It’s October, so to get in the spirit I have been playing some horror games. The first game that I played was the recent PlayStation 4 exclusive game, Until Dawn. Until Dawn follows the format of a typical teen slasher flick. It starts with a bunch of friends at one of their parent’s cabin in the woods. Of course there is no adult supervision, no power, and a psychotic person up on the mountain with them. All of the typical slasher movie tropes are present, there is young love, bitter rivalries, and a lot of good ole fashioned peer pressure. Until Dawn does an excellent job of capturing the look and feel of a classic slasher flick, while keeping the player effectively engaged.
The Butterfly Effect
One of the largest selling points of this game is the fact that your choices matter. Throughout the story, you switch between characters, eventually playing as each of the 8 friends in the cabin, and you have to make choices for them. Each different choice that you make could affect something that happens down the line. These choices can be something small, like deciding to show off your skills by shooting a squirrel, or game changing choices that put your friends lives in danger.
Before the game starts, it shows branching veins which show how many possible endings the game can have. you can play the game from beginning to end without having a single one of the eight playable characters die, or you could loose all of them before the sun rises. The best part about this is that the game feels genuine, no matter which characters live, and which ones die. The story is put together in such a way that all of the deaths have meaning, and when a character dies, it doesn’t feel forced. And the characters that live aren’t alive without ordeal. No one gets a walk through, and the game is different each time you play it, depending on what choices you make.
Until Dawn may not be the scariest game that you will play this Halloween, but it does do a good job of keeping you on the edge of your seat. It follows all of the horror movie tropes, and does a good job of keeping players alone. The only time that all of the players are guaranteed to be together is at the beginning of the game. There are a lot of fake scares throughout the game, and it keeps you wondering whether the thing around the corner is friend, or foe. There are times when reacting too quickly could end up endangering a friend, and there are times when your life could be on the line if you don’t respond quickly enough. This game definitely does a good job keeping the tension.
The primary game play mechanic that Until Dawn Utilizes is the quick time event. Normally I am not a huge fan of quick time events, but Until Dawn uses them correctly. They are used to simulate tough tasks by making you press the buttons quickly, but failure doesn’t mean the end of the world… well, at least not every time. Usually, when you mess up, it will make your character fumble, making their objective harder to reach, but sometimes, it can lead to character death. They are used to maintain suspense, and keep your blood flowing.
As with any horror movie, the scariest parts of the game are when a character is hiding only a few inches away from someone who is trying to kill them. Until Dawn makes the most of this by sensing the controller’s movement during these times, and penalizing you if you can’t keep your cool. It is one of the best mechanics I have ever encountered to keep tension in a video game. There were times when you could cut the tension with a knife, I was so still and quiet, trying not to make a sound. Until Dawn uses the mechanics in the game very well. They are used to keep you engaged, and tense.
Tense isn’t the Same Thing as Scary
Until Dawn isn’t the scariest game that I have ever played though. While the mood is certainly analogous to a slasher movie, the fear factor is often closer to that of a psychological thriller. It isn’t scary enough to keep you up at night, but it definitely makes you feel uneasy as you play it. The game is good, but ultimately, it’s greatest downfall is that it isn’t as scary as it could be. A contributing factor to that could be the threat of death isn’t as real as it is in other games. When a character dies, it is unnerving, and undesirable, but as a gamer, it doesn’t set you back any. The game goes on, and there are still other characters whose lives are put in your hands.
Until Dawn was a very tense game, with a lot of spooky moments.I have played through it once, and I watched my wife play through it, and the butterfly effect is a great thing that they put in the game. The different choices are interesting, and it is very interesting to see how a seemingly meaningless choice can affect the rest of the game. The game play mechanics were perfectly crafted for this type of storytelling. I certainly enjoyed my time with Until Dawn, even though it didn’t scare the pants off of me.
As indicated by the title, Until Dawn is more like a playable movie than a Video Game, but that isn’t a bad thing. If you are ever in the mood for a slasher flick, and a video game at the same time Until Dawn is the perfect choice for you. With more positives than negatives I give Until Dawn a final score of 8.5 out of 10.