Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developed By: Supermassive Games
Rated: M for Mature (Blood, Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes and Strong Language)
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Amazon: Buy Now! (Disc), Buy Now! (Digital)
Written By: Matthew Prunty
September 25, 2015 – While we are all looking forward to the Fall and Holiday season where we see releases like Fallout 4, Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection and the likes of Halo 5; we can’t overlook a crop of exceptional titles that recently hit the market. One of these titles is Until Dawn, which is the latest IP from Sony Computer Entertainment and developer Supermassive Games to venture down the cinematic experience path. With more and more games taking a more realistic approach in terms of visuals and storytelling, Until Dawn comes across as one of those rare occurrences where aspects from a game like Heavy Rain blend perfectly with horror tropes from classic Hollywood films to create a truly engaging experience.
Until Dawn puts you in control of eight close friends re-visiting a remote lodge in the Canadian mountains one year later following the disappearance of two of their friends. Upon arriving at the lodge, old friends embrace one another and talk out about life following the events one year ago. In the time that passed, new relationships amongst the friends have blossomed, which also leads to some interesting and entertaining cat fights among the girls. What you would expect from your typical horror movies right? Anyhow, upon everyone getting situated and the heated arguments dispelled, is where the cinematic experience of Until Dawn truly begins.
The story and events within Until Dawn are based around chaos theory and the notion of the Butterfly Effect. The basis for the Butterfly Effect is that a small change in one state can result in major difference in a later state. A similar mechanic that was used in Heavy Rain, you choices throughout Until Dawn; regardless of how significant they were at the time, will play a bigger part in the outcome of the story and the eight friends. Because of this structure, there are numerous dialog sequences, scenes and moments that a player can miss solely because of the choices they made along the way. What’s interesting about the use of the Butterfly Effect within Until Dawn is that while there are so many branching arcs based on your choices throughout the game, many don’t conclude by the time the credits start to roll; regardless of how many times you playthrough the game.
Implemented alongside the choice system is the inclusion of classic video game tropes. Scattered through the environment are various collectibles that help add to the overall story that is being told. You will come across notes and documents left behind by people who use to live and work on the mountain. There are these totems that you find where it gives a tiny glimpse of an event within the game, which gets you thinking about when this will happen, If it will happen and can my choice change it. This little inclusions keeps you hooked and paying attention to every scene and round of dialog. Also along for the ride are quick time events, which I found to be the right kind of spice for the game. Whether we are opening doors, shooting off locks or avoiding a great fall; these quick time events keep you on your toes and can happen at any point within the experience. Deciding the path to take can also be a costly decision depending on the outcome. Just remember, all choices are saved immediately following your decision and there is no way to go back and change your mind.
It seems with every release coming from Sony, they continue to up the ante when respect to visual fidelity. While we all have marveled at the likes of inFamous Second Sons, The Order: 1886 and even The Last of Us Remastered; Until Dawn is yet another visual masterpiece that is exclusive to the PlayStation 4. Character models are generated from intense motion capturing performed by the actors and actress being portrayed within the game. Models are detailed and distinct, matching their real-life counterparts almost perfectly. Environments are dark and foreboding, adding to the atmosphere and setting the mood and tone of the game.
This sounds weird saying, but the camera work on Until Dan is phenomenal. For those familiar with classic horror films or even the older Resident Evil games will marvel at the painstaking detail Supermassive Games went to capture a certain moment or setup the epic scare. You will bear witness to viewpoints from above, in front of the character, over the shoulder camera work. What makes it most interesting is the fact for those who have their PS4 camera connected to the system, the game camera will record your response to certain scare sequences for your amusement.
While all the pieces of the puzzle lined up to create a memorable experience; it was the musical score by Jason Graves that brought the project together. Best known for his work on 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, Dead Space and The Order: 1886, Graves brought an intensity to the game through the score that got your blood pumping and your heart racing as you played the game. That opening theme song O’Death by Amy Van Roekel is a true masterpiece befitting the story of Until Dawn and actually helps get you in the mindset for the game. The actors and actresses that comprise the case of Until Dawn did a splendid job in portraying their characters; right down to the cheesy dialog sequences that hark back to classic horror films. Usually there is one or two voice actors the drop the ball, but I can truly say that all of them were enjoyable and memorable.
Until Dawn is an enjoyable experience; whether you are on your first playthrough or your second. Not matter how you approach the game, you won’t be able to do everything and see everything with the game without multiple playthroughs. Having just obtained the platinum in the game, I can say it can take you anywhere from 20-25 hours to obtain and see everything in the game. If you are simply enjoying the experience on your first playthrough, it can take roughly 8-10 hours to complete.
Until Dawn was originally conceived to be a PS3 title that took full advantage of the system’s capabilities and that of the PlayStation Move. After what seemed like a last-minute decision, that version of the game was scraped and re-imagined for Sony’s new console, the PS4. While it would have been amazing to experience the original version of the game, Sony Computer Entertainment and Supermassive Games decision to release the game on the PS4 proved to be the right choice in the end. With amazing visuals, a strong storytelling backed by split-second decision making, Until Dawn creates an experiences that never lets up until the end and leaves you feeling rewarding for seeing the adventure through.