[By Valerie Bong]
Have you watched the movie Cabin in the Woods (2012)? It thrives on the overused tropes when it comes to horror films. Until Dawn, the new horror-survival video game by Supermassive Games that has just been released exclusively for the PlayStation 4, offers such an experience.
For the first few chapters, Until Dawn feels like medley of clichés. On the one year anniversary of the day two of their companions went missing at Blackwood Pines, a group of eight friends return to the same mountain where the incident occurred. A morbid backstory, reckless teenagers and an isolated location: you get where this is going, don’t you? If you need another indication of how rote the plot is, then heads up, there’s some Ouija board action in one of the chapters.
However, the game picks up really quickly after a brutal sequence that seems to be ripped right out of the movie Saw.
Until Dawn is basically what you would expect from a horror film, but with video game aspects. Instead of merely screaming at the dumb teenagers on the television screen to not press a button or go into this room that just screams jumpscare, you can now play as those dumb teenagers and hope for the best. Usually when I watch a horror movie, I get unnecessarily frustrated at how stupid the on-screen characters are. There’s obviously someone waiting downstairs in the dark for you, so why would you just walk right into the obvious danger? But in Until Dawn, even with the access to multiple perspectives of the different characters and the capability of catching on-screen moments that the character misses, I still made some bad decisions. So by no means is Until Dawn an easy game.
Until Dawn also introduces the ‘Butterfly Effect’ system into its gameplay. It is definitely not the first game to do so, but it is definitely harsher than most games are when it comes to choice making, and how the choice you make ultimately shapes the outcome you head toward. This systems blurs the line between right and wrong decisions and while it is possible for players to keep all eight characters alive, it is also probable that all eight of them will die. This allows for many different paths and scenarios to open up, as well as different endings for each characters upon each playthrough, depending on each decision. Therefore, Until Dawn has a high replay value as it is not possible for a player to experience everything in just a single play through.
Gameplay is a narrative-heavy horror survival adventure, reminiscent of games produced by TellTale such as The Walking Dead and The Wolf among Us. The player will be able to control all eight characters at different points throughout the game to investigate the environment, to talk to people and make decisions, big or small. There are also action sequences, but these are relegated to quick time events where you have to press a certain button within a certain amount of time. Being a game for a next-gen console, Until Dawn comes with some of the best acting talents including the likes Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek and Brett Dalton. It is insane how realistic the characters look. Graphics-wise, Until Dawn does not disappoint, that’s for sure.
There are a few flaws that have been pointed out, such as some awkwardness when it comes to the animation, especially for facial expressions since the actors have to exaggerate their expressions for the technology to pick up the changes in their expressions, and this shows clearly at some parts during the cut scenes.
All in all, Until Dawn has been a huge success, receiving good reviews from both major gaming companies and the players. Why not give it a go if you’re a fan of those old slasher horror movies?