Silent Hills P.T. Review
Director: Hideo Kojima
Imagine a world where two masters of their respective crafts could band together to create a masterpiece. Had Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro been given the opportunity to work together on Silent Hills, a new entry in the former’s successful horror series, that’s what would have happened.
But money and a public falling-out between Kojima and publishers Konami – one of the most lucrative collaborations in gaming history – resulted in the cancellation of Silent Hills. The hurt was made even worse after fans were offered P.T. (Playable Teaser), a taste of what to expect from said game, only to have it ripped away from us and then told that Kojima and Del Toro were no longer attached to the project.
Acting as a demo for Silent Hills, P.T. could be described as a psychological survival horror game. You awaken in what at first seems to be a normal suburban home – yet this is no ordinary house: it consists solely of a continuously looping L-shaped corridor, a bathroom and some stairs leading to a door.
Watch out. The gap in the door… it’s a separate reality.
Every time you pass through that door, little things change, becoming stranger and eerier. There are no objectives; you are left to your own devices and your own curiosity will lead you to investigate what has happened in this house. With walking and zooming as the only available actions at your disposal, discover hidden secrets, while listening to news broadcasts about a gruesome murder.
This is what is so ingenious about P.T. – it puts you right in the heart of the horror. You have no weapons and there are no trope zombies attacking you. Kojima wanted to give players a taste of what the atmosphere in Silent Hills would feel like, which makes the fact that we will never get to see his collaboration with Del Toro even harder to take.
Del Toro has been very open about his disappointment with the whole affair. He told IGN, “Norman [Reedus, The Walking Dead actor who was attached to play the lead role in the game] was super happy, Hideo was super happy, and so was I. I know there’s a petition going on the internet and it’s gathering signatures. I would add my signature to it, and hope that someone pays attention.” He was passionate about this project and really wanted to make Silent Hills, and so did we – the gamers.
Forgive me, Lisa. There’s a monster inside of me.
The supernatural element of P.T. had me trembling with fear. The game is interspersed with unnerving sounds which had me constantly on edge. Every now and then you might hear a horrible raspy breathing, a baby crying or laughing. There are multiple instances where you will see a spectral figure out of the corner of your eye; it’ll be there one moment, gone the next.
Kojima understands horror brilliantly – its randomness, its strangeness. He understands the fear of the unknown, and there are a lot of unexplained elements to P.T. He’s obviously a man who knows his horror well, with many nods to directors such as David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Stanley Kubrick. There is something of the Overlook Hotel about this suburban home.
These horror references highlight exactly why a collaboration between Kojima and Del Toro would be so pivotal for the survival horror genre. Both men have their feet firmly planted in pop culture, and more specifically horror culture. Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid games incorporate some horrific moments, especially The Phantom Pain.
You’ve been chosen.
As for Del Toro, he has proven himself to be a horror aficionado. Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone and Cronos are among the very best horror films ever made, and he has an imagination which has spawned some of the most terrifying creatures in movie history: Pan’s Labyrinth’s Tenome (Mr Eyes-on-his-Hands) gave me nightmares for weeks. Del Toro’s imagination and creativity, combined with Kojima’s eye for detail, playfulness and unpredictability, would surely have resulted in one of the most interesting and acclaimed horror games to date.
Towards the end of the game things become creepier and crazier: the house becomes more haunted; the spectral being goes from being on the outskirts of your vision to being in full view. Yet this doesn’t make P.T. any less disturbing. It still succeeds in making your skin crawl, as well as delivering a few good jump scares. I can’t remember ever playing a game that left me feeling so shell-shocked, overwhelmed, almost as if it had scared me too much. This was just a demo – imagine what the full game would have done.
Completing P.T. is a huge challenge and deliberately unclear in its storytelling. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had to search for clues on how to get to the end credits. Kojima wanted to make something totally new, to reinvent the Silent Hill franchise and in turn the video game horror genre. He has incorporated the very best elements of cinematic horror and created a terrifying, fully immersive first-person experience. The potential for its use on the upcoming Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR would have been staggering.
The prospect of having a horror game from the minds of Kojima and Del Toro was just too good to be true. It’s a tragedy that a petty squabble between Kojima and Konami had to result in two of the most interesting names in pop culture being stricken from a franchise in dire need of fresh blood. Konami have said that Silent Hills is still in the works, but it will never build on what P.T. started. Accomplished as it is, it may have ruined the Silent Hill franchise; we know what it could have been, but now we know what it will never become.
Here’s a flavour of what you could have expected from Silent Hills: