Horror games have had a much-needed renaissance in the last few years, thanks to games like Outlast, Amnesia, Slender and the short-lived but brilliant concept demo for Silent Hills P.T. However a new contender has arrived, and I can’t put it any simpler, Until Dawn is just amazing, it’s probably one of the best horror experiences around and is without a doubt better than any horror film you’ve seen in the last 10 years! Until Dawn is a master-class in horror storytelling, the cliché characters, the music, the sudden scares, I didn’t think I’ve jumped out off my seat so many times while playing a video game! Until Dawn will make you laugh, scream and probably cry in a corner reducing you to a dribbling wreck and it’s all thanks to Supermassive games’ understanding of horror and how to immerse a player into a ride they’ll never forget. There will be a few things I am leaving out this review, because I don’t want to spoil them as they relate to the story side of things.
Aesthetically Until Dawn is stunning! The facial animations are some of the best I’ve seen on a video game. It really helps make a connection with the characters in the game because they represent living breathing people! The environments look amazing, whether you’re in a spooky cabin or trudging through the snow, you feel as if you’re there. Fixed camera angles are also integral to the game, harking back to the days of Resident Evil, you never know what’s around each corner, and you always feel like you’re being watched. The atmosphere is so thick you can carve it into meaty chunks with a rusty knife. This is all helped along with superb lighting and sound, haunting shadows cast themselves on the walls making you second guess whether that’s your shadow or someone else’s. Whenever you hear a sound, you didn’t make whether it’s a bottle smashing or the sound of wolves howling in the distance, the hairs on the back of your neck will stand to attention, goose bumps will rise up your arm and your heart rate will increase for whatever comes next!
The story see’s eight friends having a reunion one year after two sisters Beth and Hannah disappeared during one fateful night. Of course, they’re having a reunion at an extremely creepy cabin where the two sisters were never seen again and who’s this reunion being held by? ‘Josh’ who was their brother; which makes complete sense! It isn’t long before things start to kick off, with fall outs, hormones, Oui Ja boards and being brutally killed in horrid fashion. All eight characters are unique in their own way. You have the typical joke ‘Mike’ the complete bitch ‘Emily’ and other likeable characters that are introduced to you in the prologue and of course they all have “larger than life personalities.”
This character development all comes down to the various choices you make as a player that can have outcomes for better or for worse. There are moments where you choose who you like more, what you’re afraid of and what you value. The game is shaped around your choices, and sometimes it will surprise you in ways you won’t expect. As it makes sense to do absolutely nothing at all, but just remember any action as an equal reaction! The most important decisions are the ones during your first play through. Here you will usually answer honestly. You will make mistakes and depending on the choices and consequences they may leave you questioning your humanity.
Being a fan of horror movies (Although I can’t handle the Exorcist) you can see where Until Dawn drew inspiration from. The music is straight from Insidious. The evil contraptions are from Saw and the masked killer, well; take your pick from ‘Jason’, ‘Myers’ or ‘The Scream guy’. I’d go as far as saying Until Dawn tops any horror movie made in the last decade; it’s genuinely scary and carries all the tropes one would expect from popular horror movies. Fans of Scream, Cabin in the Woods, Texas Chainsaw Massacre will love what’s on offer here. This is all down to Until Dawn’s game-play, you make the choices. You decide what happens to which character, you choose the path. It’s you that shapes the story. You’re made a part of the game, and this is established very early on! There are some interesting ideas at work here, some I don’t want to spoil for you, so you just have to find out for yourself.
There are two ways to play Until Dawn, you can use the controller as normal or use motion controls, PlayStation Move is compatible also. Simply tilting your controller moves your flash light illuminating the area around you. There are moments where you have to be completely still, there’s also gestures you can use when doing certain tasks such as inspecting an item or operating machinery. It’s kept varied and interesting enough throughout the game, and the mechanics are solid.
This game should come with an established health warning because my god it has jump scares, lots of them, and they’re not cheap. They’re perfectly executed. Each one is different and creative. It’s not the same-old gag over and over. They will get you, sometimes you might see it coming. Others will come from nowhere! It’s not just jump scares though, the sense of impending doom is mortifying, the environments make you feel uncomfortable. Your character will react to things around them, and as you wander through gloomy corridors, music will build to a crescendo and yes. You have probably just been had by a jump scare.
Even when you’re being chased you feel as if you’re running for your life, countless times I felt myself go rigid as I tensed up with gritted teeth while trying to make sure my poor character won’t end up being eviscerated. Everything is so well executed and as you progress things become more sinister, more intense and more nightmarish than you can imagine. Some of the most powerful aspects are when someone dies, it sits with you. You wonder what you should have done differently, where you screwed up, or maybe you thought that person was a complete bitch and deserved it, but then what does that make you?
As soon as you’ve finished Until Dawn a second play-through makes complete sense, because there are so many different choices to make, and with so many different outcomes you probably won’t see all the possible scenarios until you’ve played multiple times. Just maybe you got everyone killed first-time round you can learn from your past mistakes. This can lead to a whole new way to playing the game, if you can distance yourself, you can become a horror director, and the characters then become pawns in your gruesome snuff movie. You can fix it to have a lone survivor, a couple or all eight making it out alive. Until Dawn is incredibly flexible in its narrative, and the butterfly effect can have huge repercussions throughout the game.
Overall, there are some moments in Until Dawn that is so intense, they can be quite over whelming for some players with its creepy music, fixed camera angles and the raw emotions on the characters faces as they get decapitated, this game makes for one hell of an experience. While there are very little issues with the game in general, some people might be put off by the cheesy dialogue, characters, certain clichés and somewhat crazy story but if you let your mind go and give yourself to the madness that awaits, then Until Dawn Will Drag you to Hell.
+ Damn Scary
+ Dynamic Story
– Cliché Characters maybe annoying for some.
– Maybe too intense for some players.
– Cheesy, on the nose dialogue may be off-putting for some.
Quote possibly the sleeper hit of the year, with spectacular horror and intense horror. Not to be missed.
Title: Until Dawn
Developer: Supermassive Games
Format: PlayStation 4
Release date: 2015-08-28
Difficulty: Variable, but accessible, medium.
Spent time: 12 hours
Average grade internationally: 79:94% Gamerankings.com
PEGI age rating: 18+
Price: £41.49 Price check Amazon.co.uk
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