Year – 2015
Country – UK
Production Companies – Sony Computer Entertainment, Supermassive Games
Writers – Graham Reznick, Larry Fessenden, Will Byles, Pete Samuels
Director – Will Byles
Cast – Hayden Panettiere (Samantha), Peter Stanmore (Dr. Hill), Rami Malik (Josh), Brett Dalton (Michael)
Review – 5/5
Have you ever wondered how long you would last in a horror movie?
Would you run from the killer, or would you hide?
Do you save yourself, or do you take a risk to save your friend?
It was only a matter of time before video games attempted to give you the answer to these questions.
Hilariously enough, Supermassive Games were previously known for their involvement in the Little Big Planet game series. Just like a bored teen pop star, they’ve shed their adorable past to venture over to the dark side.
The idea behind Until Dawn is to throw the player straight into a teen horror movie. As with the teen horror convention, the game starts with a group of friends drinking and partying in a parents’ cabin which just happens to be both on top of a mountain and hidden amongst the woods. When a stupid prank sends two of the group out into the woods with fatal consequences, the friendship group reunites at the same cabin a year later to commemorate their death.
It quickly transpires that someone is not happy about their return, and it is up to the player to keep them all alive, or alternatively, let them all die.
It doesn’t take a huge amount of skill to make it through the game, and Supermassive Games clearly wanted Until Dawn to be accessible to hardcore gamers as well as those who haven’t played much before. The mechanics behind the game are exploration, quick time events (QTE) and decision making. The QTEs are fast-paced, and they build a feeling of threat while you play. As for the decidion making, a lot of previous games profess that your decisions have real consequences, but in Until Dawn, your decisions can literally be life or death for a character.
Even the smaller decisions, like what you choose to say to another character or whether or not you find an important clue, can contribute to an important event later in the game. The menu screen holds all your choices as impacts on the ‘butterfly effect’ – the concept that everything we do, no matter how small, can have devastating consequences in the future.
I quickly became obsessed with checking my butterfly effects menu to see if anything had changed and trying to determine how I could have done it differently.
Supermassive Games have gone above and beyond to capture the atmosphere of a teen movie. It’s cheesy, sexually-charged, and nasty. The characters are just like the teen characters we are handed in a horror movie, and some look much older than they should. I can’t decide whether this is a deliberate comment on the age of ‘teen’ actors or just the motion capture at work.
Panettiere, known for her roles in TV shows like Heroes and movies like Scream 4 (2011), is a big catch for a game like this. All the voice acting is done by professional actors and you can absolutely tell. It is pretty much the best voice acting I’ve ever heard in a game, and the motion capture means there are moments where the characters look like genuine people, not a bunch of pixels and textures.
Until Dawn impressed me, and as a horror fan it was a total dream to grab the controls and put myself in a horror movie. It is a creepy experience and there are chase sequences where you will feel like someone is behind you in the room. By far the best addition, however, is the game’s request for you to remain still. Of course, in any horror movie, there are moments where you must hide and to do so that you can’t shuffle about like you do when you play games. In these moments of the game, you must remain perfectly still, or again, you could risk having your character’s guts ripped out.
The only downside is the game is ten hours long, and on a second play through with a friend, we completed the whole thing in one sitting, which when you pay fifty quid for something, gives you that twang of pain in your lower stomach. It’s difficult because I can see where the money went, and the finished product is one of the best games in the horror genre, but other companies will charge me the same amount and I’ll be playing that game for three months straight and still never achieve everything it wants me to.
No regrets though. Until Dawn is an unforgettable experience, and almost a perfect game. For a horror fan like me, it was heaven.