Review: Until Dawn (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): August 25, 2015
- Release Date (EU): August 28, 2015
- Release Date (JP): August 27, 2015
- Publisher: Sony
- Developer: SuperMassive Games
- Genres: Adventure/Horror
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
12 Hours Until Dawn
British based developer SuperMassive Games haven't really released anything noteworthy since they founded the studio in 2008. Until Dawn is their largest, most ambitious game and easily their best. The title is an adventure/horror game set around a Canadian lodge up in the snowy mountains of the fictional Blackwood Pines. A group of teens are on vacation at the lodge a year previous to the game's start where an accident occurs that severely traumatizes the group. A year later they decide to return to the lodge and the place of the incident in order to make peace with themselves, as well as have a good time.
The cast of teens is made up of some really great talent. We have Hayden Panettiere, mostly known for her role as The Cheerleader in the TV show Heroes, as well as her voice work for some of the Kingdom Hearts titles. She plays Sam - the all American girl next door. Rami Malek, from the latest Need for Speed movie, voice acting in the Legend of Korra TV series and game, and most recently - the main character in the TV show Mr. Robot. Rami plays Josh and his parents own the lodge that all of the teens are staying in. My favorite actor in the game though isn't one of the teens, but plays the role of some kind of psychiatrist whose scenes bookend each chapter of the game. Peter Stormare, best known to me from his role as the mobster John Abruzzi in Prison Break or as the cosmonaut from Armageddon. His performance is incredible and it might be the best in-game real-life actor I've ever seen.
6 Hours Until Dawn
Because of the strong cast of characters and their excellent performances, Until Dawn's story is very interesting and well put together, full of twists and turns at every point. Even though you don't really care about the characters themselves; some of them quickly become annoying but their personalities are different enough and their scripts so tightly written, that it keeps you second guessing their true intentions and whether or not they have ulterior motives. You'll want to see the different outcomes unfold for all of them. The characters mostly follow the usual B-movie slasher teen tropes; there is a jock, a token black guy (he didn't die first!), a bitchy girl, the joker etc. and all of them are super horny and looking forward to possibly hooking up whilst on a fun break at the lodge. The setting is very creepy, dark, atmospheric and often claustrophobic, with the lodge and the surrounding Darkwood Pines being brilliantly realized. The lodge feels like a character itself, it's a huge building hiding many secrets all waiting for the player to uncover. Nothing in it works as it should, often causing the group to split up, mostly in pairs but sometimes alone. You will control every one of the group at different intervals and get to see the story unfold from every angle and perspective.
3 Hours Until Dawn
Player interaction is very basic, if you are not walking around you are making a story choice with a flick of the right analogue stick, or trying to perfect a QTE. Gameplay feels similar to Heavy Rain or a Telltale game, but here the choices made seem to have more of an impact to the overall story arc and one wrong decision can literally be the difference between life and death. A log of events called The Butterfly Effect shows how decisions made early on can cause problems later in the game, even if they feel like the right choice at the time. It's also a way of tracking player progress and choices throughout the adventure.
The game is broken up into 10 chapters with a cool recap cinematic at the end of each one, further lending to the feeling of watching a TV show or movie. Movement around Darkwood Pines is linear with some minor exploration to be had for interactive clues and collectibles that are scattered about each chapter like Totem Prophecies, small carvings that show the player a vision from the future that may or may not happen depending on the decisions made.
Being an interactive adventure game, Until Dawn won't be for everyone's tastes but I found myself surprisingly engrossed in the tale and wowed by the incredible animations of the character models. Graphically impressive, Blackwood Pines is a genuinely eerie setting and the developer does a great job of constantly making you think something foreboding is about to happen. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Supported by an engaging story, 90% of the frights are from jump scares that are very effective, as well as some particularly brutal death scenes. It's just a shame there isn't more of a dynamism to them for subsequent playthroughs.
+ Likable cast
+ Engaging story
+ Incredible performance from Peter Stormare
+ Amazing visuals
- Slow start
Graphically impressive with probably the best animations I have ever seen in a video game. At times I forgot I was playing a game until a button prompt appeared to make me snap out of my viewing trance.
Walking around, exploring, making snap decisions and using lightning fast reflexes for quick time events makes up the majority of the gameplay in Until Dawn. Choosing the right decisions in order to try and keep everyone alive was where most of the fun came from for me.
It's worth playing through 2 or 3 times to see all of the different outcomes and find every one of the collectibles. On my first run, which took me around 8 hours I found 59 of the 77 collectibles. The ultimate goal of course is to try and keep the whole group alive Until Dawn!
out of 10
(not an average)
If you like adventure and horror games or cheesy slasher flicks you'll be right at home with Until Dawn. It unashamedly uses every trope in the book but is so well developed that it will become the new standard that future adventure games are compared to. Overall I enjoyed it enough to play through again and see the alternate outcomes as well as find the missing collectibles.