Until Dawn Review

UD

Originally a Move accessory game for PS3, Until Dawn from British developer Supermassive Games is an interactive drama survivor horror adventure game for Playstation 4 and was heavily retooled from the original concept, now third-person and using a regular controller it is similar in gameplay style to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain and utilised an upgraded version of the Killzone Shadow Fall engine.

It’s intended as a story like a teen slasher movie with a style and character attitude to suit.

What it’s about…

A group of friends go to the annual winter getaway in a secluded lodge at the Blackwood Pines Lodge, owned by the Washington’s family including Josh and his twin sisters Beth and Hannah, during the break a prank is played on Beth which heavily embarrasses her and she runs off into the forest during the night, as Hannah goes after her they are chased by persons unknown and disappear.

A year later the group of friends return to the lodge after an invitation from Josh, to bond and remember his sisters and things start to go wrong from the moment they return.

What’s good?

It has a really good intense atmosphere which builds up very well, the prologue is quite in your face but that’s obviously deliberate to set events in motion then the early chapters build it up nicely again with some notable choices that matter as you carry on going through.

The performance capture of the each character looks incredible, it’s really great to see how the technology has progressed where we are getting such detailed faces and facial expressions from it showing pretty much a 1:1 capture of their faces and expressions which looks great and its cool to see how far things have come.

I came to appreciate the writing and how ridiculous some of the characters can be, its in keeping with what the developer is trying to emulate – teen slasher movies but perhaps because of the other things I played which are much more serious in tone it took me a little while to learn to love some of the ways the characters but once I did I really got into it and started to like them all a bit more once you get into it. It has quite a few moments where I was thinking “no don’t go down there!” or “why would you do that?!” which just brought much more terror than a regular person would seek out.

Whilst there is a great atmosphere which is tense and creepy at times it also managed to capture that slightly campy angle they are going for, with some characters being overly ridiculous (Emily, Jessica) at almost all times but that is part of what allows it to turn a successful film genre into a well executed video game. Admittedly it did make me want to kill some of them though…

The level choice is really nice, deciding characters fates either deliberately or otherwise is extremely well done with lots of branching choices which affect the outcome and on multiple occasions I wished I had done something differently and this also promotes playing through the game more than once if you want to see everything possible.

There are some really good twists to the story which make it interesting and fun to play, without a strong story I don’t know if a game in this sort of style would be particularly fun but a few major twists mix up the game really well and I completed the game in two sessions because I was enjoying it so much I just wanted to see what happened next.

I really enjoyed the episodic layout of the game, it reminded me of Alan Wake because whilst different games they both have a similar structure and try to tell it as a TV show but within the confines of one game showing “Previously on Until Dawn…” sections. Its split up well and the layout really works for the this sort of game.

Whats not so good?

The only issue was the camera could be annoying when exploring some environments, it’s not a regular annoyance but at times the direction the camera is facing meant the player is walking into and getting caught against it as it slides along but as far as complaints go it’s quite minor and impressive that is all I had.

How does it run?

Flawlessly, the game looks great with some lovely performance capture as mentioned above, the graphics are really nice and detailed, its linear and guided but a really good job has been done on how it performs which is nice having just played a bunch of Telltale games.

Overall…

Until Dawn was a real surprise package and a game I enjoyed a lot. It captures the style of its influencers very well with a great story, good structure to it and some really good twists which were great. The gameplay is similar to Heavy Rain which was another game I really enjoyed and is like a Telltale game that doesn’t suffer from unnecessary and constant technical issues.

Looking back at the original PS3 game I’m glad it was moved to PS4 and was changed up a bit as what has just launched ended up being a very satisfying experience which I’m less convinced it would have been as a PS3 Move game.

I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in it and doesn’t mind being made to jump once or twice, I didn’t think I would like as much as I did but now I have played it I’m really glad I’ve played it.