Don’t be fooled by this peaceful scenery.
When catching up on video game related news last week and reading about Gamescon 2014, I stumbled upon news of a Silent Hill game cleverly disguised as something called “P.T”; which turned out to be an absolutely frightening playable teaser of sorts. The articles stated it could be downloaded and played on the PS4, so I ran home Friday night and installed it. Another reason the gaming world is abuzz with excitement is because there’s some well known people behind it… Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead poster boy) are featured. I’m also excited to see the development team are Japanese. No offense to my fellow North Americans, but there’s something about the way Japanese handle horror that makes me wet myself in fright.
I didn’t play the demo. Barely touched the controller, in fact. I’m chicken enough with Silent Hill games without factoring in that this gem is FIRST PERSON. I don’t know about you, but games in first person point of view add an extra layer of “OMG I am so effing helpless and petrified!! Someone save me!” So I made Steve play it while Sara and I watched on and made multiple peanut gallery comments. And jumped in our seats. More than once.
Without spoiling too much about the teaser, the main gist is you control, through First Person POV, a man in a looping hallway, with no options besides movement and zooming in the camera. It’s very Silent Hill 4-esque in that regard. There’s even a hole in the bathroom. It’s not as big as The Room’s hole, but it certainly felt like a nod. Anyway, you path this hallway/house multiple times throughout the demo, taking notes of the eerie details that keep changing on you while feeling helpless to protect yourself or escape. Some of the jarring details are small and really require close attention. Seeing as how you can’t do much besides walk and look at stuff, make sure you observe your surroundings! Many of the finer details are what makes this teaser so remarkable.
The other Silent Hill nods made me happy as well. There’s a mirror in a bathroom that, when zooming in, can make your reflection vanish! It’s reminiscent of both Origins and Silent Hill 3 to me. The room in SH3 where Heather’s reflection does something wonky (It freezes and/or gets bloody, I believe) and then you have to run out of the room before slowly dying… Yep, scared the crap out of me when I first played it. In this demo thing, Lisa is the name of the pregnant wife who was apparently murdered, and one of the quotes scribbled on the wall begins with, “Forgive me, Lisa…” There’s absolutely no way the name Lisa isn’t a reference to poor Silent Hill’s Lisa.
Usually I find jump scares to be a kind of cheap way to scare the audience. But because this demo does such a fantastic job of setting the mood and putting the audience on the edge while solidifying the general Silent Hill approach to effed-up scenery, I have no complaints in that regard.
My complaints lie only with the teaser’s approach to puzzles. The puzzle to actually unlock the big Silent HillS reveal is basically impossible to figure out alone. The puzzle before that is hardly better. When we had to reference online forums to find out how to progress and stumbled upon dozens of threads with frustrated and confused gamers trying to work out how to solve a puzzle, I was pretty turned off. We all know survival horror games are no strangers to puzzles. That’s fine. But you have to have some sort of hint as to what the puzzle is, or what you’re actually trying to accomplish! So far there’s a whole lot of guess work and trail and error involved in triggering the steps to the solution. Not that you have any indication of what the steps are, or what you’re actually trying to achieve. I understand they wanted players to work a little for the big reveal at the end, but this is utter nonsense. When the collective gaming community can’t even figure out or agree to what triggers the puzzle unlocking or whether you even need a microphone plugged in or not… There’s a problem. This isn’t a social puzzle game, people, it’s a survival horror game, which is intended to be a solitary experience.
Completely random puzzles aside, I’m now pretty damn excited for the next Silent Hill game. It can’t be any worse than the last two that have been released, after all, but P.T. is very promising. I’m not convinced the entire game will be first person, seeing as how the closing pans out and shows Norman Reedus’ character walking into town in typical Silent Hill fashion (without fog, *sniff*). The teaser also had no weapons or anything, which would also be a big pill of doubt I’d have to swallow, given the series’ tradition of bashing enemies with steel pipes. I wouldn’t be completely opposed to not having weapons, as long as it didn’t turn the game into something like Outlast, which I wasn’t crazy about.
So what did you guys who played it think? I, for one, am quite excited to see what this team will do to breathe fresh life into the Silent Hill series. I found this teaser to be a pretty promising start.