Until Dawn is an interactive drama survival horror adventure game in which every decision you make effects the ending and the way the game plays out. Every choice that you make in this game has a consequence – think about that for a second. Sometimes it’s something as simple as some bad blood between the characters, other times the result of your decision can ultimately lead to DEATH. Every single player will ultimately experience a different game based on the choices they make throughout, whether it’s choosing to be consoling or aggressive to someone in a conversation, or perhaps taking a shortcut instead of a safer route in an action scene.
The game begins with a cast of eight young people (led by Hayden Panettiere as Sam) having their annual winter get-together at the Blackwood Pines lodge, which is owned by Josh and his two sisters, Hannah and Beth. When Hannah becomes the unsuspecting victim of a cruel prank, is where the story goes awry. This all happens very quickly at the games beginning and I’m not going to say anything further that would spoil the story. However, the beauty of this game is that it is possible to have a completely different outcome based on the decisions you make. So what happened in my couple playthroughs is likely not the exact same as what will happen in yours. As I eluded to earlier, the worst thing that can happen to a player is causing one the characters to die. However, it is possible to keep all eight characters alive. Conversely, in a much grimmer version of the story, it is also possible to have all eight characters die.
This game can best be described as an interactive movie – which is what most games would claim to be but only this one truly captures the meaning. Ironically enough, I will note that the game is slightly linear in the fact that certain plot points will occur no matter what choices you make but I do not believe that it is a big deal. The interactivity and the ability to directly effect the story in this game are still light years ahead of anything else I’ve ever played.
The gameplay in this game basically comes in 3 different forms: third person view exploring the map area, selecting a decision with the right stick, and a series of button presses during chase or other action type sequences. When controlling various characters around the map, exploration is rewarded with different totems. There are six different types of totems to collect and they all serve different purposes, showing a possible future event lasting only a second or two. There are guidance totems that show you a glimpse of what might be the best decision to make at a certain point. There are several others and of course, the vital death totem which will display how a character might die. These totems all serve as clues as to how to proceed in the story and possibly prevent a death.
Action sequences can become intense very quickly. In one example I’ll give, you are climbing a rock face and have to choose whether to take the safe path (which would take longer and could possibly cost someone their life) or take the shortcut (and possibly risk death yourself). Regardless of choice, the mechanics are the same. The built in mic on the controller makes a countdown type sound, the screen shows a series of button prompts and you must press them in time to complete the action move without bringing possible harm to the character you are controlling. One thing I’m not sure about is whether or not the time allowed on the button presses is even tighter on a risky path. These sequences were very intense and I was freaking out about hitting the wrong button or missing them altogether.
In between each chapter, you are shown to be visiting a psychologist and answering questions regarding your feelings towards various characters, or perhaps things you most fear. This is a super cool feature and the best part is that the decisions you make here are also brought into the game later. Really, really cool stuff and in the later chapters the psychologist visits actually enhance the storyline.
Also in-between chapters is a recap of what has happened previously, usually showing critical choices that you make that have or will effect the outcome of the game. I kind of wish that they would have also put this same type of recap feature in the game when you are continuing after a day or two away from the game.
I will note that there is an option to see global stats for all potential player choices. It’s off by default, later in the game I decided to turn it on but I was disappointed to see that it shows the stats during the decision making process. These stats can influence your decision making process so I recommend keeping these off. A better way of doing this would have been to do it in a similar manner to a game called Catherine, where it shows you AFTER you make a decision what players chose globally.
This game is a PS4 exclusive, and was originally slated to be released on PS3 but ultimately held back to harness the power of the PS4 to bring the game to life. I think it was a great move given that the game is very unique and also adds another wonderful new IP to Playstation’s exclusive library.
Until Dawn is unlike any other game I’ve ever played. The game reminds me of the movie, “Saw” quite a bit in some of the plot points with a little bit of “Final Destination” tossed in. This game is intense and will literally keep you on the edge of your seat, the weight of each decision plays on your mind. The game even plays mind games with you, using decisions you made with the psychologist against you.
The graphics are incredible, and there are many times that it appears photorealistic. On disc are some behind the scenes videos of the cast and when you see them, you can see they absolutely nailed it. They look exactly like their real life counterparts, it really is amazing. The lighting, textures, and everything in this game are very realistic. The score and overall sound is very well done, whether it’s an action sequence or just a simple cutscene, the sound definitely makes an impact and adds to the intensity and immersion. As I’ve already noted, the gameplay and story are exceptional and very unique. Some players will want to play through the games many times to see how many different outcomes they can get. Although it’s a single player game, it is a great game to play with someone else if you have them aid your decision making process – my wife loved it! If you own a PS4, this game needs to be in your library and is an absolute must play!