Until Dawn: catchup review

The survival horror genre has been making a bit of a comeback recently thanks to games like Alien Isolation, The Evil Within and SOMA. Until Dawn takes a stab (excuse the pun) at the teen slasher genre, with a group of friends having a party in a remote lodge during their winter break. After a prank goes wrong, which leads to the apparent deaths of two sisters Hannah and Beth, the group of friends agree to return to the lodge a year later, after an invite from the sisters’ brother Josh. Needless to say the reunion doesn’t go as planned, and the friends end up in a desperate battle for survival.

Until Dawn has an ominous atmosphere.

The plot of Until Dawn draws inspirations from several teen horror movies like Friday the 13th, The Descent and the Saw series of films, and it’s obvious the developer has a lot of love for the genre. The story is also fairly predictable, with our group of hormonal teens playing ill advised pranks, falling out with one another, and getting all hot and bothered, while their numbers gradually dwindle. It is up to you to try and keep the group alive ‘Until Dawn’ arrives, and the titles roll. The story is full of horror cliches (and a fair dollop of cheese), and there are plenty of cheap scares along the way like the staple wild animal jumping out of the cupboard trick. The characters themselves seem to be your usual stereotypical horror fodder; but if you manage to keep them alive long enough, they do have a lot more to them than first meets the eye.

Guys is it not a bit chilly for that carry on?

The first thing that is striking about Until Dawn is the graphics, which are really impressive, with a suitably ominous atmosphere. The lighting in particular deserves praise as you scour your surroundings for clues to the goings on. Totems give you brief clips of forthcoming dangers, to help you avoid certain death. There are five different Totems based on Native-American beliefs which foretell Death, Danger, Loss, Guidance and Fortune. These are dotted throughout the game to help you make crucial decisions, and while some are pretty obscure, there were a few that helped us make the right decision. While the environments are stunning, the facial captures also deserve praise, with some pretty realistic depictions of the actors involved. Peter Stormare, from the Coen brothers’ sublime film Fargo, puts in a great performance as an unhinged doctor, while Brett Dalton from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. plays the arrogant tough guy Mike, and everyone’s favourite cheerleader from Heroes, Hayden Panettiere is fantastic as the likeable Sam. The characters are well acted and only a couple you would say were really irritating, which is par for the course in the horror genre.

Trick or treat?!

Until Dawn gives you various choices throughout its play time. Some may seem pretty innocuous at first, but can leave one of the group dead. Choices you make can cause a ripple effect through the story, which they call the Butterfly Effect, that can change the course of the story and the fate of the group. The game also utilises quick time events, much like Heavy Rain, with you needing to press the relevant buttons. Failure to do this may put the lives of one of the group in immediate danger. These can get quite intense when you are getting chased, although there are perhaps a bit too many perilous climbs for our liking. While the graphics are superb, some of the character movement is a bit clunky and lumbering, and some camera angles can leave your character obscured by say a piece of furniture or the branch of a tree, which is a bit frustrating. Motion controls are still present from its origins as a Move game. Keeping your controller perfectly still is hit or miss, and can lead to frustrating deaths of cast members. The plot is also fairly linear, and there are times when a character dies because you simply got a bit too cocky. In one instance we decided to leave the group and, needless to say our adventurous streak led to our character getting decapitated. It was like that moment in a horror film where one of the characters heads off to investigate a strange noise, and you’re left shrieking at the screen ‘No! Don’t do it!’

So which of you guys is the least annoying…

Until Dawn is a flawed, but enjoyable horror game that comes recommended. We do feel that the whole serial killer storyline should have stayed the focus of the plot, instead of veering off into a different genre of horror altogether, which has been done many times before. However, the Supermassive Games team deserve a lot of praise for creating an atmospheric horror game with plenty of jump scares to keep you on your toes. If you’re a fan of teen horrors like Friday the 13th, then there is a lot to love about Until Dawn. It might be cliched with bare bones gameplay, and it loses its way in the last third of the story – but Until Dawn is an enjoyable thrill ride that deserves your attention.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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