By Andrew Street
“Until Dawn,” the new PlayStation 4 exclusive horror game by SuperMassive Games, is a true testament to the best aspects of the horror genre within gaming. It’s suspenseful, interesting and doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a perfect balance of typical teen horror cheesiness and serious plot twists. In its attempt to mimic classic teen slashers, “Until Dawn” blends narrative and gameplay to create a horror experience not often achieved in the big budget gaming industry.
Narrative is the true headliner of the “Until Dawn” experience. The game follows eight teens who venture to a mountainside cabin, where two of their friends went missing a year prior. The eight main protagonists are all reminiscent of your typical horror movie characters. There’s the ladies’ man, the flirtatious one and a typical popular girl. The only thing missing seems to be the token stoner so often seen in horror flicks.
This eclectic group is ready for a weekend of romance, partying and teenage mistakes.
The fun, however, is cut short when things take a turn for the deadly. Cue the horror movie tropes, creepy dolls and eerie sounds. Couple this with cheesy dialogue and you have yourself a perfect teen slasher flick.
“Until Dawn” is a visual masterpiece. It is arguably one of PS4’s best looking titles. The attention to detail in the environments is both stunning and unforgettable. The forest featured within the game appears haunting and alive. Cabins are riddled with atmospheric set pieces and spooky lighting, all of which blends together for a beautiful, albeit creepy setting.
Of course, the environment isn’t the only aesthetically pleasing aspect of the game. Each character within the game is animated on screen with the utmost detail. Their facial performances are also quite impressive. Still, there are some awkward glitches throughout the game, such as bulging eyes and out-of-sync mouths due to the imperfections of motion capture. These glitches do not take away from the appeal of the game, but they do serve as a distraction to the player.
The best part about the game is the fact that the player is given complete control over the characters and their outcomes. Whether each character lives or dies rests entirely in the hands of the player.
Throughout the game, the player must make decisions that create different branching narratives. Even the smallest actions, such as choosing to run instead of hide, can alter the course of the story in significant ways. As a result, the storyline varies each time the game is played. This personalizes the games experience and makes the entire affair more exciting and realistic for players.
These decisions are given to you in the form of quick button prompts, selections and motion controlling. For example, when hiding from a threat you will be prompted to hold the controller perfectly still. Moving it even the slightest will result in the killer hearing you.
Gamers familiar with modern adventure games like “Heavy Rain” or any game produced by TellTale will be right at home with this gameplay feature. Even non-gamers may find the unpredictable aspect of “Until Dawn” satisfying. It’s simple, enjoyable and keeps gamers on their toes.
This decision making gameplay also allows users to play the game multiple times. Going through the story again, but making slightly different choices can drastically change the outcome of the story. This feature keeps the game interesting and is sure to satisfy players for weeks on end.
“Until Dawn” is one of the best games on PS4, and perhaps one of the best of the year. The expertly crafted horror game manages to blend tropes and predictability into an amazing experience. The gamemakers know how to deliver this type of narrative without making it pretentious or turning it into a parody, which is an usual shortcoming amongst horror games today. “Until Dawn” is everything that other games within the genre have tried and failed to be.