Silent Hills And The Power Of Surprise

Kojima’s whole Metal Gear Solid V stunt and the subsequent fallout – where a prologue to the game was to release separately from the full title – really bothered me. It was just so blindingly obvious from the first trailer with the Snake-like character that this was Metal Gear, and within hours the internet had fitted it all together and we knew that The Phantom Pain and the revealed Ground Zeroes were two parts of the same project.

But what followed was months of teasing, months of fake men wearing bandages over their faces and faux game developer Moby Dick Studios being taunted, and it really turned me off from what Metal Gear Solid could be; Kojima tried to take the game’s twists and hooks and apply them to real life, and no one was falling for it. When it was finally revealed as Metal Gear Solid V, we all breathed a sigh of relief, and believed that Kojima wouldn’t try it again. Or at least that we wouldn’t fall for it this time.

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And it’s that belief – that Kojima couldn’t do it again, or that if he did we’d know – that truly made the Silent Hills reveal through P.T. pay off: there was no long, drawn out teasing, no emphasis on the title, just an innocuous demo. This was, by all means, a prototype of another run-of-the-mill horror game such as Outlast and Amnesia. And by all means, the P.T. “interactive trailer” has it’s quirks, and it certainly nails the atmosphere with the abandoned house repeating and in the process becoming more and more hellish, the scares coming fast and evoking a genuine sense of dread.

When someone pointed out 7780s Studio wasn’t established, I quickly took to Google and sure enough all I could find was news articles and forum posts from today. But I thought nothing of it – this was some new developer who had just got their feet on the ground. Not everyone has a website or twitter account, right? They just hadn’t got to marketing their company yet – they were too busy with P.T., probably.

Now, even just looking at the menu reveals something: the font, if I’m not mistaken, is the one used in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. This is the FOX Engine too, and although you don’t know that until the end, I’m sure some skilled developer could’ve eventually worked that one out. There’s nothing hiding this properly, and all it took to get to the final reveal was a series of complex puzzles, which took a few hours to work out.

Albums are marketed by playing songs on the radio, books are marketed with posters, films are marketed with trailers – there’s often some overlap here but that’s usually the way it is, so why do games often follow the same path of marketing as films? It’s no exaggeration that a playable teaser such as this would take much more time, money, and effort to develop than a trailer or poster, but it’s something that I hope to see more of down the line.

When you look back, this is a secret which has been extremely tightly kept despite the twitter teases of Kojima saying he talked about “game” with Guillermo Del Toro, or that he wanted to 3D capture Norman Reedus to make a game, and subsequently meeting up with Reedus. Oh, and again. There’s clues all over the place, but this isn’t marketing like we know it, so of course it flew over our heads.

In failing with the messy announcement and marketing of Metal Gear Solid V, and by doing something totally obvious yet completely different from the norm here with P.T., Kojima has created a reveal that will be remembered for years to come. P.T. was a genuine mystery, and even as someone with a limited knowledge of Silent Hill, it’s a truly exciting prospect to see such talent come together and dazzle with a unique reveal.

Surprise, and not knowing what comes next, is a very important factor in horror titles, and with them pulling this off in a small teaser, the sky’s the limit for Silent Hills.

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3 Comments

  1. They’ve obviously learned from MGS5, though they did try and push the envelope with that reveal, given it’s the first time something like that has been tried to that extent, the clues were all there and were probably a bit too easy. They missed the mark by a large margin but it was nice seeing them try to do something different and in honest, it worked because everyone was talking about it. If they hadn’t have tried and failed then it doesn’t push boundaries.

    With Silent Hills, it seems like they’re refining that process a little, possibly taking a backseat and really letting the fans do their work for them. The interactive trailer thing has pretty much exploded YouTube.

    With MGS and SH coming, two of my favourite franchises of all time, my balls are about ready to explode.

  2. With all this talk of Silent Hills….

    Are we assuming they are planning:

    More than 1 game?

    At least 1 game and 1 new film?

    Or all of the above?.

    We’ve not really seen enough of 1st game for my own ‘balls’ to be put on a higher DEFCON level.

    Fox Engine looks bloody nice mind, i just hope the games that use it, do it justice in terms of delivering more than nicer looking versions of whats gone before.

    • I assumed it’s a play on the alternate universes we see in the Silent Hill games. As in, there’s literally more than one Silent Hill town.

      The parallel universe was certainly the main idea pushed through the demo and even in the teaser they played on Sony’s stage- “The only me is me, but are you sure the only you is you?”

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