This game couldn’t be more apt for the late to the party feature that we’ve been running over the time this site has been going. We finally got around to playing Supermassive games interactive horror experience Until Dawn, some 3 years after initial launch.
Originally revealed and scheduled to hit the PS3, Until Dawn was reintroduced to the world in August 2014 as a PS4 title and released a year later to mostly positive reception.
To start with, I’d like to bring up how awesome this game looks visually. For a game that was released 2 years into the PS4’s lifespan and what had initially began life as a ‘Move’ title for PS3, Supermassive have put in some serious work here as it’s genuinely a show piece for what the PS4 can produce. There were moments while playing I was taken aback by how good this game looked. The lighting in particular is exceptional. Scenes where you’re travelling towards and through Blackwood sanatorium with fire on a branch as a torch really stand out as how good this game looks. Not to mention the characters themselves. The motion capture of the actors and actresses for this game is incredible.
Plot wise, Until Dawn is reminiscent of your traditional horror flick. A group of teens head to a cabin in the woods for a night of alcohol filled mischief. This particular trip to the cabin though is different in that it’s the 1 year anniversary of the disappearance of twin sisters who were part of the group in question. This trip away is the idea of the brother of the twins, who is trying to get over the tragedy that struck the family by getting the group together as tradition to try and carry on with normality but also respecting the missing sisters by doing the usual night away. But you know how this will go, it’ll not be that simple.
The opening part of the game sees you play out the event in which the twin sisters disappear. Upon researching the game before starting, I noticed that there is an achievement / trophy for ensuring all the group survives the ordeal, there is also one for finishing the game with no survivors. So there’s an idea of how open and free this game could be. Having known of these trophies, I tried to make every smart decision I could in the opening level to keep these girls alive. I didn’t spoil the story for myself when researching the game however, so I was unaware that regardless of what I were to try, the fate of these twins had already been decided. It was a truly gripping opening and a great way to introduce the player into the various mechanics of the game when it comes to quick decisions to make and quick time events that’ll happen. As said unfortunately I couldn’t save the twins as the script wrote out their demise for this story.
After that scene you find yourself in a psychiatrist’s office partaking in a few tests for him to figure out your personality. Questions like what scares you most darkness or loneliness? I don’t know if the answers throughout these sessions (there is one after each chapter) impacted the actual game itself. I did select darkness as more scary than loneliness, and it seemed that for the most part when playing my character was never alone and always had a partner with them and the majority of the levels were dark… so perhaps a bit of a way to make the game more scary for you based on your answers? Having only played through once I can’t confirm if that’s the case.
Once you actually jump into the game properly as the group all make their way to the cabin, it’s already off to a trippy start with weird shrieks and noises heard in the woods as you progress to the cabin, and occasional glimpses of your character in what appears to be in a kind of heat vision view from the eyes of someone else. It really throws you as to what you should be fearing throughout the game.
Again as per all horror movies dictate, the group all get to the cabin in once piece and are all set to do their thing, but naturally the group must split up into pairs. One couple heading just down the road to another more secluded cabin for alone time, another couple need to head back to the entrance to the forest as someone forgot a bag, another couple wander around looking for some games to play in the really large cabin, and lastly another pair have to head to the basement to get the water and electrics working in the place. As you can guess, exactly what the perpetrator of evil doing in this game wants.
It’s a good way however to suss out the characters that you’ll be controlling and you can quickly determine who you like and dislike. Here’s a little tidbit, within the first 10 minutes of the group being in one room together I actively hated Emily and Mike. They aren’t a couple, they are in fact an ex couple who are now with other members of this friend group. But they seem to be trying to one up each other in terms of showing off that they’re “over it”. So from an instant, regardless of trying to go for the trophy of all survivors, I had an idea of people I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t make it should any decisions arise based on who to pick for an event in the group. As mentioned between chapters you sit with a psychiatrist, and one of the sessions also had you pick which characters you preferred over others. So again I wonder if characters you said you preferred had a harder ride to ones you didn’t.
It doesn’t take long for events to heat up and the mystery of the mountain take effect. Throughout the cabin there are numerous hints that this cabin and the area were built upon Native American’s grounds. So I instantly went the route that the tormentor(s) of the group were disgruntled Native American’s trying to persuade the Washington family who own the land to sell up and leave the area. There are plenty of twists in this game which I’ll re-frame from spilling here on the off chance any of you reading have yet to play this game, or are tempted to try it. All I will say is that I certainly preferred one half of the story to the other though.
The way the game is played out based on the butterfly effect is put into great use here. I don’t actually know what other outcomes could have been made for the most part, but there are some decisions that I took that I regretted within a few minutes as I saw the demise of another group member from my actions. One of the mechanics I actually really enjoyed was staying still. So the controller has a light bar as we’re aware. Well one mechanic is when hiding you’re tasked with staying still or not moving. In these instances a replica of the light bar appears on the screen and you need to keep that within an area as still as possible. I had the unfortunate event of one of my cats deciding to be affectionate at this time, and head putting my face. I couldn’t keep the light bar still enough and it led to the death of another of the group within a few minutes. I wasn’t overly mad though as I’d already lost a member of the group, so my hopes of the trophy had already passed.
The atmosphere and suspense when playing the chapters is incredible, and the camera views and angles are reminiscent of the Resident Evil remake which is by no means a bad thing. It adds to the atmosphere building massively. Some areas you’ll walk into and find some scary objects in your line of site from the position of the camera in the level. It all adds to the game.
Until Dawn is genuinely a show piece for what the PS4 is capable of. The character models are incredible and you’ll struggle to find a game that creates a better atmosphere or setting. The lighting and camera angles add to this and the overall package is an atmospheric and tense experience. You’ll learn to look past any dislike you might have for characters as you rely on them to watch your back in progressing through some of the most spine tingling levels and chapters in a game. The twists are there however unfortunately for me they changed the scope of the game and I didn’t quite enjoy what I had to fear from that reveal. It was very clever though and there was a lot of times I was way off the scene with regards as to what was happening. It’s definitely a worthy game for Sony’s first party catalogue and any fan or horror games should experience this.