In the past few years, “Choose Your Own Adventure” style games have begun rising in popularity—much to the delight of fans who prefer in-depth story mechanics alongside the feeling of determining the plot’s outcome. Telltale Games, in particular, have found a very successful niche in this genre, as has French developers Quantic Dream with Heavy Rain (though reviewers weren’t as pleased with the follow up, Beyond: Two Souls). In essence these “interactive movies” are making some head way. Which brings us to the latest endeavor in this style of gameplay, Until Dawn.
Until Dawn starts off with a familiar horror movie setup; eight teenagers are trapped in a remote area (mountain) when some sinister force begins picking them off one by one. From here, however, it’s the player (controlling each of the eight characters) who creates the rest of the narrative over the course of multiple playthroughs. Thanks to a “Butterfly Effect” system, each decision you make with one character evolves the story in some way that affects subsequent playthroughs with other characters.
The game is constantly having you make decisions for each character as you attempt to survive until that ass crack of dawn exposes herself. Some of those decisions will literally have to be made “in the moment” with little time to decide. There were a few moments I found myself in frustration just simply looking over at what the hell my dumb ass dog was doing. Pay constant attention! You may miss something. You don’t always have to make a decision either. Sometimes just letting that little timer run down may prove to be the smarter decision.
The most intense moments that literally made me hold my breath are the ones where YOU CANT MOVE! Seriously, there are moments when your character is required to hide, and your movement is monitored by your controller. If that little motion control bead inside goes off balance…you may have just killed a character.
Even though this is a game, not a movie, Until Dawn delivers some impressive character modeling and fantastic facial animations that are some of the best out their right now. You really get a sense that they are saying everything, the mouths move in synch perfectly with the proper sound. (PRO TIP: You unlock behind the scene extras to see how they got that so well too!) The “levels” look amazing as well. There’s a real sense of solitary doom that’s achieved by the dark snowy setting of the mountainside environment and the sprawling, labyrinthian tunnels below the Sanitarium—all of which are inhabited by slashers, ghosts, wildlife, Wendigo and…Peter Stormare.
Yeah, you know, the wood chipper guy from Fargo—he plays a psychiatrist in the game. In between plot and story shifts, Stormare pops up and wants to ask you questions about what scares you. Later, the questions shift to the in-game characters and a whole lot of other weirdness. It’s a great addition to the game and one that actually has bearing later on in the game as a lot of your answers will impact your gameplay experience. There are literally hundreds of possible endings based on the choices you make.
In addition to Stormare, there are a ton of horror genre Easter Egg I picked up on. POTENTIAL SPOILER! One of the kids finds some horror movie props in the basement and dresses up to scare people wearing a hockey mask with blue markings…just like the Jason copycat in Friday the 13th: Part 5. In another part of the game, you come across some flammable barrels that have dark red and green stripes (just like Freddy’s infamous red/green sweater). Then, as you traverse through the cabin, there’s a theater room with actual horror movie posters up in it featuring films like The Innkeepers, Bitter Feast, House of the Devil, Stake Land and Hypothermia.
OUT OF 5
I thoroughly enjoyed this game. If you’re looking for something that completely engrosses you, has a great horror story and phenomenal replay value—invest in this game.
+ Engrossing gameplay
+ Butterfly Effect system
+ High replay value
+ Hundreds of different endings
– Some quicktime events
– PS4 only