Price: $20 (Amazon)
Mike and Sam, two protagonists are investigating the cabin, seeing if any of their six friends are safe. As they head to the home theater room, Emily and Jess come crashing through the door, running away from a horrifying enemy. This sends me flying backwards in my seat as this startles me. I’m in control of Sam at this particular moment and two choices come on screen. Run away or lock the door. I only have a split second to choose as this is a matter of life or death. I won’t tell you what I picked but I think I chose the right thing. Until Dawn is a survival horror game for the PS4 and tells the story of six friends, Mike, Sam, Emily, Matt, Jess, Chris and Josh as they head to Josh’s cabin in the snowy woods to overcome the disappearance of Josh’s twin sisters, Hannah and Beth. As strange things begin to happen around them, they begin to suspect they are being followed by a psychopath. That’s the basic premise of the game and all I can say without giving too much away as there is definitely more fun little twists in the story that are best experienced without knowing them. The game takes a huge twist about halfway through and it just sucks you in for one hell of a wild ride. Okay so, I freaking loved this game. The way it put me into a slasher horror film, the characters, the atmosphere, the jump scares. It’s all so much fun!
The game uses these split second choices at varying times throughout with an in game system called the butterfly effect (like the crappy Ashton Kutcher movie) and your decision begins to effect the overall outcome of the game. Think of a choose your own adventure book. Each decision branches the narrative off, even going as far to permanently off a character. I found myself a few times accidentally hitting the wrong button and accidentally causing a character I really enjoyed to die, making me feel the fault for what I had done.The game constantly swaps in between each character as you play as everyone which helps you connect with each character or hate a certain character. It’s not limited to deaths though as you could potentially find something like an axe or a flare that could come handy later that if you miss, you don’t have at your disposal later. I just thought that being the catalyst for what the decisions make was so unique. Think of all those times in a horror movie, a character does something mind boggling and is killed because of this stupid decision. The game toys with these clichés and allows you to make the character smart or stupid based on what you choose. Honestly it’s brilliant. I screamed at the screen at least 10 times during the 10 hour length because I make hit the X button instead of the O button and caused a poor character lose their head. Throughout the game, a psychiatrist, comes on screen in between the 10 chapters and asks you, the player, various questions pertaining to what scares you and how you feel about certain characters. This was so unique in that it would adjust the game to scare you in the ways you get scared. An example of this is, I found a trap door and walked inside. The screen cuts to a security camera shot. Then, a spider walks across the screen because I said spiders scare me. It was such a cool little thing that made me feel like my choices really do matter. As for the characters, if I said I hated a character, the game would try and make me like a character and I found myself really liking a character I hated at the beginning of the game and was saddened when at the end when one of my choices caused them to sacrifice themselves to save the other survivors. What truly got me was going back and playing the final chapter 4 different times and getting a different ending each time. I can only imagine what replaying the whole game would do to that ending.
Technically, the game is beautiful looking. The PS4 has yet to disappoint me with graphics and this is no exception. Each step a character takes in the snow leaves a footprint, making it look all the more realistic. Inside, dust flows throughout and this is especially noticeable when you point your flashlight through a dark corridor. It’s just so cool. Something I really enjoyed was the cast. Everyone in the cast voices their character extremely well. The game uses Hollywood actors instead of game actors which a lot of games don’t usually do but this made the game feel more cinematic. Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) plays Sam, Brett Dalton (Agents of Shield) plays Mike, Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) plays Josh and a few others play the various different characters. My favorite was definitely Peter Stromare (Fargo, John Wick 2, Bad Boys 2, a ton of other well known movies) as the Psychiatrist. Stromare has this innocent creepiness to him that he plays extremely well and makes you feel uneasy as he asks you these various questions.
(Peter Stromare as The Psychiatrist)
My only flaw I could find with the game is the frame rate. The game felt choppy like 70% of the game and it took some of the cinematic feel out of me. It’s nothing that hampered my enjoyment of the game but I wish it was more along the lines of Uncharted 4 where it was so smooth it felt like you’re controlling actual people. Also the camera isn’t controlled by the player but goes where the character moves, adding to the cinematic feel but sometimes this can be a damper. All in all though, Until Dawn is so fantastic that it would make a solid horror film but as an interactive experience. Even as I sit here and write the review, I want to go back and replay the story and see what other choices impact my story which says a lot about a strictly single player experience. It is a must buy for anyone who owns PS4 and honestly is worth purchasing one.
-Butterfly Effect system
-2nd half twist
-Frame Rate dipping
-Camera sometimes wonky