Game Review: Until Dawn
Slightly predictable characters don't take away from a thrilling journey into madness.
Until Dawn, from Independent developer Supermassive games is a horror/adventure game launching exclusively for the PS4 this week. Using stunning motion capture technology the game takes through an ever branching story where your decisions will actively change the outcome of the story and its characters around you. Those familiar with the recent Telltale games series, The Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us etc, will feel right at home and know what to expect. Shocking and often difficult decisions where the game does a great job at making you feel so uneasy that the right choice is not always apparent, yet its effects are long lasting. Until Dawn is dripping in atmosphere which does plenty to add to the full cinematic feeling its going for.
That cinematic feeling is achieved further by some truly stunning motion capture and jaw dropping graphics. Textures, character models and lighting effects are all of the highest degree.
While still not perfect the performance captures here are remarkable. Backed with a great cast including Hayden Panettiere (Heroes), Brett Dalton (Marvel’s Agent’s Of S.H.I.E.L.D), Rami Malek (Mr Robot), Galadriel Stineman, Noah Fleiss, Jordan Fisher, Nichole Bloom, Meaghan Martin and Peter Stormare, the actors do a great job working their magic in the bobble suits.
The story follows eight young friends as they spend the night in a cabin a top a mountain for the anniversary of their friend's disappearance. However things quickly go astray as they realise they are being hunted by a psychopath. Who is the psychopath and what else does the mountain have to hide are the two main threads dragging you along so I won't spoil that here. While a little predicable the story did have me gripped all the way through. The twists and turns it takes your through over its 6-7 hour campaign are well paced left me wanting more, which is always a great sign.
The characters however are little less easy to get in to. The game starts almost like an early 2000s teen drama with the game even showing you who likes who in quirky little character intros. But don't let that put you off. These seemingly awkward moments do come back for some pay off’s later in the game.
So what exactly do you do in the game? Well as I mentioned before those who have played something along the lines of Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead will know roughly what to expect. Adventuring, light puzzle solving, dialogue trees, quicktime events and story decisions are all present and are mostly all executed well.
Adventuring and puzzle solving do well to slow the pace down, particularly if you're recoiling after a crazy decision you've just had to make. And speaking of those decisions, there is A LOT of them to make. And often you don't know how important they are until much later in the game. What I love about this feature is the game gives you a “Butterfly Effect” screen in the options where you can visually see the consequences to your individual decisions. Sometimes a flippant decision can lead to terrible outcomes. With the aim of the game being to get as many survivors to the end of the story as possible the decisions can lead two people to have two very different experiences with different characters. I played through twice to test this and both ended with very different survivors.
Of course this adds considerably to the play time if you're concerned about that sort of thing. Usually I am not, I like my experience to be my experience but in this case its incredibly fascinating to see the game play out in different ways. The game will even allow you to play through individual chapters of the game once you finish if you just want to see those differences which I would highly recommend. You can also now grab the Until Dawn companion app HERE, further enhancing the game.
So the verdict? To be completely honest I was going to completely skip over this game and get stuck in to Gears Of War this week. But having played through this over the weekend I do think it is worth your time, particularly if you like adventure style games or something casual with a decent story.
The characters might be a little teen angsty and the story might be a little predicable, but don’t let that put you off a thrilling 7-hour ride into madness where your decisions can literally mean life and death of those around you.
By Andii Williams
Content: Platform: PS4
Release Date: Out now.
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment