Until Dawn's Premise
In the prologue of Until Dawn, tragedy strikes when a group of young adults meet up to party at a cabin in the mountains. One year later, the same bunch reconvene to party once again and mourn their losses. However, they'll soon learn that far more awaits them in the chilly mountains than they bargained for . . . will they survive until dawn?
And so this ps4 gem begins. Unlike many horror video games, this isn't a shooter—gameplay consists of exploration, quick-time events, and difficult choices that morph the plot of the game à la Heavy Rain. So how does the adventure hold up? Read on to discover the successes and failures of Until Dawn!
O Death (Theme)
Let's examine several triumphs of the game:
- Definitely scary (prepare for many jump scares)
- Players make several important decisions
- Great graphics and soundtrack
- Interesting plot and mystery
This is a horror game, and because you get to decide how multiple characters handle situations, it quickly engulfs you within its world. You really feel a bond to the diverse cast; they all have their strengths and faults, but you become a part of them and their story through the decisions you make.
Players Make Several Important Decisions
Fittingly enough for a game utilizing a mechanic called the Butterfly Effect, your decisions often have long-lasting repercussions, making each one a tense, brain-racking choice. Additionally, the graphics look superb and the music helps set the isolated, horrific setting. You'll be on the edge of your seat wondering who—or what—is behind the terrifying events. But don't fret if you're jittery about blood because there are ways to control how much gore is displayed.
Interesting Plot and Mystery
Players tend to be divided on quick-time events, timed button presses during cutscenes, but I enjoy them as a nice way to keep you engaged in the cutscenes rather than just watching. Plus, some of these can be pretty tricky with their short spans to hit the button—you've earned your trophies if you can successfully complete all QTE sections.
I love this game; listing its failures requires some nitpicking:
- A few deaths feel cheap
- Some choices are faked
- Unnecessary number of recaps
A Few Deaths Feel Cheap
Let's start from the top. The way that your choices impact the plot works superbly, however, an occasional cheap death can be frustrating. For example, one character can die without failing any quick-time events based on an incredibly minor choice much earlier in the game.
Some Choices Are Faked
Again, Until Dawn offers a staggering number of meaningful choices, but sometimes no matter your pick, the same outcome occurs. To be fair, the game often subtly encourages you to choose what it wants you to do, and thus you never know your decision didn't really matter, but subsequent playthroughs can lead to small letdowns. Still, most of the choices are real and very significant.
Unnecessary Number of Recaps
One final minor gripe: each chapter begins with a quick recap of past events. While this can serve as a helpful reminder of your past decisions, it often includes events that literally just happened and are very much fresh on your mind. Still, these moments allow for players to catch their breath, helping regulate the pacing of action-packed sequences.
Meet the Characters
Here's a quick rundown of Until Dawn's cast, who are largely modeled after their voice actors. Their choices and survival are in your hands:
- Sam (Hayden Panettiere) – An athletic, kind girl. Often tries to mend disagreements between her friends.
- Jessica (Meaghan Martin) – Confident to the point of arrogance, Jess is pretty and she knows it. Currently dating Mike.
- Emily (Nichole Bloom) – Intelligent but bossy, Emily can be grating but may harbor hidden depths. Mike's ex, currently dating Matt.
- Ashley (Galadriel Stineman) – Timid yet kind, Ashley believes in the occult. Has a crush on Chris.
- Chris (Noah Fleiss) – Geeky but humorous and kind, Chris struggles to make his romantic feelings towards Ashley known.
- Matt (Jordan Fisher) – Athletic and good-natured, Matt deals with the awkwardness of dating Mike's ex, Emily.
- Mike (Brett Dalton) – Good-looking and popular, Mike can be stuck-up, but finds courage in the toughest times. Emily's ex, currently dating Jessica.
- Josh (Rami Malek) – Josh mourns his loss from the events of the prologue, but seeks to bring his friends together once more to honor their loved ones. Close with Sam.
You can play the game solo if you prefer, but I recommend playing in groups where each person selects one or two of the game characters to control (you only play as one at a time), letting you and your friends shape the story together. I'd also advise against walkthroughs—you'll feel more rewarded when your group earns their successes and more devastated as you deal with their failures. Either way, the emotional investment works wonders when combating the monsters of the night.
This game differs from most in its gameplay, and players need to be able to handle some scares, but that's the fun of the adventure—how it successfully draws you into its world and hands you the reigns for the story. Feel free to share your thoughts on Until Dawn, and I'll see you at our next review!
Questions & Answers
Question: How good is Until Dawn's sequel?
Answer: If you mean the developer's next game, Hidden Agenda, it can't compare to Until Dawn's brilliance. But it's still a decent (albeit short) decision-based title.
© 2017 Jeremy Gill
Ced Yong from Asia on May 11, 2017:
Ah, my first PS4 game. As I told my FB friends, it made me realise the JoyPad can be really LOUD.