of the jumps, the demo requires you to wander the same hallway on an endless loop, while subtle clues and changes to the environment suggest a larger story. It’s surprisingly difficult, and scarier than I can give it credit for in writing.
When you finally “solve” the demo (which seems to be almost luck-based), a cinematic trailer begins to play. As a man walks down a deserted and misty street, the names “Hideo Kojima,” “Guillermo del Toro” and “Norman Reedus” flash across the screen. As the camera pulls away from Reedus’s digitalized face and back into the fog, Akira Yamaoka’s signature sound starts. The title “Silent Hills” flashes up on screen, and it all becomes clear. You’ve been playing a Playable Teaser for the next entry in the legendary Silent Hill series.
P.T. isn’t actually related to the final product which will be Silent Hills, and high graphical quality was deliberately avoided. They were trying their hardest to make you think that it was something put together by a new indie developer with a minimum of resources. Nobody who has beaten the demo has any idea how they did it, and nobody can find a reliable method of doing it. Considering that the combined power of the internet and the gaming community has been working on it for a while now, that’s pretty impressive.
So is this perhaps a good example of the video game hype machine. It was all a trick designed to get us all excited about a teaser for Silent Hills. Would the trailer have raised even half the stir that it did if it had just been released in a straightforward manner at Gamescom? Would it have felt so satisfying if it had not been made a reward for braving the haunted hallway of P.T.?
It’s a very good way to get us to talk about a new game, but let me raise one point: We’re not talking about Silent Hills. We’re all still talking about P.T. P.T. was a great game, but Hideo Kojima has confirmed that it doesn’t have anything to do with Silent Hills. I’m excited for any new Silent Hill game, especially one with such a dream team behind it. But still, we’ve seen the consequences of hard hype with Watch_Dogs, and Silent Hills is taking it one step further by advertising a game with a different game entirely. And the sheer difficulty of P.T. means that anyone who finishes it will hold it in high esteem just for the sense of achievement it gives them.
Let’s just hope that Kojima and company can replicate in macro what they showed us they could achieve in micro.