The anticipation surrounding ‘Until Dawn’ has been monumental. The new horror game from Supermassive, originally slated for an earlier release on the PS3 platform, officially lands on PS4 this week.
Thanks to an abundant amount of teasers and early game footage, we already had a solid grasp on the plot before pressing start: a group of 8 relatively attractive teens reunite one year after the death of two friends, and, because 'cabin in the woods' and 'epic snowstorm' are never two things that rarely mix, things escalate quickly. That is, if you allow it to happen.
The novel force that makes 'Until Dawn' so fascinating is simple: the game is designed in such a way that the choices you make have serious repercussions, no matter how much you strategize. The Butterfly Effect feature, a gameplay mechanism that ultimately has you make decisions that'll effect the overall outcome, keeps you from back-tracking on a wrong choice or shutting off your console to fix your mistake. Each of the eight characters has a distinctive personality, and your relationshipswith the others can be irrevocably altered by the decisions you make.
Though the gameplay lasted me about a weekend's time (averaging 9-10 hours total), your future playtime can be extended thanks to the game's sprawling decision engine. After completing and going back to try and save someone's life who was killed (and by killed, I mean "alerted the killer by accident and had their jaw ripped open"), I realized that just by finding an extra clue during my investigations, I had altered the course for my future chapters. Having my actions contribute to the overall course of play throughout the game was exciting; the characters' lives were in my hands, and taking part in this huge round of 'Would You Rather' was an experience I'd never felt before in the gaming world.
That said, the game is not without flaws. The scenery, ranging from the over-the-top mountain lodge, to the abandoned mines, to the oddly-placed sanitorium, were glorified, dark, and deep, but sometimes a little lackluster due to unfortunate camera angles. As you traverse a snowy mountaintop in pursue of your missing friends, the camera sometimes fails to follow your avatar as you turn corners or make your way to the edge of the screen. Similarly, the storytelling remains somewhat inconsistent: I was completely sold on the idea of a masked psychopath hunting me and my friends down one by one.. until (SPOILER ALERT) this wasn't actually the case. Sure, I'm all for twists and turns, but this one was downright disappointing. It took away from the overall effect I felt before the game's release, and left me feeling like I wasn't going to get what I paid for.
Luckily, the overall experience with 'Until Dawn' is a pleasurable one; as a fan of the horror genre, I enjoyed the subtle quirks that hinted at the classic scary movies of our time, like Friday the 13th or the more recent Cabin in the Woods. Though I typically played the game in the early morning hours, the sunlight didn't stop me from jumping at the quick scare or unexpectedly loud noise. The character development is spot on and I genuinely rooted for some, and hoped for the demise of others. Graphics enhanced the gameplay drastically, with the overall conception and attention of detail to characters meant to mirror the actors who voiced them (partially as to why my eyes were usually glued on Sam, played by the bubbly Hayden Panettiere).
I only played the game through its entirety once, but that doesn't mean I won't pick it up again. There are endless ways that the events could have played out, with the conclusion finding one person alive, or all eight. While I might not have been completely satisfied with the choices I made while playing 'Until Dawn', playing the game at all is one decision I'm extremely happy with.