Last weekend was pretty technologically rough for me, and being without the Internet I did what anyone in my position would do, I went down to my local video game store and bought a copy of the 2015 horror video game Until Dawn. Then played it until I was done, which worked out to be dawn the following morning.
Until Dawn is brought to us by Supermassive Games. Creators of such memorable content as Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, Killzone (The HD remaster), and Little Big Planet 2 (the PS Vita port only). So… you know, it’s those guys. If you haven’t heard of any of those games, don’t feel bad no one else has either. And they don’t matter, because we’re here to talk about Until Dawn!
The premise of the game is simple, a group of teens go into a cabin in the woods, and things go wrong. They return a year later on the anniversary for the last year’s horrific events, and more horror ensues. This may seem like a story you’ve heard before, even the characters themselves may seem familiar. The jock, the bitch, the geek, the innocent girl and so on. But let me assure you that there is little about them you have seen before. The game uses all of the classic horror tropes to lull you into thinking one thing, and then violently shifts you into another direction. And it does a wonderful job of it.
The game is based around a choice system, meaning what you do at certain points will directly effect the game later on. Though the story is linear, it could pan out in any number of ways as it has dozens of branching paths. The game equates this to the butterfly effect; a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, and a hurricane hits somewhere else instead of sun shine. At it’s simplest definition that is how the game works. However I get the strong impression that the developers watched a scene from Jurassic Park to get their full definition of how the Butter fly Effect actually works. Wherever the source, the game engine works pretty well. Most game changing events are obvious as they are about to happen, but the trick is you don’t know what they will effect nor do you know when that effect will happen.
This game mechanic is very similar to the 2010 Quantic Dream game Heavy Rain. In fact some gamers think that the same team made Until Dawn because elements of the games seems pretty close to one another. It’s the execution and pacing of Until Dawn that sets it far apart from its predecessor.
It’s a very cool game, and very well designed. The cast of real actors like Hayden Panettiere and Peter Stormare make the game feel all the more like you’re watching an actual high-end horror movie, and not just playing a linear video game. For a console the graphic rendering is also far above what I would have expected, and the sets, atmosphere and sound really make this someone that should be experienced in a home theatre setting or with a nice pair of headphones.
I had a great time playing through the game, and would recommend it to anyone who would like a solid 10 hours of being entertained, and maybe a little spooked along the way.