The thrill that I, as a massive horror fan, get when a new horror game comes out is starting to get bigger and bigger as more titles are released that deliver legitimate scares. With titles like Outlastand Alien: Isolation providing some amazing entries into horror gaming, my optimism is certainly increasing. So, when I got wind of a new game that would bring in elements from all kinds of horror, I certainly got excited.
A group of teenagers spend the night in a log cabin on the anniversary of the disappearance of two of their friends, unaware that they are being hunted by a crazed serial killer.
Until Dawn, released in August, brings us the story of 8 friends all reuniting at a cabin in the woods after a horrible accident that occurred the year before, as the result of a tasteless prank. Combing elements of 80s and 90s slasher films and monster movies, and the game play that feels a whole lot like that of games like Heavy Rain, this game builds an intense and bloody story, incorporating player choices that will directly influence the outcome. These player choices are definitely the focus for this particular game, it’s “butterfly effect” system shows you the path you create based on your choices, and really does bring something very new to this particular kind of game. As well, this system alone encourages repeat play-throughs to explore each possibility.
This feature adds a really interesting depth to the game experience overall, really making you responsible for what happens to each character, especially knowing that it is possible to end the game with all, none or some combination thereof left alive. On top of that, these characters vary wildly in your ability to sympathize with them. They draw very obviously from the horror-trope characters that we’ve seen time and time again in slasher movies and, while the writing might come off as cheesy for a large chunk of the game, they really did manage to make them feel like horror movie characters, and you really do feel responsible whenever one of them dies. For better or for worse.
One thing a horror game has to be, besides a game of course, is scary. This can be really hard to accomplish, with so much reliance on lazy jump scares that infects both horror games and horror films alike. Until Dawn toes the line throughout it’s story, and really does built an effective atmosphere, rather than just throwing loud noises and scary faces at you (looking at YOU Five Nights at Freddy’s), the atmosphere combined with some great character design for both our “killer” and the monsters that you encounter later on. On that note, one of the issues I had with the game came in the form of a pretty bloated story that feels much like two stories for two different games (or movies for that matter) pushed together. That’s not to say that the story is bad, it just feels all over the place, and unnecessarily full at times.
The game works in the places that a horror fan might want it to though, delivering scares, atmosphere, and plenty of blood and guts, depending on how you play the game. On top of the hugely satisfying horror elements, the “butterfly effect system” is really interesting, and it really does feel like you are having an impact on the story’s path, and that had you just done one or two things differently you might have made a difference, making this game hugely re-playable. I certainly won’t recommend it to those who aren’t fond of the play style found in games like Heavy Rain, because there are certainly elements of that here, but if you’re someone who loves a good scare and a few nasty kills, I recommend Until Dawn to you.