The horror genre in video games hasn't evolved too much in the last few years. Sure, we occasionally get a new "Resident Evil," but that series has devolved into more of an action-shooter than a horror game, while "Silent Hill" hasn't released a new title since "Downpour," which wasn't great. So when a new title like "Until Dawn" comes around which hopes to reinvent the genre, it has to meet some pretty high standards.
But the game ultimately does something which is unique within the world of horror and ultimately within the horror genre itself. In the world of "Until Dawn," the game feels like a horror movie which you are in control of. Players will control each of the eight characters stranded in a cabin on a mountain until dawn. But instead of having to survive zombies or some other horror game cliche, the group has to survive a psycho killer who is intent on making their night a living hell.
In regards to the story, it works pretty well. Returning one year after two of their friends go missing, players must ultimately discover what happened to them and the mysteries surrounding this mountain. I found it to be very enjoyable as I had no idea what to expect with each new section of the game. It takes ideas from such horror classics like "Saw" and "Friday the 13th" and uses them to its own advantage. There was more than one time that a twist in the game left me jaw-dropped from surprise. That said, the story does lose some of its momentum in the final acts as it goes in a new direction. While this didn't bother me per say when playing, I would have preferred the game to keep going in the direction in which it was going.
Graphics-wise, the character models look fantastic. With the use of motion capture, all of the cut scenes look great and actors such as Hayden Panettiere and Brett Dalton come to life in a realistic and visually appealing way. This element really feeds into the idea that there are real lives on the line in this world as you feel the burden of keeping them alive, and the guilt at allowing one of them to perish. The voice acting is also great to listen to due to the fact that many of these people are actual actors actually performing these scenes.
In regards to the gameplay, its fairly standard. You control one of the eight characters in various settings and walk very slow through each setting. One thing the game does well, for me at least, is creating an atmosphere in which you don't know where the next life-threatening event could come from. When walking through the woods at night, players hear various noises and, knowing that there is a killer on the loose, the idea that any wrong turn could lead to death led to a very tensely played game. The atmosphere along with the anticipation that I might die at any point provided one of the best playing experiences I've had for quite some time. Quick-time events are also present along with dialogue options, which gave this something of a Telltale feel at times. There are also various collectibles to find over the course of the game which piece together different mysteries, which are quite interesting when brought together.
"Until Dawn" is easily one of the best horror experiences I've had in quite a while. It packs in a great deal of horror elements, along with great characters whom you come to care about thanks to the realistic looking motion capture system, and gameplay which only adds to the scariness of it upon a first playthrough. That said, the game does begin to lose a lot of its scare factor upon multiple playthroughs. The main path the game takes doesn't really change that much and, thus, the scares become very predictable. I would have liked to see a more unforgiving kill system, in which taking a wrong path could lead to death, rather than simply failing a QTE. Regardless, "Until Dawn" is a great deal of fun and definitely worth checking out. Below, I've listed a few of the more spoilery thoughts I had on the game, so if you've finished it, check that out, otherwise, thanks for reading.
- The twist with Josh being the Psycho was great since I had killed him with the saw blade trap. Completely did not see it coming.
- Having Hayden Panettiere and Brett Dalton as the two mains at the end was smart planning, as they are the most recognizable faces right now and, thus, would be the most likely survivors.
- I wish the Psycho plot had ran all the way to the end, with the reveal as the endgame. While the inclusion of Windigoos was fine and scary in its own right, there's nothing quite like having a sadistic killer walking around killing people at his discretion.
- Jessica and Matt didn't really get a ton of screen time once they left Mike and Emily, respectively. We don't see them again until close to the end, and only for about five minutes.
- I don't know how you survive that ending without just setting your controller on the ground so it doesn't move.
- The fact that it's pretty easy to stay alive until the last couple chapters becomes evident upon multiple playthroughs. While platinuming the game, I felt I had a tougher time finding ways to kill the kids rather than keeping them alive.