The P.T. Demo – Can I dare to Nightmare?

OK. So one of the first things I ever did here on Hashtag Nerd was basically give a reflective masturbatory session about what I thought the Silent Hill series needed to be good again. This was over two years ago. Since then things have been relatively quiet on the Silent Hill front. I honestly could have expected it to have been ended there. Not the best game to close it out, but a big enough catalog with some terrifying memories. But then I saw this:

So I’m not going to lie to you, my first reactions were pretty flat. I’ve played some Metal Gear games and while I like some, and my biggest problem is they are known for some excessively ridiculous and talky cut-scenes. So I wasn’t high on Kojima dipping his hands in this. And to be totally honest, I don’t watch a lot of movies, so I had new clue who Del Toro was. I had to IMDB his work, and I haven’t seen any of his films. So this whole headline and pitch did virtually nothing to move me. But something I did note that caught my eye is that they had some sort of “Interactive Trailer” and it was already available for the PS4 called P.T.. So I gave it a download while I was at work so it would be ready when I got home. about 11:30 pm I finally sat down with it, not quite sure what to expect.

It was fucking incredible. 

Now, I can’t say with any certainty that this will be reflective to how the full game will come out. But for two and a half absolutely heart stopping hours, P.T. had an icy grip on my nuts. And I’m not saying this lightly or for effect. For people who saw me in my stream, they saw a guy who every 5 to 10 minutes of play would have to pause the game to bury his face in hands and recenter with deep breaths. Who would have to pause so he could talk out loud just to hear something else a bit more calming. Someone who felt depths of fear he has NEVER felt in a video game. Ever.

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Here is how the demo works and I’ll try to do so without spoiling anything. When you start the game, you take first person perspective where wake up in an enclosed room. There is only a single light and single door.  As you pass through it you are treated to an exceptionally grungy hallway. The time on the clock is stuck on 23:59. As you slowly walk through the hall, you can see poorly cared for photos, empty pill containers, and LOTS of empty alcohol containers.

You pass a dresser with more photos of a somewhat clean-cut looking individual, and some other photos of him with a woman. You continue down the hall to other locked doors, where you find the front door with another dresser. this one with a photo of the couple and a radio.  The front door is locked. So all you can do is follow the hall to one last door. You pass through it, and you find yourself back at the beginning of the hall where you started.

This is literally all there is to the game and while that seems short and boring, it was absolutely brilliant in its execution. Every time you pass through this hallway, there is a subtle change or difference. Sometimes something moves or changes, sometimes there are noises. Sometimes the radio will start to crackle or hiss, sometimes you will hear news about a horrific crime. But every time you loop, it gets a little worse.

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It is also compounded by the fact that there is no music to this. At all. All you have are the soft thuds of your footsteps to start, but as things start to get twisted, so to do the sounds you hear. Not the musically haunting ambiance you might hear in say a Silent Hill 2 or 3, this is the encroaching and rising drones of something out of the original, or say Jacobs Ladder.  It is executed so exceptionally that you are forced to investigate every little difference you come across, even if they are unnerving. It does a fantastic job of building tension and leaving you completely on edge.

But the biggest surprise to me was Fear. Genuine, legitimate, fear. That expectation that something was going to happen, something I wasn’t going to like and having no idea when it would hit me. Having no weapons in this demo, I have no means of protection and therefore the threat is very real and very scary. I haven’t had that kind of jump since maybe the dog scare from Resident Evil 2.

The whole thing is very cerebral, and for a demo where all you do is walk down a hallway? Its pretty goddamn long too. I easily spent well over 2 or 3 hours trying to complete it and I still have yet to do it. So to quickly recap: Totally free demo, longer than a marvel movie, expertly done, legitimately scary. Suddenly the unease I had about who now had Silent Hill in their hands has been completely washed away, because this demo was scarier than every game to come out from SH 4: The Room and on. For the first time, in a long time, I am very excited to see what the future holds for Silent Hill. Even if it’s not great, it should be a very interesting experiment.

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But more importantly is that it seems like that horror niche that has seemingly been forgotten by the games industry, has completely fallen in lust with the genre again and things are suddenly looking very good for horror gamers. With awesome titles like Outlast and Amnesia already out, and titles like The Evil Within, Bloodborne, and Until Dawn on the horizon? Man the games on the next generation systems are starting to look friggen good. This is a good path for the games industry to follow.

I don’t know if this is going to be a PlayStation exclusive, and after the debacle with the Tomb Raider announcements? Smart money says this isn’t going to be either. But as far as I have seen the P.T. demo is currently only available on the PS4. I don’t know how long it’s going to be there so if you are a fan of horror games in any capacity I strongly recommend you go and download it now.

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Author: Phil Hoyt

Web Developer, WordPress Expert, Marketing Enthusiast

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