I have no hesitations when I say that P.T. is the best horror game I have ever played. What makes that phrase so surprising, even to me, is that it isn’t even really a game. It’s just a teaser that lasts maybe two or three hours, if you get stuck (which you likely will), but it somehow managed to have such a profound impact on me that I can’t help but admit its significance. And to make matters worse, not only is this remarkable experience removed from the PlayStation Store for downloads, but the game that it was created to tease, Silent Hills, has officially been cancelled.
Obviously it’s a little early to tell, but Silent Hills already seems like one of the biggest missed opportunities our industry has ever seen . From the moment I started playing P.T., my mind was racing with not only the potential the full game possessed, but with all of the incredible design decisions this small little teaser had already.
For starters, P.T. is one of the most tightly crafted games of all-time. All of the fluff is complelely removed - there are no unnecessary gameplay mechanics like jumping or punching, there isn’t a tedious introductory sequence, and you won’t have to fuss around with a tutorial. You wake up on the floor of a room with a cockroach scurrying past your face and then you start your journey through a series of repeating hallways. Simple in concept, incredibly complex in design.
For starters, P.T. is one of the most tightly crafted games of all-time.
Kojima previously teased that Silent Hills would be a truly open-world experience when he confirmed that it would be using the Fox Engine, which we’ve already seen in action in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. That would have been a marked departure from the established linear design that virtually all other existing horror games prescribe to. Whether it be Resident Evil, past Silent Hill games, Dead Space, or even recent releases such as The Evil Within, they all employ a strictly linear form of progression and storytelling.
Scripted jump scares, expertly timed pacing, and predetermined set piece moments are the foundations of solid horror games and it was looking like Kojima was well on his way towards completely turning those concepts upside down. P.T. relied on plenty of scripted sequences, but it used context-sensitive cues as well and environmental triggers that allowed for each playthrough to feel unique and fresh in its own. With the development time and backing that a full game release like Silent Hills would have had could have reaped some incredible results for a finished product. Procedural generation and large, expansive environments packed with content and optional events would have paved the way for an immersive horror game unlike anything we’d seen before.
The Future of Silent Hills
Konami has stated that they won’t abandon the Silent Hill franchise, which is good since there is a huge fan base and it would surely sell copies on name alone, but I can’t help but wonder what the next game will actually be like. Without the creator there to push it in bold new directions, will it really still be a Silent Hills game? At best, all we will likely see is a watered down version of the original vision that will likely pale in comparison to what could have been.
For the franchise’s next installment, it won’t even have any affiliation to the incredible demo game that was P.T. Following up on one of the most brilliant guerrilla marketing campaigns of all-time isn’t going to be easy. Konami could play it safe and just follow the formula that’s been laid out by the past successes of the Silent Hill franchise - psychological horror with a deep and disturbing plot to push players towards the end. Or they could try to emulate the slow, methodical, and immersive pace of P.T. by delivering their own brand of sadistic first-person thrills.
Regardless of which approach they take, one thing is abundantly clear: wherever the Silent Hill franchise goes next, it will be without the guidance of its latest visionary, Hideo Kojima.