Written By: Tyler Oldfield
“An uninterrupted story that is all based on the players decisions and quick thinking will have you wiping your forehead in a ‘close call’ way or having your head hang in disappointment”
Developers Supermassive Games first debuted Until Dawn as a PlayStation Move experience. It was set to release at the tail end of the PS3’s lifecycle and to be a game that made motion control gaming fun for the hardcore gamers. However, somewhere during development something happened, causing the team to take a step back in the shadows and reevaluate their product. With the PlayStation 4 set to launch on the horizon, Supermassive—or maybe even Sony—saw an opportunity to take advantage of the systems powerful tech and deliver an homage to the classic teen-slasher horror. This isn’t your typical horror game that we have all come accustomed to. Your camera isn’t panned behind the characters and you aren’t stocking up on firearms to give the horrors that stalk you a fight. This is more in style of an adventure game–think of the classic Resident Evil games merged with Telltale’s approach to storytelling—that is Until Dawn.
The game starts off with a group of friends tucked away inside a cabin on top of a mountain during a winter storm. This opening prologue plays out as the games tutorial where you learn the basics of the game and how its mechanics work. It also establishes the story going forward and why exactly these compelling teens decide to visit the cabin. The game does an overall good job of keeping its story a mystery. With subtle hints and clues regarding some of the strange happenings around the area only to let your imagination and theories to start processing. I will say that a certain part in the story completely threw me off guard and veered more towards something I wasn’t quite expecting. This mysterious story is just enough to keep you motivated and continue plowing through the terrors to figure out everything. Throughout the course of the game you will come to like some of these characters or simply despise them. These can entirely play out depending on the choices you make as certain characters that will define who they are as a person. I played the game the way I would as if it was happening to me. I am a nice guy (at least I think so) so when given the option to be more understanding I’d go with that. These choices made me care for characters but it also made some individuals run all over me and belittle me because ya know, nice guys finish last, right? This began to take a toll on the way I viewed the characters who were mistreating me. If they were in need of assistance I was hesitant on whether or not I should or not. Every action you take can determine the outcome of the situation for the best or for the worst. Because there is no “Game Over” I found myself trying my hardest to take care of characters that I cared for the most. Everyone can die and everyone can live, it is the classic case of the butterfly effect. This leaves room for replay value, giving you the chance to go back and make different decisions to get different outcomes.
The game visuals are absolutely stunning, almost to the point of being realistic at times. This heightens the believability of the characters as they can express fear, sadness and care through the amazing animation. The moon illuminating through the thickness of the forest providing patches of light to help navigate through the blistering winter storm. The sinister cabin echoing uncertain whispers and creaks as you investigate the beautifully, yet haunting house. All the essentials to create an amazing horror atmosphere is there. The setting may be cliché but the creators really nailed the tone and inspiration from the classic slasher horror movies.
I can’t really find a flaw in the game because its mechanics work for the style it uses. If you strongly dislike QTE’s (quick time events) then you will most likely be miserable during the experience. Quick thinking and good reflexes are key to success. Once or twice during my anxiety spas I accidentally pushed a wrong button causing a decision I didn’t really want to do. Keep your composure and stay calm, scenes will get very intense and will demand you make quick decisions. I loved every second of this because if I failed, that was it, bye-bye. The organic flow of the game was refreshing and very satisfying or heartbreaking, depending on what happens.
Final Word: Until Dawn does a remarkable job at delivering the tone, atmosphere and characters of a classic teen slasher horror. An uninterrupted story that is all based on the players decisions and quick thinking will have you wiping your forehead in a ‘close call’ way or having your head hang in disappointment, knowing your favorite character will not continue on. If you can handle the tense pressure then maybe you will survive Until Dawn.
Replay Value: 9.5