Add a cabin, an encapsulating atmosphere in the snowy mountains, a ton of night-time dichotomy and what is the result? Tons of death, blood, gore and a bucket of tears. Or to put it another way — Until Dawn: publisher Sony Computer Entertainment and developer Supermassive Games’ latest thriller title based on the roots of similar titles like Heavy Rain, The Order: 1886, and Indigo Prophecy. It’s an eerie title with a skull time capsule boxart that resembles nothing good from a gathering of friends together in the mountains and one which many horror enthusiasts will find themselves dying to play.
The storyline is something that I rather not touch on upon games such as this, especially where the narrative bulk of the experience is at the heart of the game’s structure. I always strive for spoiler-free reviews here – and I’m not stopping now. In Until Dawn you are primarily able to play as many different members of the playable cast – each one with their own zany personalities. There’s Sam (voiced by Hayden Panettiere of Heroes), Mike (Brett Dalton), and Emily (Nichole Boom) to name a few of the star cast. The whole thing truly plays out like a live-action movie and Blackwood Mountain is a hair-raising environment in the backdrop of the moonlight.
Until Dawn’s single-player game structure revolves around quick-time-events and exploration of the environments to a limited extent. One concern my readers have asked me is this: Is it just one big movie? It depends on the player to classify it as a movie. Technically it is definitely not a movie but there are distinctions of playability to classify it as a different type of game than a gamer is used to. For those who want a more hands-on video game that has a lot of roaming elements and big set-pieces sprawled across an open-world and accept nothing less, then naturally this is not a game you should be looking at. However if you are looking for good entertainment with some moderate quick-time event (QTE) gameplay along with stunning visuals, then Until Dawn is definitely something thrill-seekers and slasher movie fans will love and enjoy. In terms of consequences of choice and varied storyline of “You Decide” who lives or dies in the game mechanics as offered on the marketing materials – there is a disappointing aspect in terms of not every QTE being meaningful when you may think it is.
Without spoiling anything, it is apparent during second and third playthroughs – some things just happen because they are scripted to naturally progress the game towards an obvious ending or critical path. A lot of games, not just Until Dawn, still struggle with making various different endings or at least one where every single choice has a lot of weight behind it and this is the only thing I can say is something that will surely disappoint hardcore choice lovers. This lack of real weighted choice through QTEs also diminish replayability naturally as you have less to be surprised by after the second and third playthrough despite some critical moments in the game which may be a do-or-die decision in the end and just that. As a result of this, the game’s tension also takes quite the hit in terms of really feeling like things are on the edge and the plot ends up with a lot of slack in terms of meaningful storyline progression.
The sound score of Until Dawn captures the mood of the storyline perfectly. Jason Graves, the lead composer of Until Dawn, has done an outstanding job capturing the elements of the performances in each song and has managed to create orchestrations that heighten the tension and help to elevate the game further. Graves has previously worked on The Order: 1886, Tomb Raider, Evolve, and the Dead Space series. I went ahead and added one of the tracks below the review for your listening pleasure.
Until Dawn in the end provides a memorable experience with the lively yet soon to be dead-ly cast in the storyline from the moment you pick it up at the store and pop it in your PlayStation 4. It carries a level of finesse that pays tribute to some great slasher flicks and sadly does also come with some of the same silly plot holes and lack of choices as some slasher films give their victims when up against someone that resembles a skull-faced Freddy Kruger of sorts. Either way despite any issues, Supermassive Games along with publisher Sony Computer Entertainment has created something that thrill-seekers are sure to love and play alongside any spectator friends who are willing to see what happens and whether or not they can make it – until dawn.