Home > Computer Games > Playable Cinematic Teasers in Frightening Loops. Playable Cinematic Teasers in Scary Loops. Playable Teasers in Loops. Be Scared of this Playable Teaser. P.T . Silent Hills

Playable Cinematic Teasers in Frightening Loops. Playable Cinematic Teasers in Scary Loops. Playable Teasers in Loops. Be Scared of this Playable Teaser. P.T . Silent Hills

Yep, that's kinda creepy

I’d heard a fair few mutterings and positive stirrings relating to the mysterious Silent Hills demo (also known as “P.T.”) but since I don’t own a PS4 I hadn’t thought much about playing it myself beyond lamenting that I never would.  By chance  I ended up watching someone else play on their Playstation, not the way I’d prefer to experience a horror game since the first person immersion is usually what makes horror games horrific, but it turned out to be worth the wait; P.T. is something of a milestone in videogame history, however you experience it..  It’s just a short demo, playable in a couple of hours, but it stands on its own as a complete game experience, and it’s one of the most frightening games you’re likely ever to play.  It’s just a demo but it manages to effectively bridge the gap between cinema and gaming in a way that nothing else has ever even attempted; perhaps because it’s a free demo (more specifically, a teaser.  “P.T.” stands for playable teaser) the developers weren’t burdened by the need to create a lengthy game experience or a predictable gaming experience that would sell.

The game throws the player into a confusing, terrifying series of  loops that take place down a single short corridor, with no information about what’s happening, or why, leaving him/her free to explore and discover the games secrets.  Your actions are limited in the game to simply walking around and zooming in on points of interest, a lack of input almost unthinkable in a modern console game but a design choice.  Once you’ve triggered the correct event you can walk through the door at the end of the corridor and you’ll find yourself standing right back where you started  The scenario is thick with atmosphere and whilst a lot of it is cobbled together from elements you’ve seen in horror games and horror movies a hundred times before – strange whining through a telephone, eerie radio news items about sinister murders playing in a background, ghostly shadows moving in the corner of your eye  and walls caked in blood – the sparseness of the game design coupled with the looping mechanic leave you feeling utterly disempowered as a player with seemingly no choice but to keep marching forward into every new loop knowing that things will have subtly changed, waiting to find out how those changes will manifest themselves, how that will affect you, and realising how utterly powerless to know how to stop them.  Sometimes it’s a small point of detail on a wall, other times a door rattles mysteriously, later you might happen to look up and see something ominous and eventually you’ll be hit by a massive jump scare that you’d been predicting for the past twenty minutes..

There’s cinematic inspiration here, a recent underrated horror masterpiece, Christopher Smith’s innovative triangle used a very similar looping idea to both horrific and heartbreaking effect.  It’s also not a surprise to see Guillermo del Toro’s name attached to the end credits when they roll (if you can get them to roll, since the game’s final puzzle is deliberately obtuse).  If cinema and video-games are to walk hand in hand into the future then it stands to reason that there are creative collaborations between those who excel in both mediums, and with movies like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth behind him, del Toro is a proven master of the macabre.  Another high profile horror game that I’ve played recently, The Evil Within, suffers strongly from a lack of cohesion and discipline.  The game is certainly scary – boy, is it scary – but the horror is mostly visceral and for all its grotesqueries and genuinely gut churning moments, one walks away wondering why the experience is so disjointed and so desperate to plunge you ever onwards into the next big set-piece.  It’s not a candidate for the cinematic and it certainly doesn’t get under your skin.  The reason is, of course, because the game is so desperate to entertain you as a game and it wants to reassure you that, despite the multiplicity of horrors you’ll come across and the tension you’ll face due to a need to conserve ammo or resources, as a player you still feel in control, that you’re able to do what you need to in order to escape the hellish nightmare that you’re stuck in.  Gaming devices trump narrative devices every time and, whilst they might create a better game, they disconnect you from the story and diminish that aspect of the experience.

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P.T. however, as a game, actively wants the player to fail.  Not just in terms of difficulty, or through forcing the player to endure a humiliating Game Over screen repeatedly a la Dark Souls, but more in terms of setting up a situation in which the player becomes doubtful and introspective, eventually completely unsure of his/her ability to succeed.   It doesn’t really care what input you might have into the game, all it wants is to heighten your feelings of fear.  But this is not the vomit-inducing fear of the gory, the visceral in your face kind favoured by The Evil Within, but the slow unsettling stomach-churning dread of a Paranormal Activity (a movie which itself applied cinematic methods to very humdrum pursuits, altering them upon repetition for maximum effect).

It’s unlikely that when it’s released Silent Hills will turn out to be quite this good.  We already know that the finished game won’t be based upon the ideas contained here and neither should it since it has a very different job to do.  However, there hasn’t been this kind of hype or excitement around any game in some time, let-alone Silent Hill, a franchise that’s been languishing in rehash land for so long most people simply stopped caring.  But now they care, thanks to this demo, and that’s a majorly exciting thing for the the computer game industry in general because it shows that innovation, thinking differently, coming up with new concepts and even embracing and meshing with the old (cinema) can garner you attention and ultimately secure sales.  P.T. is an entirely unique and free product that has clearly had a wealth of love and attention devoted to producing it and it’s succeeded in inspiring confidence in a game and selling a game.  Even though the final game will inevitably fall short of this nugget I’ll still be first in the queue to buy it, and I’m not even a long term Silent Hill fan.  And I don’t even own a PS4.

Anyway, I’d heard a fair few mutterings and positive stirrings relating to the mysterious Silent Hills demo (also known as “P.T.”) but since I don’t own a PS4 I hadn’t thought much about playing it myself beyond lamenting that I never would.  By chance  I ended up watching someone else play on their Playstation, not the way I’d prefer to experience a horror game since the first person immersion is usually what makes horror games horrific, but it turned out to be worth the wait; P.T. is something of a milestone in videogame history, however you experience it…

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