Until Dawn Review

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Until Dawn seems to be a game that just completely fell under the radar. Exclusive for PS4, it released, then I heard absolutely nothing about it, which is a complete shame.

*Sigh* Of course there's a bath scene. And she's in a towel for half the game.

“*Sigh* Of course there’s a bath scene. And she’s in a towel for half the game.”

Going into it, I was just expecting a generic teen-slasher-flick-turned-game in a secluded mountain cabin, and I was given so much more. You take control of eight teenagers going on a vacation/party after a terrible tragedy occurred in the cabin the previous year. So, with that, you’d think “Oh, there’s a crazy-psycho killer on the mountain, or someone wants revenge for the aforementioned tragedy,” but there’s so much more to the story than that. So, while I was expecting some shallow, dumb fun, I was instead treated with a deep, intricately woven story, wrought with countless details in the story, environment, and character designs. Just everything seems to have had so much time and care poured into it. Although the supernatural element seemed to come out of left field. I think they made it work, but it really didn’t feel like an organic twist at first. I won’t say anything more than that for fear of spoilers.

They do highlight certain tropes and stereotypes for the slasher genre. The secluded cabin, characters splitting up, the “main” character is your standard Final Girl, and even when there’s a killer on the loose, everyone constantly shouts each other’s names, which totally gives away their location and makes them easy targets. It’s all a delightful love letter to the movies we’ve grown to love.

Jessica being pulled through a window. Until Dawn is absolutely gorgeous.

Jessica being pulled through a window. Until Dawn is absolutely gorgeous.

Now, as far as the gameplay goes, it’s more of the Quantic Dream M.O. It’s all general exploration, look around for files, basic go from Point A to Point B, and all action parts are handled with Quick Time Events. You have multiple dialogue options in each conversation that will contribute to that character’s stats and their relationship with the other characters. In chase sections and tense situations, you’ll have two options thrown at you and which one you pick will affect the progression of the game, some more than others. Hell, even failing the QTEs is alright. It doesn’t result in an instant game over, and most of the time failing didn’t even cause a character’s death, it will just influence how the story folds out or that character may just have a cut or bruise through the rest of the game. Failing is okay. There is no game over screen. The developers want you to see the end. Even if only one character lives to the end, that’s still beating the game.

“Failing is okay. There is no game over screen. The developers want you to see the end.”
Getting into the characters, there’s Sam (played by Hayden Panettiere!) who is your traditional “Final Girl.” Inquisitive, resourceful, androgynous name, and she just seems to be the most well-rounded character. Josh, the caring yet spoiled rich kid; Mike, The persuasive ladies-man; Jessica, the confident, yet shallow beauty queen; Emily, the over-achiever with a bit of an attitude; Matt, the highly-motivated, yet dumb jock; Ashley, the innocent bookworm; and Chris, the loyal joker of the group. They’re all the stock characters you expect in horror anything, but they try to flesh them out into more realistic teenagers. These kids seem to always be trying to get in each other’s pants or starting “drama,” which I didn’t find to realistic, but I probably didn’t have the regular teen years, so maybe this is what it’s like. Also, I wasn’t a teenager in the days when people spoke in “hashtags” and smartphones ruled the world, so obviously I’m going to have a little disconnect with these kids.

Believe it or not, there is a right decision here.

Believe it or not, there is a right decision here.

Now, you aren’t just thrown in to controlling and switching between all these characters from the get-go. They’re all separated pretty early, and the game will change who you control, forcing you to see how each behaves (they all control exactly the same) and building a connection with each of them. This is very much to the benefit to the game since right in the beginning, most of the characters seemed totally brain-dead and shallow and I wanted all but two of them to die before the end of the game. However, since the game forced me to see things from each of their perspectives, that desire reversed for most of them. MOST of them. There were a few I still wanted dead by the end, but I tried to save them anyway.

Each chapter is broken up with a separate, first-person talk with a therapist. This section, à la Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, (the therapist even being named Dr. Hill. Coincidence? I think not) he will just flat out ask questions of the player. “Which character do you dislike the most?” “Are you more afraid of zombies or clowns?” Questions along those lines. In the beginning, I wasn’t entirely sure if they were making an effort to break the fourth wall, or they were just really bad at being subtle, but it’s pretty clear that whatever you tell Dr. Hill will put a character in jeopardy or influence a jump-scare you encounter later in the game. I do however think that he very effectively creeps the player out and puts them on edge.

Ashley's stat screen. Also showing some injuries she's sustained.

Ashley’s stat screen. Also showing some injuries she’s sustained.

Between The Butterfly Effect, the character personality stat developments, and the totem mechanics, (totems you find that give you premonitions to try to warn or help make decisions for the benefit of the player) there just seems to be so much time and effort put into this game, and it benefits from every bit of it. I don’t think I can recommend it enough. Even though the characters are shallow and sex-obsessed, this is a game I recommend to everyone. If you own a PS4, you owe it to yourself to play this game.

Verdict – Buy

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