By: Richard Wilcox
I’ve played plenty of video games in my 18 years on this Earth, and among those Until Dawn may be the most unique. The game opens up 1 year before the main story with 10 friends Hannah, Beth (who are twins), their brother Josh, Mike, Jess, Matt, Emily, Chris, Ashley, and Sam. The group excluding Chris, Josh, Beth and Sam decide to play a prank on young Hannah who is unrequitedly in love with Mike. They leave her a love note asking her to come upstairs and meet Mike at 2 a.m. in the guest room of the house. Events ensue and Hannah is heart broken to discover it was a prank, running out into the snow storm. Beth goes after her. You get a quick tutorial on how the rest of your 10 hours will go and then the game truly begins.
The world of Until Dawn is creepy, and you understand that right from the start. It is dark, gritty and just gives you the vibe that anything terrible can happen at any given moment. Whether it’s the snowy wilderness, an abandoned mine shaft, or run down sanitorium, developer Supermassive Games does an amazing job of giving this mountain life. As you progress through the story in Until Dawn you frequently revisit the same places and for me this normally would have been a bad thing. However, Supermassive does great things to change the settings you see, making events and other actions completely change the areas you have come to know. The outstanding attention to detail when creating the graphics of this game make the experience that much more immersive, with beautiful character models that actually look like the actors that portray them.
The greatest facet of this game is its ability to make me feel like its the first game I have played that truly makes your in-game decisions. Being a college student, I had a very unique real-life experience while playing. Being true to the archetypes of the horror genre, I stereotypically played this in my dimly lit dorm with my roommate. We were straining over what choices to make because we learned very quickly that even the smallest choice matters. Even something as small as killing a squirrel derailed into a spiral of perilous events that changed the story completely. Plenty of games brag about the choices you’re able to make, very few deliver on the promises of the outcomes of said choices. Until Dawn takes nonlinearity so far that there are completely different endings all based on who lives and who dies by the end of the game. I have played through the game twice now and am still finding out new things about the characters I missed based on the decisions I made the first time around.
Arguably the coolest of choices you can make are when you are being interviewed by Dr. A.J Hill, who asks you about your fears, what makes you uneasy, ect. These choices change your experience, for example at one point he asks you if you fear needles, and based on your decision a character might have a run in with a needle, it is a very interesting game mechanic that I hope other games in the future choose to learn from.
The story of Until Dawn starts off as a way to glorify the slasher films of the past, and it really is a thrill ride, but the second half of until dawn derails a bit. The game decides to go a different route with its brand of storytelling as you progress. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as the end credits roll I definitely felt as though I experienced almost two separate games. One gory slasher film, and one supernatural horror with a twist. Don’t take this criticism too harshly, however, as the game is a worthwhile experience from beginning to end. It just changes.
All in all, Supermassive Games's Until Dawn is an amazing thrill ride I would recommend to any horror fan and is a must play for anyone with a Playstation 4, so long as you can handle a few spooks.