I’m not down with being startled. If people startle me, crotches get pummeled. When I saw Scream 2 in theaters, I went around punching dicks and ovaries left and right. It’s how I cope. Don’t judge. So you can imagine how stupid it is when I even attempt to play a horror game. Cops have the tenancy to get called, freakish wails attempting to normalize into comprehensible screams do occur – it’s just a mess.
So why do I like Supermassive Game’s Until Dawn so much? Well …
It’s campy – scary, don’t get me wrong, but definitely a lot of campy parts to it. I think that helped to mellow out the scare factor. That, and my frustration at my utter suck-age with QTE (Quick Time Events) quelled some of that terror for me.
Some of you may be wondering why I’m even bringing up Until Dawn given that it’s no longer considered a ‘new release’. That’s a good question, really. The reason is simple and can be summed up in four beautifully succulent words: Until Dawn Virtual Reality. Again, kind of old news – but the time of accessible VR is neigh so this thing here with Until Dawn? I’m doing it.
Simon Harris, Executive Producer over at Supermassive Games, dropped the horrifically exciting news that the expansion for the campy horror game, Rush of Blood, is coming to Playstation VR. Not surprising given the fact that the stand-alone game was a PS4 exclusive.
The entire basis of Rush of Blood centers around a different style of play for the game: arcade style. Fast-paced and guaranteed jump scares – some crotches are definitely getting punched, sorry guys.
This is what the awesome team over at Supermassive Games had to say about the upcoming virtual reality experience:
“When we first started working on Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, we were still in the middle of development on Until Dawn, but it was clear to us that the world and characters we were creating would be perfect to expand into new experiences. As we established compelling gameplay for VR, we were able to combine that with a journey through many familiar aspects of Blackwood Pines, but from a horrifying new perspective!”
If you haven’t played Until Dawn yet for the Playstation 4, you seriously need to and here’s my FULL review to explain why:
What’s to say about the Sony PlayStation 4 exclusive Until Dawn? A lot, actually. This particular title in the horror genre is the perfect blend of cheeky young adult humor and heart-stopping horror scenarios that are heavily influenced by the choice-based consequence system that will make your palms sweat. It’s campy, creepy and very choice specific.
This teen horror tale is an excellent blend of story, interactive gameplay and epic twists. Until Dawn features a rotating character list of eight teens doing their best to uncover the mysteries of a secluded cabin in the snowy mountains while trying to stay alive. Drawn together on the anniversary of a tragic event, these eight characters must find out the hard way if they have what it takes to survive. Unlike a lot of horror titles in this genre, there are no inventory systems, no weapon upgrades or “better gear” … instead this story relies heavily on exploration, timing and the foresight to make the best choice to keep everyone alive.
Each character has a pre-conceived personality profile given to you at the beginning of the game. The player can make their choices based upon what the character’s profile suggests they would do or can bend to the will of the player itself. It is completely up to you. Be warned, each choice can have dire consequences. The smallest misstep can have catastrophic costs and not always immediately. Unlike a lot of choice games, the importance of your choices may not be revealed until much later in the story. This mechanical choice made by Supermassive Games keeps the story going at a comfortable pace while also drawing the player into becoming personally invested as the events unfold. The question of loyalty is also a big factor with this game. If you’ve alienated another character or did not interact with them in a positive way, they may not be willing to save you should an opportunity arise. Choose carefully. Your life may depend on it.
Unlike many story-heavy games, Supermassive Games has taken your average story choice-based game and refined all of the rough edges providing outstanding visuals, realistic character development, witty dialogue and a timeline of events that completely brings this game to life and creating a unique experience that you are sure to love. Not to mention the variety of A-list actors that have signed on to this project such as Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere as Sam, Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as Joshua and The Big Lebowski’s Peter Stormare as Dr. Hill.
Until Dawn relishes in horror drama cliché’s and archetypes and I love them for it. It could have easily gone either direction: a wild success or a groan-worthy failure but Supermassive Games definitely pulled it off with their scattered clues of a grander conspiracy, sub-plot layered upon sub-plot and don’t forget a massive amount of jump scares. Some of those jump scares were expected and others were completely out of left field … that didn’t stop me from screaming every colorful word in the book or reaching to hide beneath my two dogs. This game does a fantastic job of building a tense atmosphere while also keeping the story fresh.
The environment isn’t the only thing rooted in your everyday horror-movie clichés, the character list is also comprised of well-known teen archetypes to provide variety. The “dumb cheerleader”, the “jock”, the “nerd”, the “socially awkward”, the “princess” among others are featured in the cast of rotating characters that you will play as. As mentioned earlier, each character has built-in character traits that will play a key role in how they, or how you want them to, respond in a series of varying events. The character individuality paired with witty dialogue and inter-character dynamics are just one of the many things that make this story flow beautifully and consistently engaging.
Another notable characteristic in Until Dawn are the collectibles the player can find. Why? Because they actually mean something and aid the player navigate the story. Clues to the sub-story, mysteries of the cabin, motivations of certain characters and totems are all items that urge you to explore a little in your journey to answers. The totems are rooted in Native American belief of prophecy that gives the player clues in what is to come. Death totems will tease a character’s death in a tantalizing show, Fortune totems offer guidance on how the player can react to a future situation to benefit the characters and increase chances of survival, Danger totems offer just that … a warning of danger and a potentially fatal choice coming up, Loss totems are similar to the Danger symbols that show the in-control character the possibility of a friend’s tragic demise, and Guidance totems that aid in helping the player make the right decisions. The visions shown with these totems are quick and fragmented so it is up to the player to be able to make sense of them and utilize them to further the story. Often brutal, finding these totems offer an insight to the severity of choices to come and are definitely worth the effort in searching for all the possible ones you can gather.
The story itself is progressive and a huge reason to pick up this title for yourself but that is only one of the aspects of this game that make it worth playing. The delicate balance of quick-time events, the tricky maneuverings of trying to keep all of the characters alive and the nail-biting way Until Dawn compiles action sequences all work together to create a uniquely gratifying experience. Quick Time Events (QTEs), Don’t Move prompts, precision aiming and on-the-spot decision making are all aspects that work together to create a genuine fear of death in-game. The pressure is real and it is ON! The Don’t Move prompts were what got me more times than not. I finally learned to just set the controller down during those parts because even my attempt to stop breathing, I still somehow managed to trigger the motion detection. It’s tricky and very important to survival to just … remain … still. It’s brutal. To see a character that you’ve played as for hours die horrifically because you couldn’t get to that quick-time prompt fast enough is gut wrenching, to say the least.
The story was fantastic. It was layered but not terribly over-the-top and the characters were clichéd in a way that made you chuckle but still love them all of the same. The mechanics of the game down to QTEs, the decision-based formula and the layout of the storyline’s skeleton all make for a fantastically immersive horror experience, even if that horror experience does include a few loud expletives now and again.
I recommend this title whole-heartedly. If I didn’t already have a PS4, I would have bought it for this game alone. The story, the characters, the scares and the high replay-ability all make it a worthwhile journey and a game to put in the books alongside other great titles of this genre. An earnest addition to the horror family, you won’t regret it.
You can pick up this awesome thriller for super cheap here: Until Dawn on Amazon
9.5 out of 10
(This review by me was first featured on the Don’t Feed the Gamers Facebook page and website – it has also been featured as a spotlight review by Supermassive Games themselves)