Like most people, I had heard all the buzz and theories around P.T when it came out and afterwards as well. But not being in possession of a PlayStation 4 at the time, sadly I was unable to play it. And also like most people, I was deeply saddened to hear about Konami cancelling the full game Silent Hills which P.T. acted as a proof of concept for. I was saddened again and shocked when they also decided to pull P.T. from the PlayStation Store completely not even allowing those who already owned it to re-download it. Effectively erasing it from history. So anyone who missed their chance to download it at the time or who had it and deleted it will never get it now unless they buy a machine with it pre-installed or go through some quite lengthy procedures to share it with a friend. Fortunately for myself however, a good friend of mine was one of the lucky ones who did download and keep it on his PlayStation 4 so we teamed up with a third friend to brave what has been called the scariest game ever made to see if all the hype was true.
The entire game takes place from a first person perspective. So you see everything as your character in the game sees it. This different viewpoint choice which contrasts from the usual third person of previous Silent Hill games seems to have been done mostly for cinematic reasons. The older Silent Hill games feature a lot of combat so the third person view is important to be able to place enemies and yourself effectively in battle. P.T. features no combat and the first person view is in place specifically to limit your field of view. From this perspective you can only see what is in front of you and not anything that is behind you. But that’s not to say you won’t be able to hear things behind you… Whether you turn around to see what’s making that noise is a choice that you have to make yourself.
The basic premise of Playable Teaser is that you are stuck in a long L shaped corridor. This corridor consists of a couple of chests of drawers that have various objects on them, a bathroom and a door in and out. The game operates in cycles and you must perform certain actions in this hallway to make the door out on the far end unlock. But once you go through this door, you will be back at the start of the L shaped corridor where you came in. However, each time you do this, things change a little and you must do something different to unlock the door again and get to the next “cycle”. That is the basic premise, but as usual, the nuance is in the details. You do not know who you are or why you are here. Maybe if you’re lucky you can piece together some of it….
You will be introduced to a hostile ghost very early in the game referred to as “Lisa”. Lisa is a tall woman who appears to have had an eye gouged out and wears a single high heeled shoe. The first time you encounter this creature is nothing short of terrifying and this terror is enhanced by the first person perspective as well as the feeling of being locked in this narrow corridor which no way to escape and no way to defend yourself. This game utilises jump scares quite readily (usually with Lisa) but they do not feel cheap or just there to try and artificially make things more scary than they are. This game is already extremely scary even without jump scares so they are just one more trick it has to make you afraid. Lisa’s single piece of footwear also gives her a distinctive clip-clop sound of her footsteps which is utilised excellently to increase your paranoia.
As you progress through multiple cycles of this corridor, things get stranger and more disturbing. Without wanting to give away too much or spoil anything, I can only say that it goes to some very unnerving places. There is a radio in the corridor that will sporadically announce local news reports giving you pieces of the story and allusions as to what might have happened in this house. It will also occasionally break the fourth wall and talk to you directly or begin to muse on what could be happening to you which only adds to creepy and unsettling atmosphere.
The atmosphere is definitely the outstanding element of Playable teaser. Veteran gamers who have played a lot of survival horror games have probably now developed a high tolerance for the strange and disturbing things seen in horror games, but Playable Teaser brings it to a new level. Having played and seen played many horror games myself, I am here to tell you that this is genuinely the most frightening game I have ever seen or played. As mentioned before, I played it “co-op” with two other friends and each time one of us completed a cycle and moved into a new iteration of the corridor, we passed the controller on to the next person. Each time, the player relinquishing the controller felt a huge sense of relief and the player being passed the controller felt a great sense of dread. It had us all inching forward and peering round corners slowly and carefully in apprehension of what horrors we would see next.
The one weak point is what at times feels like artificially imposed difficulty which is caused by the extreme obscurity of some of the actions you must perform to progress through cycles. In the early cycles, they are not too difficult to find and can be figured out with some exploration and experimentation, but towards the end of the teaser, the last few actions in particular are all but impossible to figure out on your own without spending hours or days hoping to come across them by sheer luck. Our time was limited the evening we played this so we were forced to resort to a walk through to complete the last section and once we saw what we were meant to do, we all were in disbelief at the pure obscurity of it.
P.T. Review Summary
Playable Teaser is without a doubt the next step forward in horror games and is a horrifying vision of what the next Silent Hill could have been. Sadly though due to Konami killing it off, P.T. will be forever relegated to the pages of history as a tale of what could have been. For anyone who downloaded it at the time and never played it or has access to it on someone else’s PlayStation 4, I highly recommend you give P.T. a try. It can be completed in a single evening if you are brave enough and is a piece of gaming history that everyone should witness first hand. I can only hope that something, anything, can come of this amazing proof of concept. At least is has inspired some others to have a go themselves.