Until Dawn is a gripping tale of eight friends supposedly enjoying a winter reunion at a snowy secluded ski lodge. They find themselves hunted, haunted and without contact to the outside world. Who will survive until dawn? You decide… Over a year later it’s Halloween and Tom finally got the courage to play this fantastic title.
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Avg Game Length: 8hrs
Until Dawn is a game of choice and consequence. Each seemingly insignificant choice can and will change the game you are playing. This butterfly effect eats at the players paranoia of making the wrong choice. With the cheesy dialogue, classic slasher horror style, over the top gore and a stereotypical group of horny teens, you’ll find yourself controlling a cliche 80’s horror film. Yet this is not a bad thing, due to its perfect execution. The butterfly effect crossed with some fantastic voice acting fully immerses the player in an engaging horror experience that will have you on the edge of your seat.
A Not So Romantic Getaway
Until Dawn’s story follows eight teenagers getting away to a ‘cabin in the woods’ for the anniversary of the disappearance of two of their friends who disappeared in the same area. The group of couples’ romantic getaway quickly turns sour. The strong, clashing personalities drive the couples to go their separate ways… We all know what happens when people split off from the group in horror films… During the next hour they find everything going to hell as they become hunted one by one.
Between each of the ten chapters in the game, the players will find themselves sitting in a psychiatrist’s office. They will interact with Dr Hill, voiced and animated as Peter Stormare (most recently, the antagonist of 22 Jump Street). He will ask questions, revolving around your fears and which of the characters you like. Each of these decisions will impact on the game, setting up a player specific personalised horror experience. These parts of the game with Dr Hill often seem to break the fourth wall of immersion. For example when he asks, “are you enjoying this sick game you are playing?”. Clever writing for sure. Luckily the game’s immersion was so deep by these points that I was willing to overlook the occasional break in momentum.
Until Dawn’s Cause And Effect Ethos
Dr. Hill’s office is one of the many examples of Until Dawn’s cleverly designed butterfly effect. Small and seemingly insignificant choices will have huge implications later in the game. Some choices will change the difficulty of a later chapter, proving to be a very interesting mechanic. Other choices will affect character relationships, switching up how they help (or not) in later chapters. Each choice will take you down a different narrative path. Every time players play through the game, they will learn new things and find new narrative storylines. Leaving you with a horror playground in which you can manipulate the fate of eight terrified teenagers (insert evil laugh here).
Within a few hours of starting the game I found myself wishing some of the characters would die off, due to their annoying and obnoxious personalities. Delving deeper into the game, character’s personalities are truly revealed and you become quickly attached to certain people. After one of my favorites was killed halfway through I was truly devastated, and actively thought about each decision I made, trying to keep my select few safe until dawn
Until Dawn is mostly a walking simulator as players pick up highlighted items and clues while exploring the wintry mountainside. This unfortunately does feel a little linear for large parts of the game with very little for the player to interact with. The items and clues you do pick up are very interesting though. Each one unlocks new narrative, lore or warnings to the characters or what’s hunting them. The most intriguing objects in the game are totems. These are collected throughout, showing a brief glimpse into a potential future for certain characters.
Sixaxis Continues To NOT Be Just A Gimmick
Until Dawn has the best use of the PS4 controller’s gyroscope feature I have ever seen in a game. The way it is used is perfect for the slasher horror genre. When being chased by an attacker you have the choice to run or hide. If you choose to hide, moving the controller even a little will get you found and often killed. The best way for me was to hold my breath and be silent during these segments (not because I was scared, I swear). This increases your immersion into the game all the more.
While being chased players will bear witness to lengthy action sequences and a set of quick time events. With little to no time to react to each, they will often end up inputting the wrong command and stumbling into the attacker on your heels. These sequences really maintain player investment in the game’s action sequences. It also provides a good sense of pacing. Keeping up the edge-of-your-seat action and again adding large consequence to every wrong move.
Astounding Pin Drop Atmosphere Wins The Day For Until Dawn
The voice acting in Until Dawn is utterly brilliant with several big actors playing some of the roles. These include Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) and Rami Malek (Mr. Robot).I felt myself empathising with the characters when they were feeling sad or scared, thanks to the great acting on show here.
Unfortunately some of the motion capture on faces was not perfect. Often faces were left in blank, rigid and awkward positions for a little too long. This sadly made the dialogue feel a little unnatural from time to time. The all star cast lending such great voice acting to Until Dawn definitely nails the panicked teenager act. Right down to the tone and reactions to the terrible situations they are put in. To top it off, the hair raising soundtrack by composer Jason Graves (Dead Space), truly highlights the terror, panic and devastation that permeates the snowy mountainside.
I came into Until Dawn expecting a few cheap jump scares and some cheesy dialogue. Although, I was blown away by the deep, brilliantly delivered narrative. Such simple mechanics are used in a perfectly clever way to make this an unmissable horror experience. The replayability is brilliant and as soon as I finish writing this I will be jumping on for round two. The visuals can be a little off at times but this is more than made up for by the immersive and simple gameplay that will have you on the edge of your seat, wanting more.