Until Dawn is unpredictable. I honestly thought I knew exactly how this game was going to play out. I’d watched a couple of gameplay videos, and I prepared myself for a fairly predictable storyline. I was wrong. Supermassive Games are the developer for this title and are known for releases in the past such as Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock and the Little Big Planet 2 DLC “Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves”. So going into this, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The story in Until Dawn is superb. Going into the game I knew nothing about the story apart from that it was essentially a horror/slasher film plot about 8 teenagers that find themselves being hunted and tormented. It’s best to go into it fairly blind, the less you know about the story the better. From the beginning, we start to learn of the characters and their personalities, and throughout the game we seem them unravel and change. The characters become fleshed out and you start to consciously wanting to keep them alive and see them get through the struggles they face.
I thought the story was going to be fairly predictable, like most slasher films it is inspired by. I was pleasantly wrong. The story takes twists and turns throughout the game and you will constantly try to piece together clues about what is happening and why. There are certain items that will show you small snippets of what may happen but they can be completely ignored and easily missed. There are also collectibles that may or may not help with future choices as well, there are a lot of opportunities to help the characters survive, but trust me when I say it doesn’t make it any easier to keep them alive.
The gameplay in this game is similar to Heavy Rain, it is made up of quick-time events and walking around interacting with the environment. An overarching theme to the game is the butterfly effect, and how seemingly small choices you make can drastically affect your future. This isn’t the first time a video game has boldly claimed your choices will affect the story only to find it only changes the ending or something similarly underwhelming. Yet, the game does a good job of informing you about which choices are big, especially after the ending, which gives it a decent amount of replayability. The 8 characters you start with can and will die if you choose the wrong decision, but it never feels like a cheap death. It always feels like a very organic death, one that felt predetermined from the beginning even though it was due to your choices.
A lot of the choices you make will be timed ones, which adds a degree of pressure, knowing the lives of your characters could depend on it. Sometimes doing nothing will give you a better outcome than picking a choice, sometimes it doesn’t, either way, you will definitely regret certain decisions. As far as games that use this type of gameplay go, this is probably the most effective and impressive one I’ve played.
Until Dawn’s graphics are rather nice, they look great for a PS4 game and in the fast paced sequences it holds up and doesn’t interfere with gameplay. The frame-rate however, at some points leaves a lot to be desired. It seems to chug during important times and partly ruin the cinematic feel of the game, in my opinion consistent frame-rate should be a key part of a games polish and quality. I would love to see this on PC eventually, just to see how good the game could potentially look. That being said, Until Dawn’s environments, weather and lighting are brilliant and it makes up for frame rate with those gorgeous aspects. The characters have all been motion captured too, which makes the animations really fluid and convincing, especially in the running, which you will be doing a lot of.
The audio is another key part of Until Dawn’s gripping immersion. The music blends in perfectly with the gameplay, building tension at the crucial moments, and helping solidify the tone and structure of the game. The voice acting is excellent, and boasts some well-known stars such as Hayden Panettiere and Rami Malek giving great performances in their respective roles. The acting paired along with the motion-captured animations make this one of the best looking and feeling games of this year.
At it’s core, Until Dawn is an enjoyable and intense experience, which is only marred by superficial graphical issues and the gameplay which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Out of all the PS4 exclusives we’ve recieved this year, I think this one takes my number 1 for sure.