“It’s so cold in here right now my tongue will get stuck to your flag pole” – Jessica
Until Dawn is the newest IP from SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment of America) and from developer Supermassive Games. The game is classified in the horror genre. You play as all eight friends who decide to go back to the snowy mountaintop resort a year removed from two other friends, which are sisters, who died and have never been found.
The story revolves around Beth and Hannah and their disappearance. You go through the game as each of the eight friends. Each one of the friends has their own unique story and path that you follow. The group originally go up the mountain to mourn the anniversary of their friends death. As things start to heat up between the remaining friends, the group splits up in pairs of people. Each group of friends has their own pathway that you follow throughout the game. As you make your way through the game you will come across a psychiatrist at the end of every chapter, which there are 10 altogether. You may think he will evaluate your decisions from the previous chapter. In appearance he does do that but then he will also ask you questions that will affect the next chapter. He will let you look at pics of objects and the characters. You decision on whether you like, dislike or just afraid of these images plays out what you have to face in the next chapter. For example if you pick needles over a knife then in the next chapter your attacker will be wielding a needle in his hand. It is quite intuitive and seamless as the game collects all of this information and presents it to you. This isn’t like any other game where your decisions really don’t have that much affect later on. In Until Dawn, your decisions really do affect everything around you, including the other characters. This is known as the Butterfly Effect. Which is the main decision making purpose of the game. You will know when you made a major decision as the screen will have butterflies popping up in the top left hand corner. During the game you can go into the menu system and take a look at what your past decisions are and how they affected the story and the characters. This can help you make the right decisions later on. Or if you prefer, you can go back through all of your decisions at the end. It is really a nice behind the scenes feature.
Along the way you will run into decisions that can either affect your character right away, or may affect another character later on into the game. Each of your decisions has a consequence no matter what you choose. Some can save a friends life or have them get killed later on. Along with the decisions, there are QTE (Quick Time Events) you need to press at the right time. Just Like your decisions, these can help you survive or have someone else get killed later on if you fail just one during some certain parts of the game. This helps to increase the tension, stress and your concentration during the game. The QTE events can be tricky at times. You will hear the small dingle sound coming from the controller’s built in speaker which alerts you that a QTE is ongoing. You then have to look around on the screen to find it, spot it and then recognize which button it is asking you to press. With how quickly the timer counts down there are times when only a split second is available to press the appropriate button. Again this caused me to back out of the game a couple of times and restart it back up. It’s not very bothersome but it stays in the back of your mind.
Another part of the game that requires a distinct amount of no movement what so ever, is the gyroscope moments. These require you to be near perfectly still even if you move just a bit you will fail these instantly. For those thinking that you can just sit the controller down and pick it up when that part is over, you are wrong. During this part the controller with actually vibrate which will make you fail instantly. You literally have to hold it in your hands firmly to prevent it from moving. Once you see the glowing face of the Dualshock 4 controller on the screen, you need to immediately freeze what you are doing and not move at all. The slightest movement will trigger you failing. I actually really enjoyed these parts of the game. I can see where it can be frustrating if you don’t have a steady hand or can’t grip something tightly. If you do fail you can quickly hold down the PS button and exit the game before it auto saves. Then go back in and reload the game and it will start you off at the nearest checkpoint. Which in most case is not very far back from where you just was as the auto saves are very aggressive. I had to do this a few times to avoid the post negative action that the sequence provided.
The movement of the characters and animation can be really stiff at times. There are two different speeds of how whichever character you are controlling is walking. There is of course the normal walking speed which can feel really slow and sluggish. Then there is the faster paced speed by holding down R1. This feels more natural and allows the character to move easier. I would have liked the later of these to be the normal walking speed and then have the character slow down as danger is present. To me this would have given the feel of something is getting ready to happen and pull you into the physical tension of the game even more. Ultimately I held down the L1 button throughout the game, as I said before, the pace just felt more natural to me.
The graphics in the game are gorgeous. The environment and the wildlife are truly amazing looking. The deer that you come across are very well detailed. What I was more impressed about was the way the antlers looked. I know it may seemed like a small factor but the quality of them was superb. One of the nice touches I liked was leaving your foot prints in the snow. These aren’t your typical foot prints where you will leave them and in a few seconds they disappear. These would stay there for a decent amount of time. Even when you are walking and the game cut into a different scene, then you walk back to where you was before, your foot prints from before would still be there. The prints wasn’t just a design on top of the snow either. They would actually make a little concave divot where your foot landed. You could see small mounds of snow build up where your foot was located it. Little things like that are what makes a game more immersive.
Normally when I play a game I always turn on the sub-titles. There can be times that the background audio on same games are so low that you can’t hear things in the background. Plus I also like to compare the text on the screen to the actual dialog that is being spoken. If they are using the same script they should be the exact same way. In some games this isn’t the case. In Until Dawn, most of the subtitles match what was being spoken. Every once in a while I will catch something that was spoken but wasn’t in the subtitles. But these are few and far between. If you are not paying attention then you will miss it. There are parts of the game that get a little boring as there is no dialog. You just walk for a little with nothing going on. Then the dialog will start back up again.
Over all Until Dawn is a great game. It does have some hiccups along the way but that should not prevent anyone from playing this game. If you like games that follow different characters plots, which you can controlled with your own decisions, then this game is for you. I will admit that at some points it can get a little slow. I had no problems with the QTE events not registering any of my button presses. The game does have some replayability as you can go back though and make different decisions from your previous playthroughs and how those affect different characters and the outcome in the end. It will take you on an average of about 10 hours to playthrough. If you don’t worry about all the collectibles, you can beat it in roughly 7 hours. With everything together I would recommend this game.