I’m not a huge fan of horror films, most of them seem to follow the same basic formula: group of teens/young adults go to a location and slowly get picked off by a crazed person. They could all survive, but they all make stupid mistakes that leave you cringing and frustrated.
Until Dawn is the game of all those films, but with one acute difference: you get to make the choices, and you can affect the outcome of the game/film.
Everything about the game looked and sounded great.
Until I started playing it.
To keep the cinematic feel, SuperMassive Games have used fixed cameras, meaning that to explore a cabin you have to walk towards the hallway, then at some point as walk into the hallway the camera will suddenly change and instead of walking away from the camera you are now walking towards a different camera. Or, more often than not, due to the sudden change in view/direction, you’re getting turned around or walking into a wall as your brain tries to correct your direction.
Hilarity ensues if you’re watching someone’s Twitch stream. If you’re playing the game however, it’s the first niggles of frustration. The other issue with fixed cameras is it makes exploration – one of the essential ingredients of the game – a painful experience of trying to walk into blind spots jut in case there is a door/clue that you haven’t found. It’s just the worst way for a user experience to be forced to play. Cinematically it’s pretty sweet, other than ending up looking like a comedy at times.
The next issue for Until Dawn is that after the brief tutorial level, you have to play the part of eight young people as they make their way up a to a winter ski lodge, by way of lots of walking, exploring, waiting, making inane choices and such forth. The game drags it’s sorry ass a a pace akin to a snail through a puddle of superglue.
A big part of Until Dawn is how all of your choices have game changing consequences, but half the time you don’t care about the choices you have. For example, do you tell your friend that you just saw her arch nemesis hugging her current boyfriend? Who the fuck cares?
And the characters themselves, despite having paid some recognisable Hollywood talent to play the roles, are not that endearing. At one point in the game I had to stop myself from deliberately killing a character just because I was sick of having to interact with them.
The basic choice mechanics have you moving the thumbstick left or right for one of two choices – often neither are choices you want – and these choices can come up at unexpected times. On a couple of occasions I was exploring an area, using both thumbsticks to move and shine my torch when I triggered a make a choice cut scene, and before I knew what was happening, I inadvertently moved my thumbstick and made a choice without even knowing it.
And then there is the heavy reliance on quicktime butting mashing sequences – I’ve never been a fan of these – and unlike Tomb Raider, if you make a terminal mistake, you don’t get to go back and re-try the whole sequence.
Thrown into the mix of always having to choose left or right, or quickly hitting the correct button, you get a shoot/attack option that gives you a limited amount of time to move your aiming point to the per-determined target and then press the trigger. This is actually a fairly solid mechanic as it utalises skill rather tan just getting the right button hit. The only problem is that with all the heavy focus on making sure you choose an option or hit the right button/target, there are also times when not doing anything is the correct choice. You are told this in the training level, but by the time you’re faced with a game changing option, you’ve forgotten that you have the choice to do nothing as you’ve been conditioned by the game, and you end up making a fatal choice without realising you didn’t have to.
That’s a whole other level of frustrating.
Then there’s the weird shit where the storyline you’ve chosen doesn’t line up with the story that’s played out in the next cut-scene. Without trying to spoil anything, lets just say you decided to make a character kill themselves, then in the next cut scene they are still alive. Yeah that. Might work in Pulp Fiction, but not in a game where you every choice affects the outcome of the story.
And with the whole butterfly effect, I know that making choices will cause the game to go down different paths. It’s a simple mechanic. However, in Until Dawn it doesn’t feel like that. Everything feels per-determined. And the choices as I mentioned before are seldom choices you would ever make if you were in the same situation.
Add to all of this, is some very nonsensical plot directions, bad acting and terrible scrip writing and you have a game that is painfully slow, relies on jump scares and frustrates the crap out of you.
The storyline does get interesting towards the end, but by then you really don’t care, and even though I’m interested to find out what happens in the end, I got so frustrated at the game, so bored to tears with it that I said fuck it. Took the game out, and put it back on the shelf, never wanting to play it again.
Basically SuperMassive Games have recreated your cliched horror film, and if you’re a fan of that, then maybe you’ll love Until Dawn. Hashtagme’s PhidMcAwesome certainly loved it, you can check his review here, if you want a different take on the game.
Reviewed on: PS4
Rating: R16 Contains violence, offensive language and horror.
Reviewed by: Jonathan