Platform PlayStation 4 Genre Horror, Adventure
Publisher Sony Computer Entertainment Developer Supermassive Games
Until Dawn is an entertaining teen horror, where even the most irrelevant of choices can have a great effect on how your story will unfold. I say “entertaining” because Until Dawn struggles to find original and intuitive ways to deliver scares, instead choosing to focus on one frightening method throughout.
Those aspects aside Until Dawn provides an entertaining journey, one that I wanted to experience once again as soon as the credits rolled. In order to see how my different choices could alter my original adventure. Impressively, these choices can have a major effect on how your experience plays out, though some key moments are completely out of your control regardless.
Until Dawn follows the story of 8 teenagers, who have decided to commemorate the memory of two of their friends who vanished from an isolated cabin one year prior; by returning to that very cabin on the anniversary of the event. Of course, this is a horrible idea. The plot of Until Dawn is full of horror genre clichés, from the absurd idea of revisiting the location, to the unsure cause of the events the teenager’s experience. In this regard the plot certainly doesn’t cover new ground in terms of horror, but the story’s tongue-in-cheek nature was entertaining and made it hard to stop playing. Until Dawn handles the mysterious events taking place well. Until the final third of Until Dawn’s 10 hour adventure I still wasn’t sure whether these events were supernatural, man-made or something else entirely. The mystery kept me entertained and intrigued throughout.
The adventure is made more entertaining due to the interesting cast of characters. Though these characters do adhere to stereotypes the horror genre has perfected, the characters feel more fleshed out due to the lengthy time I was able to spend with them. Unlike the typical 90 minute slasher film, the extended journey with these characters made them more likable and relatable. Watching as my cast of characters (those of whom survived) evolved as the night went on due to the horrific events on screen, were easily some of my favourite moments in Until Dawn.
Until Dawn also deserves praise for delivering a cast of characters that rarely became annoying or downright absurd, which is something the teen horror genre, has always struggled to do in film. Though there are some awkward teenage lines of dialogue thrown in from time to time, the performances of each character are made believable due to the great acting performances across the board. I also appreciated the fact these characters would acknowledge optional collectible items I would find in game. If I went the extra mile and found items that related to the events taking place, the characters would spend that extra time deliberating on what was found and how it relates to their current situation.
One of the weakest aspects of Until Dawn is actually the horror itself. Though Until Dawn delivers a tense atmosphere throughout, Supermassive struggles to deliver frights through any other method aside from jump scares. Jump scares begin from the very first time the words Until Dawn appear on screen, and never let up throughout the entire experience. A well timed jump scare is an effective way at producing a decent scare, but Until Dawn uses this method so often that the predictability of these moments made their scares irrelevant. Until Dawn does provide some uneasy moments, but these are too few and far between. I have found many horror games difficult to complete in the past, but Until Dawn was one of the few exceptions where I never felt scared to progress. Aside from the few unexpected jump scares during the opening scenes, the repetition of these moments takes away from their success as quickly as they occur.
One of the biggest features of Until Dawn is the Butterfly Effect, where certain choices you make will alter your adventure. Choosing whether to hide or attack your pursuer, which direction to take when trying to reach your destination, and whether or not to react to situations are choices you can decide. These split second decisions can have severe repercussions depending on what you decide to do; and like Heavy Rain, there is no fail state. If you fail to keep someone alive, the game will continue and they will remain gone.
After playing Until Dawn a second time and altering my choices, my experience was certainly different; though I found the lack of significant differences disappointing. For example, at one point I had to choose between the lives of certain characters. But since this was a key plot moment, the decision was unable to be altered, despite my attempt. This can also be said for many of the main plot points in the game, which must happen regardless of how you tackle the situation. This means that is a key plot point needs to take place, it will, despite you wanting to choose a different option. Until Dawn certainly does offer multiple unique playthroughs and I found it interesting to see which characters I could get to survive depending on my decisions. But aside from a handful of different scenes nothing has a drastic effect on the core events taking place.
Aside from making choices players will also be able to explore the array of environments throughout Until Dawn, though in a controlled manner. Players only have slight control of a positioned camera that will alternate viewpoints depending on your location, as you explore mostly linear settings. The linearity of locations didn’t affect my enjoyment, as Until Dawn continues to push you forward in the story. Going off the slightly beaten track will offer bonus information towards the main plot, but you certainly won’t ever find yourself confused as to where you should go next, with most areas providing a clear exit to progress events.
For the most part Until Dawn’s gameplay requires players to experience a lot of quick time events, these QTE’s actually can affect your experience drastically; in more than one occasion failure meant the death of a character due to my mistimed button press. There are also times where Until Dawn brilliantly utilises the DualShock 4’s motion capabilities, creating some tense filled moments. While the controller vibrates from the racing heartbeat of the character, players are required to stay perfectly still in order to avoid being detected. These moments are simple in theory, but they are genuinely entertaining and provide some of the more intense moments in Until Dawn. There is also a control method that utilises the motion technology in the DualShock 4 to make decisions, rather than the typical analog stick method. This option does make conducting split second decisions harder, thus more intense, but this is mainly due to the imprecise nature of this control scheme. Despite the issues, the option to play this way is appreciated.
It is easy to mistake Until Dawn for a movie, due to the impressive facial and motion capture technology used on each of the characters. Characters look genuinely frightened at the events taking place and their range of emotions are brilliantly portrayed on each face, producing a strong reliability to their situation. Even character movement is grounded in realism due to the motion capture each actor went through, and it looks stunning. Though Until Dawn doesn’t provide much originality where environment is concerned, with locations ranging from an abandoned morgue, gloomy mine shafts and snowy woods, each location looks visually picturesque. Until Dawn doesn’t hide the fact it reaches into the barrel of horror clichés, but those it does produce look outstanding and succeed at capturing those clichéd locations to perfection.
Until Dawn is a unique and entertaining teen horror; despite the fact its horror elements are mostly one dimensional. Though the constant jump scares grow old quickly, the intriguing plot provided me with constant enjoyment and kept me playing. The interesting plot is made better due to outstanding performances from the entire cast, which is made more relatable due to the excellent character visuals that offer realistic emotive behaviours.
Though Until Dawn’s choice system doesn’t provide many differences to the main plot in multiple playthroughs, watching different scenes unfold is incentive to experience the adventure once more. After which the excitement of seeing choices only slightly effect the experience may get old.
Until Dawn doesn’t break new horror ground, but it is a memorable and entertaining experience that anyone can enjoy.
- Entertaining and intriguing plot.
- Impressive character expressions and animations.
- Great performances create great characters.
- Interesting use of DualShock 4 features in a horror setting.
- Over-reliance on jump scares.
- Choices only have slight effect on core events.