There won’t be any spoilers throughout this review. Trust us.
In this game every character can live but likewise every character can die. From this tagline alone, you might understand what you’re getting yourself into. Scary thing is, you’re probably wrong.
Until Dawn is a modernized point & click, choose-your-own adventure game in the style of a B-Movie Horror with heavy emphasis on choice and consequence developed by Supermassive Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It brings together all these elements to deliver a genuinely tense, emotionally charged game which will make you want to replay it just to save the lives of your favourite characters.
The game uses some very specific gimmicks for the choice-based gameplay, the main two being the exploration and the butterfly effect. If you don’t know what the butterfly effect is, this game will make sure you never forget in an unfortunately clumsy way. I suppose it’s better to make sure the player understands the core gameplay but at the same time it is tedious to hear after so many times.
Here’s a few words that’ll put some chills down people’s spines; motion control gameplay. The game heavily relies on motion controls for particular action sequences, which could mean the death of a certain character if you fumble it up. Generally the motion controls are only used for action sequences forcing you to hold completely still and budging even a bit means failure. However, surprisingly the motion controls are actually deadly accurate on the PS4 controller, so much so I’ve never even seen a failed moment where it was the controller’s fault.
Essentially, your choices in the game will create unforeseen consequences your character will have to deal with later on. This can be innocent choices that effect your reputation with a character or a matter of life & death.
The main gameplay is through point-and-click quick time events. Prompts will pop up for you to make an action within a very limited time-frame which can mean the difference between life and death.
In terms of presentation, the game is gorgeous-looking on the PS4’s hardware; everything is designed to look realistic and the result is great. Specific details such as the facial animations for each character are phenomenally accurate to real-life, to the point where there are barely any imperfections. The sound design is just as effective, the ticking sounds counting down your time for a choice, the music playing up a tense ambiance which really adds to the horror of it all.
The story is a mixed bag, initially starting off strong, setting the mood and providing genuinely interesting plot twists here and there, however it begins to become derailing as sillier plot points begin to become apparent. As well as this, in the latter half of the game, deaths begin to feel cheaper as certain fifty-fifty decisions might spell the end for certain characters.
Since the game is heavy on the idea of bringing a movie-like quality to gaming, the acting is a big quality of the game, and I’d be lying if I said it was perfect. The majority of characters play their roles really well, but in the fashion of a B-Movie horror it’s not anything that’ll be winning any acting awards any time soon.
One of the unique gameplay elements in Until Dawn is the totems; a set of collectibles which give the player brief glimpses into the future of the game with visions of various parts of the game. Character deaths, eventual threats, hidden goodies, or an outright saving grace for one of the characters; going out of your way for these collectibles isn’t essential for character survival but it’s highly recommended. Personally, I see it as a nice way to encourage curiosity and give a fair reward, but I can also see how it’s a rather cheap way of preventing certain deaths. In terms of story it’s not cannon to the main plot, but that’s not a bad thing as it gives the player a sense of control to the plot that is rare in gaming today.
The game encourages multiple playthroughs with its choice system and the ideas of consequence, however the only major reason one would have for going through the game again is to try and save your favourite characters, or just for a 100% run. After completing that, the game is unfortunately not likely to be replayed unless you really wish to experience the game in the exact same way again. Or just kill the ones you really don’t like.
Until Dawn is one of the smash hits of this year in gaming without a doubt, providing an excellent horror experience for the current gen gamers. Though for its positives, it has enough flaws that stave it away from the game of the year picture, but still worthy of a pretty good score in this gamers eyes.