After completing The Last of Us Part II, I had a realisation that I really haven’t played many PlayStation exclusives this generation. I’ve gone through some of the big hitters, but there are plenty of smaller titles that I have never touched. So, I decided to embark on a trip to eBay and pick some of them up cheap, second hand. (Another reason why I love discs.)
In fact, I didn’t even know about Until Dawn until I came across it in a “Best PS4 Exclusives” article. Starring Rami Malek, who was most recently the protagonist in one of the best TV shows this decade, Mr. Robot, I was surprised that I wasn’t aware of its existence. For those in a similar position to me, and without delving too far in without spoilers, it’s an interactive story that follows a group of friends as they meet up in a creepy old house atop a mountain. Yes, a snowy mountain at that, one so high up you have to get into a cable car to reach it.
Cable cars. Creepy houses. Snow. If it was me, I wouldn’t be bloody well going there. I’ve seen The Thing. I know what happens.
Disregarding my personal fears, Until Dawn starts off pretty strongly with an unfortunate death (or murder?). Immediately you are informed of the butterfly system, meaning every choice you make will have consequences later on in the story, for all eight playable characters. The handy thing is that, once you’ve finished the eight-or-so hour story, you can go back to each chapter and alter the choices you make to see the end result. Did taking the mobile from that backpack save a life a few moments later?
Another thing I immediately noticed is that whilst the graphics hold up very well, even on a PlayStation 4 Pro there are hitches throughout. It targets 30FPS, but this can drop fairly substantially when there’s a lot happening on-screen, or when there are multiple faces in scene, due to the motion capture employed. For a game like Until Dawn though, it’s not a huge issue; it’s certainly not fast paced (in most sections), so the “cinematic” 30FPS and under can be forgiven. If such a thing can ever be said.
Perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t know about Until Dawn is my lifelong aversion to horror games. There’s just something about them that I don’t get along with. Horror films? Yep, fine, although I’ll try not to watch them at night. Daytime, you know, curtains open… My main concern on starting this game would be too many jump scares, but to be honest most of these I could predict. But as a whole, developer Supermassive Games really crafted an excellent atmosphere during the entire game. The fixed camera angles are a large part of this, employed to great effect all the way through.
Some of the characters ground on me a little, Emily more so than the others. It’s just that whiny voice, you know, and the constant whining. I feel sorry for Matt, her boyfriend. Even if I did want her to just shut the f*** up, it’s pretty good writing on all of their behalf that they are all believable people. In fact, the entire story – whilst some parts are a little more over-the-top than others – is well delivered, which must be a difficult feat when you’re dealing with as many multi-layers of choices available to the player.
After completing each chapter, of which there are 10, you talk to a shrink, played by Peter Stormare (Fargo). The conversations you have result in slight alterations to make the game more fearful for you. For example, he will show you a selection of pictures, and ask which ones you find creepier. You can imagine how that plays out. But it’s just a little quirk that works quite well, and these conversations break up the playthrough nicely.
In all, I definitely enjoyed this story and its delivery. I was a little wary it might dive into full-on teen horror with a ridiculous plot, thankfully it didn’t and I was left pleasantly surprised by the ending. So much so that I went back to some chapters and altered my choices; something I very rarely do anymore.