I'm not the biggest fan of horror in the world. In fact I stay away from it as much as I can. I don't like being afraid and I don't understand why some seemingly do. But Until Dawn was far too intriguing to pass up. So on the night of the release I decided that I would o so poetically play the game from start to finish in one sitting from dusk until dawn (see what I did there) - The whole process took about 9 hours and I this review is mostly based on what I took away from those 9 hours.
Plot (no spoilers - of course)
After a tragedy befalls a group of friends in a secluded mountain cabin, the remaining friends decide to visit the cabin again on the one year anniversary of what ever terrible event took place the year before. At first they encounter minor problems, frozen locks and such but soon they realize this may not be misfortune at all, soon they realize they may not be alone at all.
Perhaps this may fall on your ears as if it were just the typical horror movie, stereotypical teenagers in a stereotypical story. And in many ways this is somewhat accurate, but not at all entirely. If this were a movie, it would he the Shawshank Redemption of stereotypical horror movies.
He doesn't seem to realize he can see all that and more on the internet.
How it looks and sounds
So far as the graphics are concerned the game is absolutely beautiful. With immersive weather and lighting effects that perfectly set the atmosphere for a cushion browning session. The texture detail is not the best it could be, but let's remember this is not a 2500$ PC so that can be forgiven. And honestly, if that's what you are focusing on when playing this game, then you need help.
Speaking of needing help, I could have sworn I was going insane at points while playing this game. Sound effects popping in now and then just to keep up the tension tend to annoy me, they always seem so forced, they seem to be a way to make up for a lack of content to keep you in your panic state. But the game also has moments where the sound effects are just perfect, spot on, right in that sweet spot of "Now I have to change my pants"
The acting is both done in Mo-cap (motion capture) and vocally. Both are done beautifully with immersion clearly in the developers head when both writing the script and directing the action. The facial expressions do on occasion seem a bit overly
exaggerated but it's nothing that breaks the immersion in any real way other than for you to snark a bit at it.
The gameplay isn't that much different from other narrative experiences such as 'Heavy Rain' or 'Beyond Two Souls' but that's not a bad thing. And it does enough different to be unique, new and fun. It's up to you who dies, or who lives until dawn.
Quick time events are probably the main cause for the rise in adrenaline shock cases around the release of the game. You don't have a lot of time to choose and you have one chance, do not miss. If you do, your favorite character might be dead. This plays into how much you care about the character (which for me was a lot) and how much you panic during these quick time events. You must also choose, let's say you were running away from an avalanche, you must choose fast rout or safe rout. The fast rout leaves you with a faster rout but quicker button mashes but is more forgiving you you missing one. The safe rout leaves you with a slower rout and more time to react to each button mash but you can fail fewer before you die.
Choices can also seal the fate of your most beloved characters, even the most trivial choices can have the most drastic effects. The game does a good job of letting you keep track of what action caused what outcome with the butterfly effect system (You did "X" so "Y" happened) The choices you make can influence every characters relationship with each other how that exactly effects the game I never really noticed, but it's fun to see who's on good terms with who.
Totems can help you make the "right" choices, they can be found lying around each chapter and they come in various sorts. Some depict the death of a character, another depicts the danger another is in you can also see fortune for you or for other characters. They sometimes do help you make the right choices but they are vague enough to give you some idea but not so that you know exactly what you should do. I'd say they were the perfect amount of informative and vague.
On occasion you need to stay still... I mean, obviously, it is a horror game. This is brilliantly integrated with the PS4's surprisingly sensitive motion sensor. You have to stay still and slightly adjust in a very small window to accommodate for your characters breathing and you have to do all this when you are fucking terrified.
The actor behind this one, Peter Stormare delivers by far the best performance in my opinion
Until Dawn is a fantastic take on the classic horror story. With a gorgeous, yet horrific atmosphere, eerie sound effects and interesting characters I will indeed put this game down as a masterpiece in my books. And coming from a PC only user (I played Until Dawn on my friends system) I will say this, Until Dawn is a great edition to Sony's exclusive war against Microsoft's X-Box.
Is it for you?
I will be honest, this game is certainly not for everyone. It's not the Five nights at Freddy's horror experience. It's much more sophisticated, more mature. If you are not willing to think a bit, or have a hard time immersing your self in the story, then stay away from Until Dawn. If you like story's of all kinds and narrative games in general, then Until Dawn will be the perfect horror experience for you.
Pros: Great graphics, fantastic writing, real immersion, genuine terror, real care for the characters
Cons: Off hand sound effects, story development can throw some people off
Until Dawn - Is it for you? | Informative Review
A game can be called a masterpiece and still no suit everyone's needs. Until Dawn is no doubt a good game, but is it a masterpiece? Is it for you?
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