Remember Silent Hills? Remember the haunting demo, P.T., that was released to the PlayStation Store back in 2014? It seems like a distant memory now, but after treading through the Baker estate in Resident Evil 7, I’m reminded how amazing the teaser was.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the heck out of Resident Evil 7. It has all the hallmarks of a great horror experience; dimly lit halls, an enthralling story, and (mostly) great enemies. It also has spiders, ugh. Anything but spiders. But as fun as Resident Evil 7 has been—have you played the excellent DLC?—it made me want to revisit P.T.
So I did just that earlier this week, curious to see if it still holds up more than two years later. (And, yes, I still have P.T. safely downloaded on my PlayStation 4, away from Konami’s clutches. I’m never going to delete it.)
The scariest game ever?
When P.T. (née Silent Hills) mysteriously hit the PSN a few years back, nobody knew how to react. It came from an unknown studio and featured weird, cryptic messages about doors and alternate realities. And its trailer, revealed at Sony’s Gamescom conference, made grand proclamations. Watch out, it said, this game is scary. Really scary.
Curious to see it lived up to the hype, people immediately started playing—myself included. They stalked the looping hallways, encountered Lisa’s vengeful ghost, and got lost in P.T.’s enigmatic nightmare. Oof, I still can’t get that bloody fridge out of my head.
And, it turns out, the demo really was as scary as advertised. When any medium (book, TV show, movie) claims it’s the SCARIEST EVER, you don’t actually expect it to deliver. But, boy, did it deliver. As soon as you step into the hallway for the first time, you come to the realization that P.T. is not normal.
To be fair, I don’t think anyone anticipated the demo to deliver such a tense, atmospheric experience. Compared to more action-oriented horror games, P.T.’s slant was much more psychological. It told a story about a down-and-out father who cracks after losing his job. You’ve no doubt heard a similar story on the news.
It f^%ked with your head
A big reason the demo had such a lasting impact was it caught so many people off guard. When it hit, it presented players with an opaque story, which seemingly centered on a murder suicide, without first preparing them for what was to come.
And the story, well, it was tragic, there’s no other way to describe it. Each time a player would loop through the hallway, more clues would be revealed, either through a radio broadcast or from messages scrawled on the wall.
The more a player looped, the more nightmarish the world would become. The creaking lamp, the radio static, the unchanging clock. The radio broadcast would even dare players to look behind them. It was designed to mess with your head and it only got worse as time went on.
Adding to the experience was the demo’s difficulty. It spoke in riddles and featured some of the most convoluted puzzles, refusing to provide hints along the way. To this day, how players escape the hallway is still up for debate.
The fact that players moved so slowly also added to the tension, and because there were no weapons, there was always this feeling of helplessness. Every time you heard a moan, it felt like Lisa was standing behind you.
Speaking of whom, once players encounter her ghost, a frightening specter seemingly murdered with child by her husband, things devolve even further. After Lisa appears in the bathroom—it’s almost as if players catch her doing something awful—she never goes away.
You can hear her sobs, pained moans, and maniacal laughter. All the while there’s a fetus in the bathroom that won’t stop crying.
I can hear them calling to me from HELL
Having played games like Amnesia, Outlast and now Resident Evil 7, P.T. still holds up incredibly well, even if you know exactly what happens. It’s designed in such a way that no two experiences are exactly the same, something people both loved and hated about the demo. (Believe me, I agree with all the criticisms.)
The game still looks amazing, too, a testament to the hyper-realistic engine the developers used to create a convincing, real life suburban home. It was supposed to feel like every home across America, and it certainly succeeded.
Resident Evil 7 is fantastic, and must be experienced if you’re a horror fan. But while playing over this past week, I couldn’t help but think of Silent Hills’ baffling and unfortunate cancelation. There’s no telling what the final product would have been like. For all we know, it could have sucked.
But its impact is still being felt. That’s why people, myself include, still refuse to delete the demo.
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