Video game review: Until Dawn (PS4)

Until Dawn, the latest offering from Supermassive Games, is billed as an “interactive drama survival horror video game.”

You play as a group of teenagers who have returned to a remote cabin somewhere south of the Rocky Mountains in Calgary. It’s the anniversary of the tragic disappearance of two of their friends. Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s ever watched an 80s slasher film, bad things start to happen.

In terms of gameplay, this game isn’t nearly as awkward as similar games have been. It plays more like a movie, with the player adopting the roles of the characters in various scenes as they progress through the night. If you’re quick on the draw and have steady hands, you should get through the quick time events and snap decisions relatively fine.

(At one point, two of my characters were at risk. Sensing my vulnerability, my hungry cat Sam chose that moment to head-butt my hands, and both characters suffered horrific fates. I don’t think Sam felt remorse.)

The pre-release marketing campaign heavily highlighted the game’s butterfly effect system, emphasizing the idea that gamers’ decisions really mattered. The hype didn’t end with the promos either; upon starting the game, they continue to tell you about the butterfly effect…a lot.

This excessive emphasis was probably a mistake. While your choices do change the story a bit, it’s still pretty linear. Choices mainly affect the characters’ dialogue and interaction with one another.

Despite this overhyped aspect, Until Dawn is still a solid horror game. There are plenty of jump scares and most of them are very well executed. While the decisions don’t have as much of an effect as advertised, they still add freshness to subsequent play-throughs. The voice and motion capture performances are amazing; Hayden Panettiere, Peter Stormare, and Meaghan Martin are especially good. The soundtrack is also great: the game kicks off with a haunting cover of the American folk song “O Death” which really helps set the mood.

In conclusion, if you love horror as much as I do, this is a must-play.

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