I’ve got a question for you: Has anything from the horror genre ever given you nightmares? I mean those nightmares where you wake up in the middle of the night in a feverish, cold sweat like Samus Aran overdosing on Phazon? You know, the kind that leaves you feeling vulnerable in the dark, even in the comfort of your own home, as if Anton Chigurh was lying in wait for you in your broom closet? Most people can relate to this; as you might expect, I am one of those people who gets frightened easily, and as such, I’ve had many nightmares as a result. Strangely enough, it’s not films that really do the job for me though – it’s actually video games. The feeling of really interacting with your environment; the occasional first-person view; the slow-yet-sudden abandonment of all your hopes and dreams, and that last moment of sanity before something from the shadows steals away your last ounce of faith before you are forced to spend the rest of your pathetic video game existence in perpetual damnation.[wpb_linebreak height=”20″]THAT is what gives me nightmares.[wpb_linebreak height=”20″]Which leads me to my next question: So why do I keep playing them? Well, why wouldn’t you? The atmosphere is fantastic, the gameplay is usually intriguing, and everyone needs a good mindfuck now and then. I’ve played my fair share of horror games, and I’ve dealt with a number of scenarios ranging from vengeful ghosts in blood-splattered mansions, grotesque apparitions that resemble Eric Pickles having been turned inside out, and just enough jump scares to result in the onset of cardiac arrest. However, none have given me more of a serious case of the heebie-jeebies than P.T. – the playable teaser for the ill-fated Silent Hills game.[wpb_linebreak height=”20″]
[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]The game (or demo, whatever you want to call it, IT’S A GAME TO ME DAMMIT) was helmed by none other than the eccentric creator of the Metal Gear series, Hideo Kojima. Known for his savage love of mindfucks and his constant molestation of the fourth wall, the mastermind was given the reigns to the Silent Hill franchise, and teased what sweet, sweet terror that could have been unleashed on the poor, unsuspecting public in the final product – but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. However, I have no intention on expanding on the issue between Konami and Kojima, and it really should be common knowledge for all gamers on the internet; this article is purely devoted to my abnormal love and twisted infatuation for the teaser that captured the hearts of gamers, tortured them, and then locked them in an iron maiden until they bled to death.[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]P.T. opens with a title card for the fictional 7780s Studios, and then follows on with some cryptic musings: “Watch out. The gap in the door… it’s a separate reality. The only me is me. Are you sure the only you is you?” After you’re left befuddled with that existentialist crisis
(WHAT IF WE ARE ALL PHONE?), you wake up in a dark room with a cockroach and a bloodied paper bag. Yum. Exit through the in-door, and you find yourself in the long, narrow hallway of a house, and no, this isn’t Final Fantasy XIII – this ‘house’ is essentially an L-shaped corridor decorated with family photos, a crackly radio, an off-the-hook telephone, with a door leading to the bathroom, a perpetually locked front door, and a door that leads to the basement. However, going through the basement brings you to the in-door from where you first came in, essentially looping you around. This is the extent of the game: Wandering through the same hallway over and over again, except that it’s not the same.
[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]The house’s features will bear subtle changes with each loop you complete. Cockroaches will soon begin to breed and infest the house; the walls will gradually get filthier, and will also bear hellish messages; the radio – which has been broadcasting a gruesome story about a man who kills his entire family and explicitly shoots his pregnant wife in the stomach – slowly becomes progressively demonic, and begins to bark cryptic messages at you while also playing the sound of a woman and a baby crying. Finally, you also eventually gain access into to the bathroom itself. What’s so special about the bathroom, however, is that inside the sink is what would be the ‘aborted’ baby that was murdered, albeit in the form of an underdeveloped foetus. Now I’ve seen some scary-ass ghosts and horrid zombies in other horror games, but this ‘baby’ is legitimately one of the most unsettling things I’ve seen in gaming. Seriously, this thing looks like an undercooked chicken that’s somehow still alive despite having it’s feathers plucked in some Chinese flesh farm. Worse yet, you can make it laugh by manipulating the DS4’s touchpad. Thanks Kojima(!)
[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]Possibly the worst thing about this game, however, is the game’s ghost. The tragic mother who suffered the shotgun abortion, named Lisa Garland, will occasionally appear in the house at certain points after triggering the loop enough times. Appearing in a filthy white nightgown with the abdomen covered in blood, and missing both an eye and a shoe, she slowly walks towards you perpetually contorting with an unpleasant grin on her blood and pus-ridden face. She blends in with the shadows, and appears in places where you wouldn’t expect to see her. And if you’re not quick enough to solve the game’s cryptic puzzles, then it’s not gonna end well for you.
[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]One particular thing that interested me was Kojima’s choice of setting being a house; it brought back memories of other horror games that followed suit before it. Project Zero 3 (Fatal Frame in North America) featured segments in the ‘real world’ where you could explore your house and interact with different items each time in various parts of the house. However, as the game progressed, you’d slowly find that the house was haunted by ghosts, and you’d eventually catch glimpses of them walking behind you in the view of your mirror, wandering your loft, and even standing in your shower. Another game which features similar segments is, surprise surprise, Silent Hill 4: The Room. As you progress through the game, you’ll encounter numerous hauntings taking place in your apartment, and it can get pretty damn terrifying. To have a horror game take place in a house helps to eliminate the sense of comfort that we would normally associate with our home, and plants the seed of doubt in our head. P.T. employs this very trait, and almost immediately begins to force you to not only distrust your surroundings, but also makes you fearful. For a game that restricts you to walk through a small L-shaped corridor for the entirety of the game, it does a damn good job of giving you a lot to think about when doing so.
[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]However, this wouldn’t be a Kojima game if it didn’t carry his trademark traits. After enough loops, you’ll come to a segment where you can’t find much to do. The radio is silent, the baby is gone, and the house seems normal – but you can’t continue. After a while, the game begins to glitch out, and a sequence of numbers that have been repeated throughout the game is reiterated to you in contrast to the dread wall of silence in a demonic voice:[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]
Never in my life have I been frightened of a sequence of numbers, and my freakin’ degree was in Accountancy. Yet Kojima’s knack for making something incredibly trivial soon turn out to be something crazy or sinister works a real charm here, and the cacophony of noise, crying, and the repetition of those damned numbers is all too much to bear. Then, it all grinds to a freakish halt as the game appears to crash and reload itself. In classic Kojima fashion, the fourth wall is broken, as is the will of all gamers who subjected themselves to this bastard game. As gamers resumed, they found that there was one final puzzle left before the game ended, and this required the player to carry out a couple of ridiculous and impossible-to-figure sequences just to trigger the trailer for Silent Hills, featuring the surprise appearance of Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead fame, and the full credits finally revealing Kojima and his partnership with Guillermo del Toro.[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]
P.T. is not only a fantastic experience, it is also a brilliant piece of marketing, for the first person to complete P.T. would be the first person in the world to know of Silent Hills‘ existence. It’s clear that Kojima really put his heart and soul into this game (he hid a piece of a puzzle inside the options menu for crying out loud), and the world finally got to see a real horror game from the master of psychological trauma. Just imagine if he actually got to see Silent Hills through with Guillermo del Toro… Well, we’d still be able to download P.T. on the PlayStation Store, that’s for sure. Either way, we know it’s a horror game, but deep down, we gamers know what it really is:[wpb_linebreak height=”5″]
A Hideo Kojima game.