Yesterday during its Gamescom 2014 press event, Sony Computer Entertainment teased a game called P.T. The reveal video was heavy on the light and shadow, asking players if they could decipher the enigma of the "world's first interactive teaser". Even more surprising is the fact that the Gamescom teaser touted the fact that P.T. was available on the PlayStation Store immediately.
My first thought was "an interactive teaser for what?" So I turned on the PlayStation 4, downloaded P.T., and booted it up. The game plays from the first-person perspective, with the player waking up in a dark room with a single door. In the room, there's also a bloody bag that warns you that the "gap in the door" leads to a "separate reality". Leaving the room takes you into a hallway with a few doors. You walk through the corridor, testing the doors. none of them work. At the end of the hallway, there's a open door which leads down to another door. Opening that door brings you back to the beginning of the hallway.This is the world that you will occupy for the duration of P.T.
The clock is stuck at 23:59. Bottles and drugs are strewn haphazardly everywhere. There are pictures in the hallway: some are missing, some are torn. A lone radio talks about a single man who murdered his family. You can hear a single lamp swinging. The shadows are heavy and uninviting.
P.T. is very good at setting up an atmosphere for horror. It feels oppressive, like you're facing the unknown. Light and sound come together to make you afraid of even going around the corner. Voices whisper at you. Disembodied babies cry. A silhouetted figure sits at the end of the hallway. Everything changes each time you go through the final door and loop back around. Sometimes the lights will be on. Sometimes the door to the bathroom will be cracked open. One loop may find the hallway bathed in red.
P.T. is obtuse. You just sort of wander around in the hallway, touching things and listening to things until more things happen, then perhaps you start the loop again. It's confusing and doesn't make much sense. Some players ragged on The Fullbright Company's Gone Home for "not being a game," but P.T. is like Gone Home with even less explanation. You wander and look around, putting the pieces together, but even the completed puzzle doesn't completely tell you what happened here. It doesn't give you the full picture, the "why".
P.T. is a puzzle that's meant to be solved collectively by the internet or completely by accident. It's a game of trial-and-error; people can play for hours without ever seeing the real end. A day out from the reveal, avid fans have put together guides to help you through the teaser in record time. Wandering through the repeated loops can undermine the atmosphere depending on the player, because the hallway just isn't as scary the fifteenth time around. As I've said before, familiarity weakens horror.
Finishing the game tells you what P.T. stands for: "Playable Teaser." A playable teaser for Silent Hills, a new game in Konami's horror series created by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro, starring The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus. This teaser is there to establish the overall feeling of Silent Hills, as the ending clip makes sure to let us know that the game won't play like this.
"This game is a teaser. It has no direct relation to the main title," the ending states.
Del Toro's participation here may point to Silent Hills being a rebranding of Insane, the game that director was making with THQ. In fact, Del Toro told the Toronto Sun last year that he was in talks with a "big company" about the future of Insane.
"We are in talks with a very, very big company. I can't say who, but it's one of the big ones. They really responded to the game, they responded to what we were trying," he said at the time.
"I spent a year and a half on Insane already, so I must be very interested. We've designed a world. We've designed the creatures. We've designed a lot of the sets. We laid out the whole story," he told IGN. "We were going to go to a lot of developers after THQ, but it seems like we're going to be developing it after the first meeting we had. I can't disclose where it was, but we went to a great developer on the first meeting and it seems that they're picking it up because they love the package."
So there's a new Silent Hill game coming with Kojima and Del Toro backing it. Can the pair succeed where others have failed spectacularly? If you're even marginally interested in Silent Hill, you should try out P.T. since it's free. I wouldn't invest hours in the game, but it's worth swimming in that oppressive atmosphere for at least a while.
Personally, I land on the Resident Evil side of horror games. I prefer to have the overwhelming firepower at my side. It provides some degree of comfort, unlike the Fatal Frame or Silent Hill games, which revel in your relative weakness in comparision to whatever you're facing. I don't know which side this new Silent Hill stands on, but if P.T. is any indication, it's going to stand next to its older siblings. I may visit Silent Hills, but something tells me I'll want to stick with something like The Evil Within for my horror fix.