When was the last time there was this much buzz about a Silent Hill game? I'm not talking about the natural excitement that brews between the die hards at any new announcement, the people who know what Heaven's Night is and will tell you that Silent Hill 0 wasn't that bad. Instead I'm talking generally, among players who see the series as, like its stablemate PES, a relic, something glorious from the PS2 era that never really went on to do much else. Never mind that it's not true (in either case): Silent Hill had a perception problem.
It doesn't now. Thanks to the combination of one of the best demos I've seen in a long time and some excellent marketing, suddenly, expertly, Konami's horror franchise is back. When Sony drew attention to it during the firm's keynote Gamescom conference, it looked like an interesting, if not essential, project. After all, it wasn't like we were short of first-person horror freak outs.
A few hours later it was all people seemed to be talking about on social media.
The main reason, of course, is that completing the demo yields a cutscene that reveals PT is a 'playable teaser' for Silent Hills, a collaboration between Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro, starring The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus. Those three names alone would be enough to send anything into the Twitter stratosphere, PR-wise. Add in Silent Hill and you've got a powerhouse creative force taking on a (supposedly) ailing franchise, like when billionaires seemingly decide to just buy a football club that's fallen on hard times. People were confused and delighted. Moreover, they were genuinely surprised for the first time in a long time.
That cutscene is important, of course: it is in essence the whole point of PT. But its delivery method, the game itself, is perhaps more important. As mentioned in this blog by Jake Laverde (@jaykayell), the PT demo is inherently designed to be streamed. Its relatively short length means people can jump onto PS4's streaming services and hope to see what the fuss is all about.
The demo's setup - a constantly-evolving set of rooms and corridors that change based upon player interaction - also provides potential for huge tension and even bigger scares. It's an exercise in pure atmosphere, and although it's light on mechanics it is also genuinely unnerving. Used to be we sat together in cinemas and watched people pretend to be scared by the boogeyman. Now, we watch real people being really scared. It's addictive.
It's a perfect reintroduction to the world of Silent Hill, perfectly executed through current technology and networks. Like horror greats of the past, Konami has leveraged that most precious of commodities - word of mouth - and adapted it for 2014. The end of the demo maintains that PT isn't part of the main game, and in fact is just a taster. But if the main project continues with this amount of creativity, then it's going to be exceptional.