PS4 Review: Until Dawn

Can you survive until dawn?

Until Dawn is a choice-based horror game with 8 characters who stay at a lodge in the snowy mountains of Blackwood, which was previously a hotel and sanatorium. Not only that, there’s abandoned mines as well. Kinda creepy, eh? Sounds like the perfect holiday retreat for 8 friends, but it doesn’t go to plan a year beforehand as 2 sisters go missing after a prank goes wrong. A year later, the group decides to revisit the lodge to keep up the tradition to honour the still missing sisters, what could possibly go wrong?
The game gives you control over the characters and the choices they make, which will have what is known as a “butterfly effect”, resulting in consequences or safety later in the story. What makes Until Dawn stand out is it’s creepy realism thanks to some superb motion capture and recognisable actors including Heroes/Nashville’s Hayden Panettiere and Agents of SHIELD’s Brett Dalton, as well as a creepy shrink you see in between the game’s “episodes” played by Peter Stormare (Prison Break, Fargo) which lets you choose what scares you the most as well as characters you like/dislike, which changes the entire appearance of the room the next time you have a session. So if you say you’re scared of spiders, there will be on on his desk in a jar.

The game is full of everything that you would associate with a teen horror film, a creepy knife-wielding man in a gas mask roaming around outside, as well as a group of clichéd characters like a geek, a few attractive women, some heartless characters as well as a few romance plots. You will be given tough choices, in some cases between which ones to save and it is possible to finish the game with every character either dead or alive or anywhere in-between.

What’s worse is that some of these deaths can happen out of nowhere, sometimes through a failed quicktime event or in some cases, the game asks you to keep the controller completely still as it rumbles and if it falls out of the boundaries on-screen, your character will die. On top of that, there’s no simple “restart” button, so once dead….they stay dead. That is until you finish once, then you can choose to change the story from specific chapters, which is a huge relief but it still means in order to see all the endings, you will need to play it multiple times. You do get hints about the threats that await you in the order of small totem statues that give quick vision glimpses of the future, which does give you an idea of what to look out for and has saved some characters from dying.
The game handles almost like the original Resident Evil, minus the weapons. It has the same strict camera angles that made the series stand out and they do move a bit like tanks, luckily any object of interest does flash a white light, although some of these may be traps if you aren’t prepared. The overall plot is quite creepy and while it doesn’t change the face of horror, it’s the choices that make it stand out. It almost throws every horror thing at you both physical and psychological, while carving out it’s own identity in the process.

It’s the realism in the characters that make it believable, even if they aren’t the most likeable bunch. Some will be calling for certain ones to have brutal deaths, but completionists will need to put those feelings on hold for their Platinum trophy. Voice-acting is also impressive with a stellar cast, making you either feel sympathy or hatred for them and the soundtrack is creepy, with changing music before something dramatic happens…adding to a truly atmospheric experience.

There are plenty of jump scares thrown in, some you will see coming a mile off…while others will catch you off guard, I even got fooled by the same jump scare on a second playthrough because I simply forgot about it. It’s not for the faint hearted, that’s for sure…although I highly recommend playing it at night with the lights off.

The Verdict

Until Dawn has a decent horror tale, but more so because you can shape which way it goes. The controls are a bit stiff and the camera angles feel a bit outdated, but it has superb performances, tough choices, brutal deaths and genuine scares that will stay with you. It is a memorable experience and I only hope we get more games like it from Supermassive, this is a sleeper hit for me and one that I will be replaying till I get the Platinum.

Score: 8.5