After playing Until Dawn back at PAX Prime 2014, I came away impressed by the vision of Supermassive Games. The idea of a recreating the feel of classic horror movies with B-movie tropes translated well into the game, and the amount of choice between characters left plenty of room for multiple playthroughs.
The demo I played at E3 2015 begins with two different characters outside a cabin in a flurry of snow, named Matt and Emily. Matt is the stereotypical jock one can expect from a horror movie, while Emily plays out more like a troubled teenaged girl. A deranged psychopath wearing a deformed skull-face mask chases the teens out of the cabin near the precipice of a cliff, as disgruntled deer pass by that surround the two characters. The herd doesn’t look happy to see the two of them, their eyes glowing against the darkness, leaving the player with their first option on how to approach the situation.
Until Dawn is a game about making choices and earning trust, while the gameplay consists of using the mechanics of the controller to fiddle with nearby objects that may lead to clues that help change the outcome of the campaign. Both characters will have multiple options on how they wish to proceed through each level, while also impacting the trust of their friends with their decisions. Favoring one character over the other can lead to some intense standoffs with not just the killer hunting you down, but with friends.
At the start of the demo a choice is already presented, as Matt finds a fire axe with the objective of hacking up the deer to make a path. Instead of rattling the herd, I choose to make my way through carefully until Matt and Emily spot a tower in the distance where they can use the radio to contact for help. Climbing up the tower is easy, reaching the radio and managing to contact search and rescue, informing them that a helicopter will arrive at dawn, hence the title of the game.
A flare gun is seen on one of the desks, and Matt picks it up, I’m given the option to shoot the flare so it will be easy for the helicopter to see our location, but I decide not to. However it isn’t long until the killer finds them, leading to a intense climbing session that leaves Emily dangling from a metal bar. Again a difficult choice is presented, where Matt can choose to save himself or attempt to help Emily. I choose to try and save Emily, but it all is for naught as she falls to her death.
The cinematic feel of Until Dawn was important to Supermassive Games when creating the game, leading the player through the outcomes of the choices in the story until regaining control. I was in control with Matt and was able to observe my surroundings and walk through the area, though it was limited. The player can move the characters around as they search puzzles in the environment, then using the touch-pad sensor to unlock doors or the movement of the controller to examine items.
The pacing of the game and the movie horror elements that shine throughout Until Dawn make for a unique survival-horror experience that fans will enjoy this August. While control is somewhat limited with the characters the fun puzzles and choices round-out the gameplay for a thrill ride of scares. Even with the cliches that were implemented into the game intentionally, the story is still filled with mystery, and seeing which characters will survive or die a tragic deaths warrants multiple trips through the campaign.
The movement of the Playstation controller was surprisingly accurate and there was no lag time with the character responses. The touch-pad sensor portion of the demo was very limited, but from my experience at PAX Prime 2014, I could see the possibilities of its uses. Animation and atmosphere were spot on, and the lighting of the mountains blew me away, another example of the power that PS4 can present.
Survival-horror fans will be excited for Until Dawn, and the amount of choice it presents. a large mystery still looms over the plot. Until Dawn releases on PS4 on August 25h, 2015. For updates on all single player news, follow our Facebook and Twitter pages.