P.T.: an obituary to the epitome of horror

PT obituary

Following Konami’s cancellation of their highly anticipated Silent Hills project in collaboration with Guillermo del Toro, P.T. has been removed from the PlayStation store. Unfortunately, even if you have P.T. in your library, you can no longer re-download the game. Unless it’s already on your PS4 hard drive, the game has gone forever. And in our opinion, Konami is making a big mistake in letting what will be a major piece of cult video game history disappear into obscurity.

P.T. (“Playable Teaser”) was a standalone title that appeared mysteriously on the PSN store as a free download last summer during the Games Developer’s Conference. Naturally, we flocked in our thousands to download this strange little game just to see what the fuss was about. The purpose behind P.T. was to hide a message – upon completing the game, we were rewarded with a teaser trailer for Silent Hills, featuring Norman Reedus of Walking Dead fame.

As exciting as the prospect of a new Silent Hills game was for everyone, the playable teaser itself stood alone as perhaps one of the greatest creations of horror video game history we’ve ever seen. Certainly, it made top of the list in our Top 10 Horror Games earlier this year – and that is without it even being a full game.

"Lisa" could be waiting for you at any turn
“Lisa” could be waiting for you at any turn

P.T. was very simple in its construction; for the entire playthrough, you never ventured out of the same area – a long corridor in a fairly ordinary looking house. On reaching the end of the corridor, you’d find yourself warped right back to the beginning. You’d see the same four walls again and again, but depending what you interacted with as you walked down the corridor, a different series of events might happen each time.

The game was played in first person, putting you directly in front of the action. And whilst walking down the same corridor again and again might sound somewhat boring and repetitive – it was this very action that helped create the tension and, inevitably, the scares. Yes, you retread the same grounds, but what awaits you behind the corner every time might not be the same.

P.T. was essentially a puzzle game – except the puzzles were extremely obscure; even to this day, nobody is sure exactly of the steps required to complete the game and escape the house. Did you need to walk exactly 20 steps and wait for the phone to ring? Did you really need to sit on the pause menu for 15 minutes until you hear a baby crying? Yet, as frustrating as the game was in its ambiguity, it was part of the brilliance of the game. The scares kept on coming as you relentlessly tried to interact with everything in your surroundings, trying to work out what you’ve missed – all the while trying to avoid being greeted by “Lisa”, the resident malevolent apparition.

What Hideo Kojima and Konami had created in this two-hour long “teaser” was nothing short of a horror masterpiece. Almost unanimously, the game is regarded as one of the scariest of all time. Its narrow focus allowed all the attention to go exclusively into creating tension and atmosphere; something that’s often overlooked in modern “horror” games, instead opting for Hollywood-level action and other complex game mechanics. P.T. stripped all that away, leaving nothing but the pure ingredients required to brew terror: foreboding ambient music, creepy sound effects, a dark corridor and the looming fear of the unknown. The simple, yet hyper-realistic art style of the game just added further to the invocation of fear. There were no need for over the top monster designs; the very ordinary looking corridors were all you needed to instill the feeling of horror. The setting of P.T. could be anyone’s house – it could be your house, and that familiarity, yet the feeling of the unknown created as you walk around that corner every time, not knowing what will be waiting for you at the other end, is the perfect concoction of terror.

The hyper-realistic visual of P.T. is one of the main contributors to its terrifying nature
The hyper-realistic visual of P.T. is one of the main contributors to its terrifying nature

In my opinion, P.T. has set a new bar in the horror game genre. Sure, there have been plenty of other games that have given us good scares: the classic Silent Hill games originally set the bar in terms of atmosphere and suggestive horror, and Outlast more recently delivered excellent blood-pumping fear. But nothing else has delivered so succinctly and so simply what P.T. offered. Both a mind-bending and frustrating puzzle, and a genuinely scary experience stripped of any exploration or complex narrative, P.T. taps into your psyche by taking you to places that feel familiar – and turns them on their heads.

There’s no doubt that in 20 years it’ll be looked back on as a complete cult classic, regarded in the same light as the original Resident Evil or Silent Hill is today. Hopefully new horror will spawn of the same thread as P.T., delving into a simple, yet very dark atmospheric trip that not only introduces us to new elements of horror but very cleverly plays on our own existing fears.

We’re very grateful to have been amongst the generation to experience P.T. and only hope that it’ll be revived in the future, so more get to experience the masterpiece it was.