Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PT/Silent Hills Trailer is Still Cool

I'm a huge Silent Hill fan.  I think the games (that is to say the early, good ones) really represent not only the best that interactive horror entertainment can offer, but what macabre storytelling should be: high suspense, only earned jump scares, and psychological character studies or societal examinations at the heart of the narrative.

And now, Silent Hill is wrapped up into my personal history in a way that I'll never forget.  Don't worry, I'll back up that statement.

By now, anyone that gives a crap about Silent Hill knows that a new game is coming.  In fact, fans are excited because we have hope that for the first time in a long while a new installment might actually be good.

See, after Silent Hill 4: The Room (a game that was originally supposed to be a new intellectual property but was forced into being another SH game) Team Silent made like The Pixies. The task of producing games in the franchise was then handed around to various developers who just didn't get it. What was once a franchise of ominous character studies and high tension devolved into cheap jump scares and Pyramid Head appearances handled with the sort of subtitle cameo setup you'd expect from Expendables.

Now in what feels like fantasy decision making that belongs buried in internet forums rather than reality, Silent Hills is being created as a joint venture between Hideo Kojima (a video game producer famous for his high production values in the Metal Gear series) and Guillermo del Toro (if I have to introduce him you're probably on the wrong website).  Further, the game will star the best part of the often underwhelming Walking Dead TV show, Norman Reedus.

This doesn't guarantee a quality product, and definitely doesn't mean that Silent Hills will be exactly the same tone and tenor of the Team Silent games.  However, for the first time in a long while, I won't be buying the new SH game pre-geared for disappointment like a long time fan buying a recent
Bon Jovi album.

It's 2014. That joke almost doesn't work because people don't buy albums anymore. Similarly, creating a true mystery in this jaded, savvy, internet culture is almost impossible.  However, during a pretty momentous week for me this past August, a free game called P.T. randomly appeared in the Playstation store.

It was late in the night when I noticed and downloaded it.  What was revealed was an Amnesia style first person horror game.  I wandered around a hallway a couple of times and got pretty spooked but thought, "I really ought to get to bed.  I'll play the rest of this tomorrow."

And then the next day my wife woke me up to say, "It's time," and we rushed to the hospital to have child number three.  The random game I found on the PS store was fairly low on the priority list and I was pretty shocked and excited a few weeks later when my buddy said, "Are you excited about that new Silent Hill game?"

The brilliance of this type of marketing (when done well) is that instead of mass-market trailers being shoved down our throats, all of us that downloaded P.T. had an organic introduction to a new game that we'd already be very excited about. I didn't trigger the Silent Hills trailer at the end of the P.T. that evening (to be fair most people didn't since the thing is set in the kind of convoluted way that only a hyper-curious internet community can solve), but now the new SH will always be something tied closely to my personal history, and that's a pretty cool thing.

The genie is out of the bottle, and it's hard to really recommend P.T. (which just stands for "playable teaser").  It was meant as more of a marketing tool than a game, and like a bottle rocket its inertia is spent.  That said, the first half of it is some of the best survival horror gameplay I've seen on a console in a really long time and it looks absolutely stunning.  If you have a PS4, my recommendation is to check it out but YouTube the ending if your fun erodes to frustration.  In the meantime, I'll be crossing my fingers that when Silent Hills finally comes out it won't be full of cheesy jump scares and Pyramid Head working at Happy Burger.

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