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Thursday, 30 October 2014

P.T.


Today's spooky archive post is The Apprentices attempting to make Youtube videos.

Okay, it's actually Condemned: Criminal Origins but go check out my guest post, guys.


P.T.

So, here was one that I think caught everyone by surprise when it first came out.

Appearing on online marketplaces with no warning and credited to a company that doesn't actually exist, P.T puts you in an L-shaped hallway of a rather nice if slightly messy house where apparently nobody finishes their food and there may be a slight roach infestation, and tasks you with walking from one end of the hallway to another, whereupon you are deposited at the beginning of the hallway again. Naturally, not all is as it seems, as every successful loop through the hallway alters it slightly, causing it to descend into greater and greater depths of nightmarishness. 

That is - it, really. That's the game. It lasts about half an hour, maybe a little longer, and you never leave that hallway, unless it's to go into the small and filthy bathroom just off from it. There's nothing you can do except walk and zoom in on things. But it's a great example of suspenseful but simplistic gameplay, in stark contrast to Alan Wake, yesterday's subject of review, which was not simplistic at all and also not remotely suspenseful. 

See, this just looks eerie.

'Simplistic' is a key word here, as in addition to the relatively simple gameplay, the story is also pretty bare bones. There's no dialogue save the radio and occasionally creepy remarks from unknown sources, and there's no narrative except 'you're walking through a hallway' and, potentially, whatever backstory you can leech from the game by way of making inferences from what you see and hear around you. 

You can tell the moment you enter the hallway on the first loop that something is wrong. It's empty, it's quiet, and perhaps most importantly, gamers have been trained to view any kind of brightly lit, deserted hallway in a suburban home (or worse, a block of flats) with the kind of suspicion regular people reserve for clowns and people who say your skin smells nice. 

P.T. also stubbornly refuses to ever break the tension. Jump scares are few and far between, as they should be - really just enough to put you on edge - with the main mode of scaring you instead being the build up of eerie noises (like the radio story about a man murdering his family, a woman groaning, a child crying, whispers, the repetition of a set of numbers), distant glances at a woman with a deformed face, and changes in the environment around you (whether that be opening doors, the chandelier being replaced with a bloody fridge, or something more subtle like the pictures in the room changing). 

The game culminates in a frenetic sprint through a surreal and labyrinthine hallway that seems to never end - largely because if you just keep going, it never will end, and you have to instead calm your desire to escape that iteration of the hallway as quickly as possible and search around for the clue that will push the story to continue. It's the most unintuitive part of the game, because I know that when the hallways of my house become infinite, hellish labyrinths of horror with eyeballs staring at me, I try not to stop and take in the scenery.

... Okay, less eerie, more hellish now.

It's an exercise in the kind of things that indie games can do with very little, and how, when you strip away all of the convoluted gimmickry of triple A games, you can be left with something very simple, but very effective, especially at generating an emotional reaction from the player.

Except, of course, that P.T. is not an indie game. P.T. is not a game, as people who finish it will discover. P.T. stands for Playable Teaser, and it was the announcement trailer for Konami's Silent Hills, the new Silent Hill game that includes Hideo Kojima as writer, Guillermo del Toro as director, and startlingly ugly and irritating-voiced Walking Dead star Norman Reedus as the protagonist. 

... 

One presumes they hope it will save the Silent Hill franchise from the building distaste for it that started with the travesties that were Origins and Homecoming, and only became worse with the less awful but still not all that great Downpour. If P.T. is anything to go by, they might - but, of course, it's a lot easier to make a creepy thirty minute game with a silent protagonist than it is to make a triple A twelve-hour plus horror game when you have the most ratfaced actor this side of Benedict Cumberbatch as your protagonist. 

Still.

Good job, Konami.

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