Until Dawn Review - Spoiler Free

Until Dawn is a Playstation 4 exclusive that is extremely easy to spoil so if you're eager to play this title without having the game spoiled then please feel free to continue reading this review as there will be no plot points or part of the game revealed.

Until Dawn's developer 'Supermassive Games' has done a great job in keeping the essentials of Until Dawn under wraps. Nothing was spoiled for me before going into this game which I was very pleased with because the ultimate enjoyment from this game comes from learning about what is happening and how it happens.

Until Dawn is a single player experience that lives quite pleasantly within the survival horror and adventure genre. To help you all decide whether or not you will enjoy this game I have a few games that I would compare this game to and they are of the likes of 'Heavy Rain', 'Beyond: Two Souls' and even any of the games by 'Telltale Games'.

The story is the hardest part to try and explain to give you an idea of what happens because I don't want to give anything away. I have said that Until Dawn is a teen horror movie that puts you in the director's seat. The scene is set at the start of the game where a group of young adults attend a cabin which is located somewhere in a Canadian forest. Some things happen which are sure to make you tremble with fear depending on how high your tolerance for scary scenes is. The games story is broken into ten separate chapters which are headed with a "Previously on Until Dawn" montage which is not to dissimilar to the way 'Alan Wake' was created. This feature was absolutely fantastic to recap the actions of what had previously happened. Whether you had just completed the chapter or more so if you were coming back from a break in the game play it served as a nice catch up on what happened last time you played.

The story will set you back around 7-10 hours of game play time depending on how much time you spend spelunking around for items to interact with. I played Until Dawn with my wife sitting beside me engaged in the story. I don't typically react heavily to scare moments in games, but for me this game built up suspense enough that it affected me with a lot of anxiety. As for my poor wife sitting beside me, it scared the hell out of her.

The first thing that I noticed when starting off my new game was how spectacular the in-game graphics are presented. The game is run off an evolved Killzone: Shadowfall engine which helps this 3rd person interactive horror game shine. The characters in the game are rendered extremely well and fit into their environments extremely well. The character models are built using real world actors and there are also a couple of faces that were familiar to me from watching TV shows and some popular movies. As for who those actors are, I will leave that up to you to have your own "Hey, I know that person" moment, just as I did.

The motion capture is executed wonderfully and the performances by the actors are believable and enjoyable. The attitudes and personalities of all of the characters are conveyed precisely which will leave you with your own very strong opinions of each character. This is an impressive feat considering that there are so many characters within the game. At first I thought that I was going to have a hard time remembering who was who, but the game and the story is delivered in such a way that I felt all characters got their due screen time and also had an effect on me whether in a good or bad way.

A good atmosphere is key to delivering a successful horror based genre that will manage to actually scare you. The environments are crafted with such precision that the game looks stunning, even though there is a lot of darkness and dim lit areas. The area that you have free reign in feels like it is massive and expansive, although it appears to be a mainly linear style game.

Until Dawn undoubtedly makes full use of the Playstation 4's hardware and delivers amazing visuals. For example, in the cold snowy weather, some characters are seen to be wearing coats that have faux fur around the collars. This looks spectacular when it's flapping about in the cold wind which gives a great feeling of how cold it must me. Other small details such as the particle effects of snow and dust also give a great sense of the atmosphere of the locations. The environments are given a life of their own and become a character all to itself.

Until Dawn heavily uses a system referred to as the "Butterfly Effect". If you're unfamiliar with the Butterfly Effect, it is explained within the game somewhat similar to this definition which is inspired by the Chaos Theory:

"The phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere" - Essentially the flapping wings of a tiny butterfly can cause tidal waves on the other side of the world due to a chain reaction type event. Using this Chaos Theory Until Dawn will be filled with many moments where the player will experience life and death moral dilemmas where the may not be a "correct" answer, but whatever you choose will leave you with the consequences. Keep in mind though that taking no action is sometimes also a choice.

This is the system that I refer to be most similar to the Telltale games however in Until Dawn, the decisions that you make will make a difference to the game that you ultimately play. I have found that in Telltale's games the decisions you made are somewhat superficial to the final outcome of the games story and game play. In Until Dawn it is very safe to say that your final outcome will differ somewhat to that of a friends play through because of each and every different decision that is made. For example, after completing the games story I immediately call up my friend Sean (Thorncliff) who had also played Until Dawn and asked him a few questions about the game. I said "What did you think of the part where...?" and he would say "That didn't happen for me" or "That happened but not that way". 

This makes the game truly remarkable because two people can have two completely different outcomes after playing the exact same game. My wife even said to me that she wants to play it next because I made some choices that she would have done differently. The best part about that is that even though she watched the whole game with me, she will still play with an eagerness to find out what happens next because it won't be the same as when she watched me play.

Another great feature in Until Dawn with the decision making is that there are so many times where you are forced to make split second decisions which will only give you a short time to decide before forcing action. This will make players use their instincts rather than taking the time to think rationally about the situation. This adds a stress element to the game that the character is no doubt experiencing themselves. Another thing I noticed that is something I have not seen in other games of this type, but there are no "You Died" screens where you need to hit continue and try again. Your decisions are final and there are no retries.

Now, I know this has all been a little vague but I am writing this way on purpose. What I can tell you is that I had a great time behind the controller with Until Dawn and I can say without a doubt that this is one of the best scare games that I have played in a long time.

Thanks for taking the time to check out this review. If you want to hear more discussion on this game then please check out our podcast. We will be covering Until Dawn on the next episode (Episode 92) and we have covered plenty of other big games on our previous shows. You can search for Aussie Gamers Express using iTunes, Stitcher Radio or TuneIn Radio. Thanks again.

Lucas Aurelius (AKA LewkOne)

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