Until Dawn is a nightmarish video game for perfectionists.
By the time I finished playing, I was exhausted, frustrated and completely determined to have a more satisfying conclusion. Typically, I’m not the type to immediately replay a game, but Until Dawn is such an engaging experience I couldn’t wait to explore it again. And keep more of my characters alive this time.
Styled as your standard teen slasher in the woods, this PlayStation 4 exclusive allows players to play eight characters throughout the suspenseful action thriller. A group of friends reunite at a cabin in the woods one year after a terrible tragedy and quickly learn they’re in grave danger as a killer is on the loose.
The game engine utilizes a Butterfly Effect system where every phrase, action or inaction affects the game. There’s no easy way out for players. Make a choice you immediately regret? Too bad since the game doesn’t allow for easy backtracking to fix a mistake. To some extent it’s a brutal way to punish players, but it helps make the choices more meaningful since there’s no immediate reset option.
Upon completing the game you can go back through the various episodes that led to your characters death, but that’s no fun. Besides, the game is the kind of immersive experience you need to fully play through. Resuming Until Dawn for a ‘do-over’ doesn’t really fit in well with the presentation. In that sense you really feel like you control the characters’ fate.
Even the less stressful choices can eventually lead to disastrous results. A simple offhand remark can turn characters against one another while acts of mercy and decency can prove beneficial to your character in the long run.
SuperMassive Games installed a
devious ingenious Quick Time Events system to force players to make immediate decisions. Remember all those times you laughed at the idiotic teens in a horror thriller? You’re going to find yourself making those same questionable and outright dumb decisions as you’re pressured to make the right choice to keep your character alive.
I constantly was second guessing a decision and trying to figure out where I went wrong to lead to a character’s death. It is possible to keep all of the group alive to see the dawn, but for most gamers the challenge will be to end the game with at least some members of the group still breathing by the time the end credits roll.
The graphics are stunning with an impressive amount of detail. Characters move in a natural, less stilted manner and the actors’ likeness is readily obvious. You wouldn’t need a cast list to make out Hayden Panettiere, Peter Stormare, Rami Malek or Brett Dalton, which further adds to the cinematic experience. Smiles still look a bit unnatural, but that’s the only hiccup to an otherwise flawless appearance. Environmental effects like snow, wind, water and embers look real enough to touch.
The direction is key in a horror/thriller video game and Will Byles manipulates the camera perfectly to constantly keep you on edge. Jason Graves’ score also helps set the tone and make you reconsider going down the isolated hallway or wide open path.
Until Dawn is a legitimate system seller. With a slew of potential endings it will take you a while to get the full experience. You can get the game now for under $30, which is a steal. Pick it up now and you won’t regret it.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: SubMassive Games