Written by Scott Clifford
The mainstream survival horror video game has been in a comatose state like a bad Steven Seagal film. Indie horror games thrive while a big studio will occasionally revive or continue a franchise by putting in more action and taking out scares in order to please marketers. The result is a lame piece of art and entertainment with bad acting, bad dialogue, and worse gameplay that makes you wonder how certain companies are as successful as they are in the first place. Capcom learned their lesson well with their debut of Resident Evil 6 that was panned by most fans and critics alike. Konami’s Silent Hill franchise has also been on a respirator since both Silent Hill 4, and 5 failed to please anyone willing to spend their hard-earned money on the series. Even Konami’s attempt at HD remakes of the original Silent Hill trilogy failed miserably due to game-breaking bugs and strange gameplay design decisions. The result is a barren landscape for fans who want to see their favorite franchises come to life. Luckily for us, we were surprised with a low profile announcement that came after watching a man play with cardboard boxes.
At the 2014 Sony Gamescom Press Conference, Hideo Kojima, the creator of the Metal Gear Solid series, was trolling audiences by showing new ways that Snake, the main character of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, could use cardboard boxes in order to sneak by enemies. After the quirky demonstration was finished, Kojima showed a short trailer of a new video game called P.T. made by a new company called 7780s Studios. Once the trailer was finished, Sony announced that PS4 owners could download the demo from the PlayStation Store. Curious gamers such as myself have found the game and downloaded it while reading a warning that suggested to “Avoid playing if you have a heart condition.”
Luckily my condition doesn’t adversely affect my heart so I started the demo, or I should say “Playable Teaser”, at midnight with the lights off like a real gangster or something like that.
Things started with the main character getting up from the floor in a dingy room while two cockroaches mockingly mate in front of him before they scurried off. I brushed off bad flashbacks of some of my friends’ apartments in Philadelphia, opened the door and started a journey that was a lot longer and more terrifying than I expected. What follows is a series of hallways that endlessly repeat in their overall layout but slowly turn more supernatural as time goes on. A radio on a table tells a news story of a man killing his wife and child as I look at a teddy bear on the floor and wonder how it got there while surrounded by opened boxes of candy. The radio strongly suggested me to look behind myself but I didn’t because I was too scared to see what was waiting for me so I walked (the game didn’t let me run) to the door at the end of the hallway that leads back into the beginning of the hallway for another round of this torturous loop. Now one of the lights was out and a doorway on my right side partially creaked open. I looked at the side and a pale hand slammed it shut. I couldn’t open the door so I kept walking as the lights swayed back and forth as if another entity controlled them. Another door to my left still couldn’t be opened so I grudgingly walked to the end. The place was even darker now and of course that door that was partially opened now swung all the way out in front of me in my foreground. To make matters worse, a female monster…thing breathes heavily in the background while staring at me. Her face was obscured due to some fantastic lighting and I was too much of a wuss to confront her so I turned to the opened door and trapped myself inside like a caged animal.
I was now in a grungy bathroom that was inexplicably locked from the outside. To my right was a filthy bathtub crawling with more cockroaches. To my left was a crying fetus with a misshapen head in a dirty sink overlooked by an even dirtier mirror. Obviously the crying fetus took precedent so I picked up a flashlight that was on the ground before giving it a closer look. Yes, it was still a fetus and yes, it was still crying. The game wouldn’t let me pick it up or interact with it so I zoomed in on it because of my morbid sense of curiosity. That’s when the handle on the bathroom door started to turn and I literally backed myself up in both the bathroom and my real room in my house in order to brace for impact. This was it. This was the moment where that monster breaks through the door, I freak out because I can’t help myself, the game ends, and all is revealed. So obviously the door slams shut once again.
I chuckled to myself, amused by the fact that I almost forgot to breath, and looked around the bathroom once more. The fetus was still there but nothing changed while the bathtub had a new hole in the wall next to it. I wasn’t sure if I saw someone’s eyeball looking through the hole as more cockroaches poured in but it wouldn’t have surprised me. I’m not an expert, but I’ve watched a lot of television and glory holes aren’t exactly a high-class tradition in our modern society. The door was finally unlocked and I walked outside only to find myself back in the same torturous loop. I walked to the end in order to start at the beginning (a phrase that doesn’t make sense in almost any other context besides this one). Now, the hallway was pitch black and the radio once again suggested that I look behind me. Why not? I quickly turned around as if that would help somehow and I saw the wooden door from which I came from. It was a stupid ploy and I knew it so of course I turn back around to see the monster from earlier in the game right in front of my face and grabbing my neck. All I can do is zoom in as her ashy skin and dark, beady eyes reveal grimacing teeth as she breaks my neck. My feet flopped on the as the radio told me that we’re just getting started. I take a deep breath and promptly turned the game off. As of this writing, I still haven’t finished it.
With some help from the Internet, my suspicions were confirmed when ending of P.T. reveals that this playable teaser was actually a sneak peak at a new Silent Hill game called Silent Hills. It is being directed by Hideo Kojima in collaboration with Guillermo del Toro, the famous director who made Pan’s Labyrinth among other classic films. To neatly tie everything up, the main character will be played by Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead fame. Needless to say, I’m very excited about this prospect. If this teaser is anything to go by, then they are going with the original theme and structure of the great survival horror games of old. That structure is torture. Yeah you read that correctly. Most good horror games use certain principles of torture in an entertaining way (since it’s obviously not real). They present similar themes and circumstances that slowly get more and more twisted as time goes on. In real-life it is meant to “break” an individual so they will reveal important information. In entertainment it is meant to “break” the audience so they can be scared and then entertained by their experience because they are in a safe environment. After all, I didn’t turn the game off because I got scared once. I turned it off because I wasn’t ready to get scared again and again.
I don’t know when Silent Hills is going to be released. I don’t know if it’s going to be an exclusive game for the Sony PlayStation 4. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to play the full game when it comes out. All I know is that I haven’t been this excited for a survival horror game in a long time and that makes me very happy. Now where did I put my clean underwear?