Before I begin telling you all about Until Dawn I must confess that I am a big fan of Horror movies, especially B Grade horror. In fact when I am scouring Netflix looking for a good horror movie I inevitably go for the ones ranked 1 or 2 stars because I firmly believe the cheesy, cliche story telling mixed with gruesome and creative death scenes make for some great entertainment. Until Dawn has all the hallmarks of a classic B Grade Horror movie except this time around the gamer controls the shot which gives the game a real interactive movie feel.
Eight teenagers head on up to a secluded house set atop a mountain for the night. Before too long it becomes obvious that the only activities that will be happening will involve death or survival against the odds. So who are these teenagers whose fate we are ultimately responsible for? Allow me to introduce you:
- Mike & Jess – The hot couple. Both very confident and just want to find a place to hook up,
- Chris & Ashley – The almost couple. Chris is the joker of the group and Ashley is a bit of a Nerd
- Matt & Emily – The do everything my way couple. Emily is always whining and expecting Matt to do everything she say, Matt of course doesn’t have the heart to stand up to her.
- Sam – The sweet, naive girl. Sam is just so nice and wholesome, she is most likely to be the one you’ll most want to survive.
- Josh – The suspicious guy. He’s clearly troubled and the is just something about him that always seems like he’s hiding something
If you’re sitting there thinking the characters sound familiar then you’d be exactly right. Put on any horror movie involving teenagers and you’ll inevitably find characters very similar to this. Yes they are cliche but they are meant to be. That familiarity really made me feel like I knew the characters more deeply than gets revealed at the start of the story. It also meant that almost immediately I found myself putting together my list of please die and please don’t die.
The first couple of chapters in the preview of Until Dawn are quite slow as the game looks to set the stage and provide the initial introductions to the characters. For the bulk of the early going, most of the time is spent with Mike & Jess as they make there way up to a secluded cabin, deeper in the woods in search of a private spot to get more familiar with one another. Our time with the steamy couple is broken up with segments that feature all of the other characters. It may seem like a bit of a slog at the start but hang in there, once that time getting to know the characters is over the action starts to pick up. By the time the preview ends it has become very evident that it is all starting to go pear shaped and there is what appears to be, more than one killer out there ready to kill every last one of these teenagers should the opportunity present itself.
From the grind of character introduction, right through to the climactic end of the preview, there were a couple of things that really stood out and hint that Until Dawn has what it takes to be one of the big hits of 2015.
First off it’s the graphics. From the moment Until Dawn kicks off it is clear that the graphics are up there with the best seen on a PS4. All of the character modelling is based off their real life voice actors, including the smoking hot Hayden Panettiere who brings Sam to life (or maybe death, the preview didn’t give me a chance to find out). If there is a game that has managed to render characters more closely to there real life counterparts than Until Dawn then I certainly can’t remember it. There are likely to be a few more tweaks made in the final cut so prepare yourself to be knocked over by the quality on display. It doesn’t stop with the characters though, even the environment has received that extra coat of polish that many a game seems to be lacking. Look closely as your character walks through the snow and marvel at that tiny detail of their footprints appearing the snow. Yes it is a small detail but it’s those subtle little things that are often overlooked. There were some frame rate issues at times but they are less frequent than what I have seen in early gameplay teasers. By the time 26 August hits and Until Dawn hits the shelves I’m very confident that all frame rate issues will be fixed and we’ll just be left with jaw-dropping silky smooth graphics.
The next thing that really excited me was that I controlled the key choices the characters have to make. Until Dawn is all about choice and thanks to the Butterfly Effect, those choices have a very real impact on what happens as the story progresses. How you respond to someone during a conversation, whether you choose to hand over an item you found or even tell the other person about it. Every interaction you have be it with people, or with items on the mountain side, they all affect the story. Some may only affect it in minor way, for example the way Mike treats Jess on the way up to the cabin has an impact on what might happen in the cabin. Other choices have a much larger impact on the story and will initiate the point of no return, the butterfly effect. When a butterfly effect is triggered that means a key part of the story has been set on a path that cannot be undone, it may be that you’ve inadvertently led your character on a journey that ends in their death or that of a friend, it may also be that you have just saved their lives. In any case you won’t find out until you reach that moment in the game. Believe it or not it will be possible to get all eight characters out alive but play your cards wrong and some or all of them may die.
There has been some criticism of the butterfly effect and replayability. Some people don’t believe that the butterfly effect works and that it doesn’t change what happens to the characters. Some of those people even say they have had hands on time with the game. To those people I say, you are obviously making the same choices over and over again and not playing the game right. I played a 15 minutes segment at E3 twice and I have played this extended preview multiple times and at E3 and at home I have been able to change what happens to my characters. Believe me when I say that there is definitely going to be replay value on offer here. Let’s get one thing straight, replayability doesn’t mean getting an entirely different game with different dialogue all the way through. Replayability here means going back and making different decisions and seeing who you get through the game on the next playthrough. Oh and one last thing on that choice, anyone who thinks that they can just quickly exit out in order to spare their favourite character from the gruesome death they didn’t mean to give them is going to be in for a rude shock. Until Dawn has a VERY strict autosave function. Once a decision has been made there is no exiting out to fix your mistake, you are stuck with that choice and the only way to change it would be restart your entire game.
With the cliche characters and a story that would be right at home in a B Grade horror, Until Dawn is positioning itself to be one of the best exclusive titles of 2015. The frighteningly realistic character modelling and minute attention to detail, Until is a visual masterpiece. Throw in the ability to shape the character outcomes through real time decision making and you’ve got yourself a survival horror game that plays out more like an interactive movie than a video game. When 26 August rolls around, do yourself a favour, grab some popcorn and a copy of Until Dawn and prepare for a truly immersive and entertaining experience.