I was so intrigued by Until Dawn, the game even made it to my “Upcoming Games I’m Excited For” post I made almost two months ago. I held off buying it for a few weeks, as I had a friend coming to stay at the end of September and we’d planned to play it together. No shame in trying to save a few bucks on a new release!
As a lover of a good old slasher horror flick, Until Dawn did not let me down. It was incredibly cliché; a group of teenagers staying in a log cabin on a mountain, with a mix of teenage dramas, crushes, and couples that will take their chances against death for a quickie. Slap on a bit of paranormal activity and a psychotic killer on the loose, and you’ve got me hooked. It was a nice blend of Evil Dead, The Cabin in the Woods, and Scream.
The visuals were incredible, something Supermassive Games really deserve all the praise for (and I’m hoping they win all the awards!). I strongly suggest that you watch the behind the scenes videos, they’re a bonus with the game but I’m assuming they’re available online now. They show how the actors performed the whole game on a sound stage, in their fancy CGI morph suits with cameras attached to their heads to capture all of their facial movements. The only letdown is that it’s a short video, I would really have loved a more detailed documentary showing the process from “Stage to Screen.”
Now, onto the gameplay. Until Dawn is advertised as being “designed to be played multiple times,” but I’m afraid to say that the game is only fun to play through twice. Any more than that and it’s far too repetitive, with no skip button for the long cinematic scenes. I’ve played it five times now (I’m a shameless trophy hunter. FIGHT ME.) and I’m ready to put the game to rest. There isn’t enough variety to keep seeking out new ways to change the story.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the game, the first playthrough with my friend was a bloody good time. Watching someone else’s decisions, having little arguments about said decisions, judging each other for failing the Quick Time Events, then discovering the big plot twist, it’s a really fun game to play the first time through with a gaming buddy.
During my second playthrough, which was on my own, I took a bit more time with the game. I found all the collectibles, which piece-by-piece unlocks a video about the lore and history of the mountain, the suspicious mining accident, and the creatures inhabiting the mines. I also changed a lot of my previous decisions, completely changing the outcome of the game. Like I previously said, the first two playthroughs are brilliant and I cannot fault them.
My favourite collectibles were the Totems. Depending on their colour, they would show you character deaths, and any upcoming dangers or fortunes you may come across. The scenes are re-playable, so they were interesting to play back during the game to see if any of the premonitions may be coming up. It was a nice twist to the usual collectibles in games, which sometimes don’t add much to how you play.
One of the biggest downfalls of Until Dawn is the lack of multiple save slots. Your first playthrough is your main save, and once you’ve played the game you can play again from whatever episode you choose (you have to play all the episodes from that point on to make a change to the outcome in the end). The biggest flaw in that is a character potentially dies in an early chapter. If they died on your first play, then you need to play from that early chapter every time to try and keep them alive. It’d be nice if there were at the very least two save slots, one to keep said character alive and the other one where they die.
If you’re not a fan of games with Quick Time Events, then I’m sorry but this game is pretty much built on them. Personally I don’t mind them, they can make me feel a bit anxious (I’m an Anxious Annie..), but I think it adds to the feel of the game. You’re being chased by a killer – you’re gonna be feeling a bit antsy.
In addition to the Quick Time Events, there’s also the use of the DualShock 4 controller’s gyroscope feature. In situations where you’re hiding, you’ll be told to keep still. And I mean keep still. The tiniest of movements will trigger the attacker, and in some situations can lead to a character’s death. I ended up holding my breath and resting the controller on my stomach to avoid my hands betraying me and going into spasm out of sheer stress.
At first I found the controls a bit difficult, they reminded me of old school Resident Evil (I’m sure a lot of you know exactly what I mean!), where the right toggle didn’t really have much control of your camera movements. After a while I got used to it, however it was a bit daunting walking towards the camera and not knowing what you were walking towards until the camera angle changed. I wonder whether they decided on these controls as a nod to the classic horror game.
Overall, I really enjoyed the game, but got a bit tired of it after a few replays. However I won’t let my greediness in replaying for trophies spoil the fun I initially had playing it. I paid £38 for a new copy a few weeks after release, which may seem steep for some people, but considering I’ve raked in almost 40 hours playing it, I’d say I’ve got my money’s worth.