Until Dawn Preview
When I heard that Until Dawn was described as a “teen horror adventure,” I had to cringe. I’m sorry but in my experience, any entertainment with the word “teen” in it is just beyond stupid (an insult to those in that age group, by the way). However, in learning more about this surprisingly promising survival/horror title for PlayStation 4, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m excited. Obviously, a character’s age and sex is irrelevant when it comes to quality storylines and great interactive experiences; what matters is that developer Supermassive isn’t treating this like a typical “teen” product. It’s a little campy, sure, but it has a distinctly horrific, legitimately frightening atmosphere.
The best part about the game is that we’ll make choices that have significant and even permanent consequences. It reminds me of Heavy Rain in that way and of course, it’s reminiscent of those scary Choose Your Own Adventure books from our childhood. Run into the closet? Go down the hall? It’s your choice but whatever that choice is, you’ll have to stick with it (no keeping your finger on the page and saying it doesn’t count!). Another interesting aspect is that the game begins by trying to assess your fears and the more honest you are, the more hair-raising your adventure will be. Does blood and gore freak you out, or do you have a problem with crowds? What about needles or bugs? If you choose needles, for example, the serial killer in the game is armed with a syringe.
The protagonist is named Sam (played by “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere) and she has become the unfortunate target of the aforementioned villain. You can expect some standard horror tropes, such as Sam wandering around a dark house, telling her invisible friends that the prank “has gone far enough.” Then there are things that make you jump but remain benign; i.e., a chiming clock or something like that. Again, your choices determine the course of the adventure; if you want to be stupid, you can get Sam killed pretty quickly and the story ends. I’m hoping that we’ll get numerous and very different endings, depending on our decisions. Wasn’t there something like 22 possible endings in Heavy Rain…?
The game’s presentation will be relatively unique, in that it’ll be closer to horror films than other video games in the same genre. If you’ve seen some of the footage thus far, you’ll notice the camera work; it’s definitely geared more toward movies. Because the focus is squarely on atmosphere and decision-making, you’re going to have to accept the standard QTE options. Given the circumstances, we should be far more interested in what’s happening around us as opposed to the basic control scheme. Still, it’s likely that some critics and gamers will find fault with this supposedly “old-fashioned” setup, despite the fact that it remains a legitimate interactive storytelling technique. Supermassive will really have to engage us, however.
Sam’s friends could bite the dust, depending on her choices, and if they die, they’re gone for good. The game just continues on without that character, which could have a direct impact on Sam’s well-being in the near future. The structure and style of the game is fine but again, there are reasons for concern, especially after the ordeal surrounding The Order: 1886. Many ripped it for having too many QTEs and being too short. Well, that’s pretty much what Supermassive’s effort will be like; they’ve estimated the length to be around 9 hours, very similar to Ready at Dawn’s PS4 exclusive. I’m perfectly fine with that and besides, let’s not forget that both games in question look – or will look – pretty damn impressive.
Until Dawn is currently scheduled to arrive at the end of August. If done correctly, it could end up being one of the most effectively freaky games in existence. The way it’s shot and presented will make it stand out; provided the interactive elements are clean and enjoyable, we should have a scary good time.
3/5/2015 Ben Dutka