I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Until Dawn since it was first announced as a PlayStation Move title. I wasn’t too excited about the Move integration, but the game itself looked intriguing. I didn’t hear anything about it for a couple of years though, and then it made a triumphant return as a PS4 title (minus the PS Move!). It’s difficult for a game as anticipated as this one was too live up to expectations, but I am happy to say that Until Dawn was most definitely worth waiting for.
If you’ve ever seen the kinds of movies that Until Dawn is based on then you’ll know exactly what to expect from the opening scene. All of the familiar tropes and characters are front and center, and every second of the game reminded me of any number of 1980s teen horror movies. I say this as an unabashed compliment. I grew up with these kinds of movies and even though the game takes place in the modern era, I was filled with an awesome sense of nostalgia the entire time.
The game itself is more of an adventure game in the “choose your own path” style. Most of the action takes place within the context of timed button presses and split second decision you have to make that play out with limited input from the player, especially when compared to other action games in the survival-horror genre. Some might be put off by this, but it plays out beautifully as the decisions are agonizingly fun and the cinematic nature of the game lends itself to the scary movie vibe. Every shot is framed with cinematic vision that hearkens back to the days of the original Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Of course, Until Dawn controls much better than any of those old titles, but the framing of the shots adds a claustrophobic feeling to the dark hallways, abandoned structures, haunting woods, and more. The game is a visual treat both graphically and cinematically.
Choice makes all of the difference in this game and I spent much of my time trying to figure out if I had made the right decision. I played some characters in a way that made me care about them more than others and I took great caution in trying to keep them alive. I hated it when I made a dumb decision that led to the death of one of my characters, but it is a testament to the fantastic game design and characterization brought to life by the script and the actors. All of whom, incidentally, turned in an amazing performance; there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch.
I had so much fun with Until Dawn and was so invested in my time with the game that I’m having a hard time trying to find something negative to say. Navigating is a bit tricky every once in a while due to the fixed camera angles, but it was never anything that even remotely frustrated me. It’s certainly not a perfect game, but it hit every chord that I hoped it would. It ended up being the exact kind of game I’ve always wanted to play since my high school days of marathoning the Friday The 13th and the Halloween movies.
This game perfectly puts the player into the shoes of all of those people you used to yell at on the screen. You know the people you would tell not to go into that dark room? You get to be that person. You know the one that goes down to the cellar to investigate the weird noise? You get to be that idiot. You know the one level headed member of the group who seems to be the only one who can figure anything out? Yes, you get to be that person and every minute of it is great.
Choice matters so much in this game that every decision you make reverberates through the remainder of your time with it, and I spent the bulk of my time imagining how I was going to play through the story on my second playthrough. That’s as high of a compliment as I can give a game; every minute made me anxious to replay it as soon as I could. There’s a mystery to solve here in this game and I have never enjoyed peeling back the layers like I have with Until Dawn. With its colorful characters, creepy setting, interesting story, tons of collectibles, and more, Until Dawn is my front runner for game of the year. Here’s hoping we get a sequel! Just think of the possibilities: summer camp… college dorms… hospitals… the list is extensive and I hope we get to every one of them!
A copy of Until Dawn was provided by Sony Computer Entertainment for the purpose of this review
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