Developer: Supermassive Games Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Engine: Decima Platform: PlayStation 4 Mode: Single-player Genre: Interactive drama, survival horror, adventure Available Now
“When eight friends are trapped on a remote mountain retreat and things quickly turn sinister, they start to suspect they aren’t alone. Gripped by fear and with tensions in the group running high, you’ll be forced to make snap decisions that could mean life, or death, for everyone involved. Every choice you make in your terrifying search for answers – even the seemingly trivial ones – will carve out your own unique story.”
By: Mitchell Cole
One Year Later
Until Dawn plays out as a psychological, horror-cinema game where players are put in control of eight very different individuals and tasked to guide them through one horrific, winter-storm night in a secluded mountain-top retreat all while trying to best understand the game’s use of, “Butterfly Effect.”. Set exactly one year after a prank goes wrong that results in the death of the Washington twins, Hannah & Beth, brother Josh Washington and friends, Ashley, Chris, Mike, Jessica, Matt, Emily, & Samantha (Sam) re-unite to pay their respects to their fallen friends and party like “porn-stars!” as Josh describes.
Unfortunately, these young adults fail to understand why their friends’ deaths remain unsolved and never located. After a brief prologue, the game really begins with Sam on a bus traveling to Blackwood Manor to meet up with all the friends who had been there that fateful night one year ago. It’s not long until all friends are introduced, up the mountain, ready to have their “sex-ipade”, only to find that they are not alone on the mountain and their company is not in any amorous mood.
Choose Their Destiny; Suffer the Butterfly Effect
Supermassive Games relies heavily on the “Butterfly Effect” and choice & consequence. Each character can either die or live. How each player plays affects the final-outcome. While the final-outcome is not entirely different, depending on how many you save, or all, or not at all; the replay value for this game is extremely pleasing. Multiple playthroughs will be required to save everyone. Characters also face multiple terrors that will have players feeling this game ripped directly from brands including Saw, Supernatural, & The Hills Have Eyes. It’s a bit boggling at times wrapping your head around just exactly what the real threat is until almost the very end of the game.
Supermassive Games did a fine job of creating a spooky, beautiful, atmospheric backdrop and filled that backdrop with impressive, realistic character designs; albeit a bit stiff in execution. I was most impressed with Blackwood Manor and the mountain-top buildings built all around the manor.
Until Dawn plays out through a HEAVY snowstorm. You have 12 hours ‘Until Dawn’ when players will be presumably rescued & safe. The story, although a bit juvenile with all the sex, succeeds in drawing players in either hating or loving each character. (I really HATED Emily)
Music and audio are pitch perfect. You almost feel sorry for these characters as you listen to their blood-curdling screams. Listening to the wind may seem a small thing but simply stop and listen to the storm to find an even deeper appreciation at the small details Supermassive Games took care in creating.
While I admire many details about Until Dawn, the game unfortunately plays extremely slow. Maybe it’s because it’s in a dead-winter, or because of something else; characters navigate the mountain at a terrified crawl. I understand they’re scared but there are some non-deadly scenes having the ability to pick up the pace would have been ideal, especially with the absolute need for replay, to enjoy the real ending.
Action buttons were not as responsive as other games I have played using this similar pattern. Controlling characters was clunky, slow, and irritating by the end of the game. After a couple of playthroughs, players will be grinding their teeth trekking through the snow and in between buildings.
Lastly, as mentioned earlier, Supermassive Games chose multiple horror-gore brands to rip from. While not necessarily bad, I felt the game over-reached on the story as well as its execution. It also took away any individual identity Until Dawn could credit itself with. The game plainly rips from popular, current horror-gore brands and leaves itself a copy more than of an original.
B+ (Your Genre, Your Choice)
Overall, Until Dawn plays well and has an excellent replay value with limited miss-steps. I highly enjoyed the game for the most part but felt the game also lost its identity due to blatant copying of current, popular horror brands. Other than an extremely slow pace and some clunky controls, Supermassive Games created a technically pleasing offering that indeed causes quite a few moments of panicked breathing for players. As a PS4 exclusive, adult PS4 gamers should take notice and consider picking up this title, preferably on some Sale or something.