“What lies beyond the veil of death is, after all, the ultimate unknown. And what could inspire fear more than the terror of uncertainty?” – Dr. Hill
We’ve survived winter. I think. I hope. And when I think of this season these days, I can’t help but recall this recent homage to the subgenre of slasher horror.
Until Dawn is a game that was dreamt up originally as a Playstation Move title, but after it had been canceled for use with that periphery, it rose up from the dead to live once more. After all, what could be a more fitting turn of fate for something from the horror genre?
In spite of the setbacks that the road to its release found, in my opinion this game proves to be, not only a great slasher horror from the same minds that made You’re Next, but one that is worthy of checking out through the merit of it being a fantastic game to play.
The gameplay is focused on player choices, investigation, and quick time events. All of these aspects remind me of what was promised with Heavy Rain (and, for that matter, most games made by Quantic Dream), but never were able to be fully delivered on. This game is the only faux-movie horror game I’ve played thus far that has the production budget, great writing,characters, and genuinely engaging gameplay to sustain both a fun experience and multiple playthroughs. Well, I would have said that before last year - that is, when Resident Evil VII: Biohazard was released and has thoroughly proven itself to be this game’s equal in the field of a near-cinematic horror experience. (Okay, with a definite honorary mention of Alan Wake thrown in for good measure, with the caveat of it being more of a supernatural thriller.)
The game’s story takes place around the Blackwood Pines Lodge, which is owned by the strange Washington family. The Lodge - and the character of Josh Washington - provide a great commentary on horror movies, due to the fact that the Washingtons made much of their money from the making of cult horror movies. This is a game that does not shy away from some more meta commentary, on both the nature of horror as well as some fourth-wall breaking inclusions. This is most noticeably visible in the role that the “analyst” character, Dr. Hill, plays in the parts of the game where he seems to be trying to deconstruct the player’s morality and fears. This aspect of the game reminds me of the similar attempt in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, but it is far better utilized here. In fact, it seems as though this is a game that thrives on concepts that other studios have attempted and have failed.
After a tragedy occurs in the game’s prologue/tutorial, the youthful survivors and once friends arrive to memorialize the one year anniversary in the mountain ski lodge where it occurred. Upon arriving, everything that can go wrong does, as everyone seems to be at each other’s throats (to what extent is controlled by the player) and the fact that there is a storm set to arrive shortly that will strand them in the remote, mountain top resort creates the makings for a terrifying loss of power with no guarantees that everyone will be making it off of the mountain alive.
The motion capture on the characters is some of the best I’ve seen in a game, and the mountain that the game takes place on is often a beautiful nighttime winter wonderland, while the inside of the Lodge house itself proves to be a dark and unsettling place to try to hide from the game’s killer, once the lights go out. It’s an action-packed thrillride as you try to keep your characters from dying as they try to evade everything that seeks to kill them, and the seemingly short amount of gameplay (nine hours for a single play through, generally) is actually more than that, when taking into consideration that the game encourages multiple playthroughs to see what will happen as a result of the different choices available through the game’s touted “Butterfly Effect” system. Although, admittedly, what could be seen as the game’s major selling point – the butterfly effect - is a bit of a white lie, but going into the game with the thought that your choices matter makes for a much more engaging playthrough.
I personally recommend not looking at anything else available on the title online, because spoilers on this game are abundant and easy to find(!). And this, like any good thriller/suspense, is not a story you want spoiled before you play it.
The best first play through is done with your gut, first instinct for choices, so you can really enjoy further plays by seeing what can change.
With the recent release of the much anticipated The Inpatient which acts as a spin-off… prequel (?) to this game, I think it’s safe to say that if you’ve never had the chance to play through Supermassive Game’s honorable send-up of the horror and thriller genres – there’s never been a better time to play it. Until Dawn is a Playstation 4 exclusive, and along with The Last of Us, this is exactly the sort of title that I am happy to see as a Playstation title.
The ACPL has multiple copies of Until Dawn, so why not give it a shot?
Kayla loves all things weird, wonderful, and macabre. Her soul’s in writing, and her hobbies include gaming, watching movies and television shows, and reading anything and everything. Her black cat’s TOTALLY, 100%, not evil.