'Until Dawn' Will Scare The Pants Off Of You

August 26, 2015

Since the advent of Resident Evil, "horror" video games have taken on a very specific tone. They're full of blood and guts, and twisted and deformed enemies that are meant to drum up fear by relying heavily on disgust as the main mechanic. However, if you look at how movies have nearly perfected scaring the pants off of their audiences you'll know that suspense is really the way to go if you want to mess with someone's mind. Planting the seed that something could happen allows the viewer to delve deep into their own psyche, and conjure up the worst possible scenario; a truly good movie then outdoes that. Video games rarely go down that road, and instead opt for the glitz and glamour of virtual gore, but Sony's latest release, Until Dawn, from developer Supermassive Games, tries to find that sweet spot between anticipation and fear with the frightful, cinematic nightmare of eight unfortunate teens.

Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: SCEA

If "Supermassive Games" doesn't sound that familiar to you, it's likely because the studio has only released two games prior to Until Dawn: Start The Party and Tumble, both for the PlayStation Move. Since then, they've gone dark, and have been working on Until Dawn, which is actually another game that was originally intended to be a PlayStation Move exclusive. Thankfully, the studio took their time with this very unique experience, and opted to bring it to the PlayStation 4 with traditional controls so that everyone can try to find out what's hiding in the woods.

Until Dawn explores the age old story of eight teenagers that are stuck in a creepy cabin, on a mountain, in a snowstorm. You might be able to guess that things don't go exactly as the planned, and the group finds themselves in a fight for their lives. At the open of the game, there are ten kids in the same cabin, but after playing a prank on one of the hosts, her and her twin sister go missing in the woods. One year later, the remaining kids reconvene on the mountain, seeking closure, and a place to have some unsupervised fun. All is well and good until it's really not, and the kids start turning up either dead or in the horrible position of having to save themselves while sacrificing their friends. The story, and its ensuing scenarios, are the product of countless modern-day horror films, that push the limits of violence and gore, while doing their best to mess with someone's mind. In other words, it does just what a horror game should.

You don't play as any one character in this motley crew of young adults (some of which are portrayed by notable Hollywood stars like Hayden Panettiere, Noah Fleiss, and Rami Malek); instead you hop back and forth between storylines as the plot progresses through the night. If you can play your cards right, you can keep everyone alive until the morning, but it's a really hard hand to play when you're up against some really bad dudes. As a cinematic experience, a lot of the gameplay boils down to walking around, searching for objects, solving puzzles, and the occasional quicktime event. Removing the reliance on intensive gameplay, balances out with a more developed story so that the player can fully immerse themseves in what is going on around them. Until Dawn also creates diverging paths throughout the game by putting emphasis on the choices that you make, and employing a butterfly effect mechanic that alters certain future events.

Until Dawn is a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It's best played on a big screen TV, alone in a dark room. That's when all of those jump scares really pay off.

Much like the movies that inspired its twisted story, Until Dawn is only going to appeal to a certain kind of audience; one that might be looking for something a little different, a little scary, and a little juvenile. Plenty of movies like Hostel, Scream, and Saw laid the groundwork for Until Dawn by introducing many of the concepts that the player must manage; from suicide or sacrifice, to navigating the complex inner workings of a teenage clique. While the jump scares can be a bit much throughout the game, Until Dawn manages to introduce a cast of characters that, for the most part, you care about enough to try and keep alive, and that is what makes this release compelling. Jumping back and forth between each of the eight kids can be a bit tedious, but it is ultimately worth it, since knowing what is happening at the same time, on a different part of the mountain is really intriguing. Ultimately, Until Dawn isn't for the faint of heart, and it's creepy atmosphere, and story are likely to turn off some players before even getting out of the gate. However, if you are in the mood for a bit of the macabre, and don't throw the controller and run out of the room when something unexpected jumps out at you, Until Dawn may just be the game that you've been waiting a long time to play.