The best advertising stunt for a game has occurred during GamesCom, and it comes from none other than the master of Internet Trolling, Hideo Kojima. To quickly re-cap, a teaser trailer was shown at GamesCom for something called “P.T.” This P.T. was actually a demo available on the PlayStation Network and those lucky few that managed to finish it got not only a terrifying experience, but also a cutscene explaining that this had been a “Playable Trailer” announcing a new Silent Hill game. Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima is collaborating with film director Guillermo Del Toro, while Norman Reedus of Walking Dead fame from the TV series has been tapped to appear in the game, courtesy of the FOX engine currently being used for Metal Gear Solid V.
This is huge news, and, without a doubt, the biggest surprise of GamesCom. Silent Hill is a revered franchise among fans of horror games, but that adoration is usually reserved for the first three or four games. Subsequent titles in the franchise have been handed off to Western developers, not the original “Team Silent” crew, and the results have been mixed. While Silent Hill: Homecoming and Silent Hill: Downpour weren’t terrible games, they didn’t have the same distinctive flavor of horror that made the original Japanese-developed games so unique in the market. But with a prominent Konami name like Hideo Kojima now attached to the project, suddenly there’s hope that the J-Horror style will make a comeback. If the new SH game is anything like the playable trailer, then the promise is already there, since it’s one of the most unsettling horror “games” of the year, even more frightening and disturbing than Outlast.
However, just because Kojima is getting involved in the project, it doesn’t mean that the future is all wine and roses for the Silent Hill franchise. There are many variables that still make this an uncertain venture. Kojima, of course, is best known for the Metal Gear franchise, which is more about military conspiracies and elaborate commentary on war and its personal cost. He’s never actually worked on a horror game before, so it’s unknown at this point whether he really has the chops to consistently scare or disturb an audience in the way the original Team Silent team did, or perhaps more importantly, Keiichiro Toyama, creator of the first Silent Hill and Siren games, now working on Gravity Rush II at Sony. Secondly, the involvement of Guillermo Del Toro also doesn’t make any guarantees about the quality of the game simply because Del Toro—while good at fashioning scares—is not a game developer. His work on The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth show imagination, but it’s one thing to craft a fixed scare for the audience, and another to do it in an interactive environment like a game. He was working with THQ at one point to create a horror game known only as Insane but that project fell through when THQ shuttered its doors due to bankruptcy. And finally, while Norman Reedus has made waves for himself thanks to his stint on a TV series, using the likeness of a celebrity as—presumably—the player’s controllable character could potentially break immersion. It’s the difference between casting an unknown actor, which allows the character to develop without expectation, versus casting a big star like Jack Nicholson, in which case everyone is already expecting a particular style of performance. There are clearly many uncertainties in this project that don’t guarantee a horror game of epic proportions.
But, the good news, at least for horror fans, is that Silent Hill is at least coming back. And it’s going to have a budget. After the poor performance of the last few games, it was feared that the series was going to go the way of the other AWOL Konami series, the much loved—but commercially unsuccessful—Suikoden series. Kojima, it appears, sees something worthwhile in the franchise, or maybe he’s simply desperate to work on something other than Metal Gear, and I can’t blame him for that. Whatever the case, if “P.T.” was even a tiny hint of the level of creepiness that will be in the final game, at least it’s a promising start.