Real Talk By: Ms. Throwback
Like most of the horror fans out there I’ve been anxiously awaiting the next great horror title. Even a single game would be nice but nothing has done for me what the horror series of the 90’s did. Silent Hill and Resident Evil are of course the breakthrough titles that always get mentioned when any horror title drops. That’s because they have broken down barriers, and done things in gaming both psychologically and through their game play that other genres hadn’t even thought of, and I’m still waiting for anything to come even remotely close to Eternal Darkness. Let’s be honest, it might never happen, but that doesn’t mean that a horror game can’t be good right? Let’s see how exclusive Playstation 4 title, Until Dawn, fares against the competition.
Before moving on with this review a few things the readers need to know about this title. It has some unique aspects that other games don’t feature. The game is about nine hours in length, which usually would call for some negative pointers. Now and days we don’t want games to be short, who wants to pay sixty plus dollars just to beat the game in a single sitting? Until Dawn was specifically designed to be short because the developers want you to make multiple play-throughs. I played through twice for this review just to get a feel for the differences that can be had. The game uses what they term a “butterfly effect” mechanic. Essentially as you play through the title you will have several choices to make with several different characters. Each time a choice is made it can have an effect on a character or scenario later in the game. For example, during one of my play-throughs I shot a bird. Later on another bird attacked Sam because karma kicked in, Sam got a cut on her head from the bird attack and was followed by her killer because she left a blood trail. My second time through this event did not take place. The series of events that are possible seem endless really. The second play through was vastly different from my first which is a huge appeal for the game and something I enjoyed tremendously.
The first thing I noticed about the title was the incredible visuals. I knew I recognized some of the faces as well, and sure enough all the characters in the game are real people. Their likenesses certainly enhance this title. While some of the aspects of the story itself are corny and left field, the voice acting and animation of the characters is spot on. Several times throughout a play through and upon starting up the title the game recaps what has happened so far with a series of reviews cut scenes. The cut scenes are phenomenal as well as the pause screen which is used to check on clues and items collected throughout the game. The lighting and environments make the horror appeal even stronger. Characters are taken through everything from coal mines, to a log lodge, a basement, caves, water tower. It’s all incredibly well done.
The second aspect I noticed was the controls which could use some work. The title relies on a classic mechanic which was used in the original Resident Evil series. While the character moves along his environment, the camera cuts to a different angle and the player must adjust their controls for that particular angle. While I’m not the biggest fan of this scheme it does work well to create the odd scary atmosphere required for the title. While these types of controls can usually be frustrating, in this instance they become slightly more functional. For one thing, this title is not like others in that most of the time your character does not have a weapon. You can’t save yourself by slicing or shooting away at the enemy. The majority of the time running away or attacking is viewed in a cut scene after you have selected it as one of your characters choices which means your aren’t actually physically controlling your character so you don’t have to worry about the controls. Items and clues are hidden throughout the terrain and moving your flashlight back and forth will show a glint in the distance which can be used to pick up items. This is the main time in which the controls become rough because your character is far away and lining up with the items to actually click on in can take a couple of passes. In other words, I’ve seen worse control schemes, but also much better. Considering this game started development in 2010 and was originally supposed to be in a first person perspective on a completely different system, suppose I can make exceptions for some slightly wonky controls.
The story itself is really a classic, a bunch of high school kids (who seem way too old to be in high school) head up to a cabin and all hell breaks loose. The player gets the chance to play each of the characters during the nine-hour story line. Crazy creatures, psychopaths, historical figures, all kinds of horror themes are thrown into the mix. While I’ve never been a fan of the high school drama during a horror movie or game it might work in the games favor in this regard. It’s vastly entertaining just because I constantly rolled my eyes to the thought of “don’t go in there!” and “why are these women so helpless, my god you have a weapon use it!” it’s good stupid fun. I was hoping for a more serious vibe, and while the game did actually scare me and make me jump at times, I had just as many thoughts of how idiotic my characters were being. The good news is, if you don’t like the way your character is behaving you can change it, or you can change the way one character treats another. It’s all part of what makes the game fun. I would say the story is more suspenseful than scary. It’s clear the developers created the horror movie cliché vibe on purpose.
Ultimately I enjoyed the title, I felt is was unique not only among horror titles but also in the video game world in general. The only other title I can think of where your choices effect the outcome this much is in Mass Effect, which I am also a huge fan of mainly because of the conversation players choice options. While I enjoyed it, I realize that there is a player base that will not. If you are looking to kill something, this title isn’t for you. The game is about what is happening in the butterfly effect and not so much about taking out the enemy. You won’t be fighting villains and bosses, you will more be trying to talk yourself out of committing suicide and not killing the person on the other side of the table. Overall my horror genre game addiction was satisfied for a short while.
Until Dawn Gets
3.5 Out of 5
+Choices do have a significant effect on outcome
+Voice acting and character animation
+The story is entertaining
-Controls and camera angles can be wonky
-Some people may not like the story