- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
- Developer: Supermassive Games
- Release Date: August 25, 2015
- PlayStation 4
Until Dawn centers around a group of friends partying in a remote mountain getaway. During the party a “prank” goes bad and two of the friends go missing. One year later the friends all decide to get together at the same location to have yet another epic party in honor of their still missing friends. During the course of the night the group realizes that they are not alone and they have “until dawn” to survive the who or whatever is hunting them. Sounds reasonable enough right?
During the game you take control of each of the game’s eight characters and in a fashion very similar to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, the choices you make with each character not only determines how the story plays out but also who lives and dies.
The Butterfly Effect:
(with reference to chaos theory) the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
In terms of actual gameplay Until Dawn plays more like Telltale’s The Walking Dead or Heavy Rain than other Survival Horror titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. The game is very story driven with minimal focus on combat. Each of the game’s playable characters has a predetermined place to go but using the game’s Butterfly Effect system, players will be presented with different choices along the way. Some of the choices are minor and will have an affect on your relationship with others, minor cosmetic changes in the world etc. However some of the the choices are drastic and will determine not only the course of the narrative but also whether or not a character will live or die. Every character in the game can die and they will not be coming back unless you decide to go back and redo the chapter. These choices are largely based on common sense. There are times were you are asked to choose between two options like:
A) Take the safe route or B) Risk the shortcut
Other times you will be given a Quick Timed Event to make it through and those events can also have life/death consequences. The problem I had with some of the choices is that there are a few options that if picked will result in a players death and the are so vague that they seem to have no important impact until your character dies. Some of these choices are made in an earlier chapter and you need to go back to that chapter to change events BUT if you for example already went back and made a choice change before that, you need to go all that way back to that chapter to make sure that choice stays in tact. This can be a bit tedious but for the most part you should just live with your choices and see how they play out. The game features a Butterfly Effect menu (shown above) to keep track of the choices that make and impact on the characters. While looking at the titles on the menu may make it seem a little straight forward, each branch can have multiple choices in them which encourages you to replay the game a few times to see them all.
The controls are done well with the right stick controlling the direction your character looks in and the left stick controlling movement. The L1 button makes each character move faster but it’s more of a power walk. The only time your character can run is during scripted events which usually lead to either a QTE, a choice being made or both. There is an option to switch between standard controls and motion controls and Until Dawn plays well with either option. I especially like the “Don’t Move” QTE where you need to keep the controller perfectly still to survive adding to the game’s tension even more.
Graphics and Sound
Visually Until Dawn is among the best looking games of …well ever. The characters are all modeled using celebrities such as Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), Peter Stormare (Bad Boys 2, Constantine), Brett Dalton (Agents of Shield) and Nichole Bloom (Shameless) to name a few. The characters are so well done overall that there are times where it really seemed like I was watching a movie (or in this case a new series on the CW). Voice acting is done very well with each of the actors turning in a great performance. The only flaw in the voice acting is when the dialogue gets a little cheesy, and it does from time to time as the developers were going for a complete teen horror vibe here. The mountain setting is handled with great detail with gorgeous backdrops and snow effects combined with dark interior locations such as a mountain cabin and a condemned mental hospital. The audio is a high point. Everything from the game’s score, to the sound effects creates the perfect atmosphere and enhances the tension especially when using a good headset.
Is Until Dawn Scary?
In many ways yes. The scares in Until Dawn are more along the lines of classic Resident Evil and not the constant dread you feel while playing a good Silent Hill game. Playing the game at 2am, in the dark, while using a headset I am not ashamed to say I jumped more than a few times. The pacing between scares is brilliant and the exceptionally well done soundtrack will have you bracing yourself for the next big moment. Every thing plays out like a teen slasher movie so there are moments that will “calm you” between scares (like the dialogue between two horny “teens” that no matter how terrifying things get always manage to make a reference to sex) but I did not find myself completely horrified from beginning to end. That being said all of the scares are very well done and playing in the middle of the night is definitely recommended.
Until Dawn is a very welcome addition the the PS4 library and to the Survival Horror genre. It borrows heavily from games like Heavy Rain and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories but what it borrows it does so with a tremendous amount of style. Some of the ways you can alter the story are so drastic that multiple playthroughs are a joy (I am on my third playthrough now) and I look forward to seeing if they plan to do more with this new IP in the future.
Final Score: 8.5/10