Title: Until Dawn
Platform: PS4 (reviewed)
Developer: Supermassive Games
Release date: August 25th 2015 / August 28th 2015
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Until Dawn tells of the story of a group a friends who return to a mountain cabin a year after a tragedy occurred there. Tension and uneasiness brews among a group of friends; reuniting on the one year anniversary is not easy as they try to move forward and keep their friendship intact. After a few hours in the mountains, our eight companions realize that they are not alone and there’s something eerily sinister hunting them. Who will survive? You decide.
First thing’s first: Until Dawn is an interactive movie; much like in the vein of Quantic Dream’s 2009 hit Heavy Rain. Once you boot up the game, you’ll have to opportunity to choose your type of control: Standard (pressing buttons) or Motion Control with the PS4 controller. If you opt to play with Standard controls, you’ll be obviously using QTEs (Quick Time Events) to successfully progress through the story. Now, usually, I HATE QTEs. They are overused and so annoying in *most* games, but in a game like Until Dawn it works perfectly. As the experience is more of a cinematic one, you’ll always be at the ready to press the adequate button just in time. As with this mechanic, you have only a short window of time to make a decision in order to progress, otherwise you’re screwed. The only issue I have with this game’s QTEs is that they never appear at the same spot on the screen; which means looking around the proper button to press on screen makes you lose precious milliseconds.
Throughout the game’s chapters, you’ll take control of the eight young adults walking around and interacting with your friends. Exploring the areas, you’ll be able to find clues and collectible totems, giving you a short insight on the future, in order to understand what’s going on. Collecting totems and more clues will allow players to find out more about that gruesome backstory and will alter conversations. When interacting with fellow vacationers, you’ll often be required to answer questions or simply initiate certain subject of discussion. Each answer given will lead players down a different path; choosing option A on your first playthrough will result in different action and if you select the another option on a different playthrough. Luckily, most conversational decisions don’t have a timer, so you can take a few seconds to make up your mind.
Once a chapter ends, you’re taken to Dr. Hill’s office; a psychiatrist trying to “help” you get over the events currently going on. He often asks you questions about your fears and friends. Dr. Hill comes off as extremely creepy and intense, increasing the game’s tense situation; it’s somewhat similar as you’d experience in Silent Hill Shattered Memories. Choices made at the office will also impact the game’s next chapter and subsequent events. After every psychiatrist appointment, you’re treated to a nice little recap of what happened previously in the game; a nice touch in case you don’t get to play for a few days. Problem is, despite all the choices you’ve made, the recaps are unique and will occur the same way. Without delving into details, during one of the sequences, I had dropped my light source to escape, but when the recap played, it showed my character holding the said light source in an event after I dropped it.
In order to figure out if you’ve affected the in-game’s future, you’ll notice a small white butterfly at the top left corner of the screen. To find out if you’ve changed it for the better or worse, you’ll need to find out as you play. Fortunately, it can be experienced in future chapters, meaning you never know when a decision will (or will not) bite you in the ass. Additionally, in order to help players get full experience immersion, the developers took full advantage of the PS4 controller as the game uses all of the controller’s perks: motion control, touch pad and microphone.
Until Dawn‘s visuals bring the game to life. The transition between cinematic and gameplay is seamless; so much so every time the game switches from a cinematic, you’ll get a small LS (Left Joystick) icon at the bottom of the screen to remind you that its your turn to act. As an “interactive game”, it is vital that the game looks the part and characters look impressive thanks to motion capture. Sadly, not all character look perfect. Josh often looks emotion-less and less convincing in his “role”. Hard to figure out if the actor or the motion capture is to blame, but when looking at the other characters, it’s kind of a bummer that a few of them aren’t up to par. The audio of the game is top notch. Whether it be (beliveable) character dialogue, creepy ambient music in tense moments or the score in more critical events, it all blends perfectly creating the ideal gaming survival atmosphere. Without going into much details to avoid any possible spoiler, although most trailers and teasers indicated a more “slasher” experience, it does mix in, perfectly might I add, some spooky supernatural things in the vein of the Paranormal Activity movie franchise almost making it the perfect horror experience. However, it is not the scariest game ever, but it does have its fair share of scares.
Until Dawn fills an empty void in a genre where enjoyable experiences are few and far between. Gaming experiences like this don’t come often and it’s unfortunate, because they bring something different to gamers and this type of game can easily be experienced by non gamer as well as they watch it as an interactive movie. Sadly, although it is a game, expect some standard B-movie slasher clichés.
Until Dawn is one of those games, or experience I should say, which will bring up the old debate: are videogames art? When you take a game like this one, it clearly shows that games can be viewed as art. In this instance, you’re simply a bystander, and much like in a real horror movie, a simple slip up will make you pay dearly. Despite some minor inconsistencies, lack of multiple save slots and a few “un-perfect” character models, Until Dawn is truly a unique experience that must be experienced at least once. It’s another reason to own a PS4.
- Hayden Panettiere!
- Amazing visuals
- Well crafted creepy soundtrack
- Raises the bar story-wise
- Great character development
- So many possibilities
- Some weak character models
- Cliché slasher movie premise
- Some fright-less boring chapters
- Lack of additional save slots
Until Dawn is rated M for Mature and PEGI 18 due to presence of blood, gore, intense violence, sexual themes and strong language. Slasher movies aren’t for kids and seeing as this game is basically an interactive slasher movie, it’s obviously not for kids. Unless you raised your kids watching Friday the 13th.