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Until Dawn review

Sam Loveridge

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Until Dawn
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Summary

Our Score:

5

Pros

  • Top-notch facial capture
  • Excellent American-teen horror movie storyline
  • Fully-fleshed characters

Cons

  • Too short
  • Expensive
  • Not as many choices as originally believed
  • Can be a little slow in places

Exclusive to PS4

Some say that the only thing to fear is fear itself. And they’re right. But we’ve all got fears of our own, and as irrational as they may be, they are very easy to manipulate you with. And that’s what Until Dawn is betting on.

This is a horror game with your own personal fears at its core, but told through the story of eight friends returning to a remote mountain lodge a year after the disappearance of their friends Hannah and Beth. The girls fled into the wood after a prank on Hannah went a bit wrong, and were never seen again.

Now their brother Josh has brought the gang back together for a reunion to honour his sisters, but it’s not long before it all starts to go wrong and the group discovers a masked madman is after their blood. Each one of the eight characters, and you the player, will be gripped by fear.

Until Dawn

The game has a cast with a few familiar faces in it, including Hayden Panettiere from Heroes as Sam and Brett Dalton from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as Mike. And, without a doubt, this is some of the best facial and motion capture that we’ve seen in a game. Powered by the Killzone Shadowfall Engine, Until Dawn is stunning and manages to capture all the nuances of facial expression, especially as our faces contort in fear.

And as I said before, the game will be tainted with your own fears too. Another Hollywood cameo comes from Peter Stormare of Fargo (the movie) and Prison Break fame as psychiatrist Dr. Hill. Interspersed between the chapter of Until Dawn, which all begin with a quick recap of everything that’s happened so far in the game, are sessions with Dr. Hill, who begins to interrogate you as a player on your hopes, fears and impressions of how the game is going so far.

It’s a great way of bringing you directly into the game and as soon as he worked out I am terrified of spiders, needles and not particularly fond of scarecrows, I started to notice elements of the gameplay had been tailored to my own fears.

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Until Dawn

But, although these personal touches are just one part of the terrifying story of Until Dawn, the game’s overall premise is that every choice you make in your search for answers, both to who the masked man is and to what happened to Beth and Hannah, will create your own unique story.

Developer Supermassive Games claims that every player will have a different experience and carve a different story, but it’s actually a bit of a con. As an avid fan of games like Heavy Rain, I was overly excited to get my hands on another choice-driven game, but don’t have too high hopes.

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Until Dawn

You take control of a variety of characters in each chapter and you’ll quickly learn who you like and the ones you could live without – I’m looking at you Emily. Supermassive has done a great job of creating rounded characters with strong personalities. You’ll want to make the choices that do the right thing for each character, especially if it’s going to get rid of the whiny and annoying character that is slowly driving you mad.

Due to the game’s focus on the Butterfly Effect, where one choice – even the trivial ones – will affect the way the rest of the game pans out, what you do with one character may affect another later on.

You can even view all your choices in the game menu by pressing R1, along with all the clues and totems you’ve collected. These totems are a nod to the American Indian heritage of the mountain, but also give you a glimpse at the potential futures to come in Until Dawn if you find them throughout the game.

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Until Dawn

But the problem is, and I won’t drop any spoilers here, but as you build up to the first major plot point, you’ll realise that it’s all very inevitable and that whatever choices you make won’t affect the overarching plot line. instead, you’ll just make ripples below the surface that make minor changes to the events of the story.

When you realise that, smaller choices feel a lot more trivial and it's only when you reach the closing chapters, where your choices can mean you losing one or more of your characters through a silly mistake, that they your actions begin to feel meaningful.

The actual gameplay is a bit of a mixed bag. One minute you’ll be guiding a character through an area using the right stick to control the torchlight and pick up glowing points of interest in each room. You can interact with objects by picking them up with R2 and then rotating them with the right stick. It’s then you might find a clue as to what happened to Hannah and Beth or to the identity of the masked gunman. But if you miss some of these clues, you might miss out on some of the more informative cutscenes later in the game, so make sure you explore as much as possible.

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Until Dawn

The choices you make are always brought up in front on your character on-screen, with you only having to tilt the right stick towards the option you want to take. That ranges from the route you want to take when running from the madman, opting to hide rather than run or making the choice between telling the truth or telling a lie to protect your friend.

But, there are also a lot of quick time event (QTE) sequences where you’ll need to press the appropriate button to make a jump mid-chase, reach a foothold in a climb or avoid the grip of the gunman. I’d argue that it can make for some tense and jumpy gameplay, but sometimes it feels like you want more control over your characters’ fate.

I did like the sections where you are tasked with keeping as still as possible though, with the PS4 tracking the motion of the DualShock 4’s lightbar, meaning you as a player need to keep statue still in order to save your character. It increases the tension and starts you heart racing, mimicking the emotions felt by the character.

See also: PS4 FAQ - Everything you need to know

Until Dawn

The issue is that the arguments that have been made about The Order: 1886, can also be made about Until Dawn. There’s a great storyline with true American-teen horror movie moments that will have you leaping from your seat with fear, stunning graphics, strong characters and some good gameplay elements, but ultimately this is a full-priced game that only lasts around seven hours at best.

I’ve managed to play through the game twice in my review session and because some of the choices you make are so trivial, you actually won’t want to play through a second time – you can’t even keep two save games at once, meaning you need to wipe all your progress if you want to try out some alternatives.

Supermassive Games hasn’t even mentioned the possibility of DLC for this title, so once you’ve finished playing, you’ve gotten everything out of this campaign-only title that you’ve just spent £45 on.

Verdict

If you’re looking for an interactive horror movie, Supermassive Games has totally nailed it. The strong storyline is bursting with boo-scares, gore and stereotypically creepy settings – to the point I had to put my controller down to stop my heart racing several times. And I loved and loathed all of the characters in their own way.

But I wouldn’t spend £45 on Until Dawn. And that’s a major issue for this PS4 exclusive. It feels too short, lacks replayability and any alternative modes for such a premium fee. If this was priced like a Telltale game’s season pass, it would be perfect and totally justified; something I’d wholeheartedly recommend.

At this price though, and due it not quite delivering on its promises, I fear Until Dawn won’t be getting the exposure it should deserve.

Overall Score

5

Horus Shepard

August 24, 2015, 4:49 pm

Hmmm... not sure why a game like this loses points for length, since the developer stated many times that this is meant to be played more than once. If you look back throughout history, average game length is around 7 hours for Triple AAA. Not sure how long the reviewer thinks a game should last, but 7 hours is perfect. Most of your complaints fall around length and price, which are purely subjective points to make, and provide no factual information for the reader to make a decision. It's almost as if you needed to bring these two points to the forefront to justify docking points. If game length and price are more important to you than the actual game itself, then I eagerly look forward to your COD: Black Ops 3 review in November.

EsperStarr

August 24, 2015, 4:56 pm

Yeah this review doesn't get the point. YOUR playtrhu was short because of YOUR choices. THe game literally won't be the same the second, third, 4th, or fifth time you play .....

COnsidering other's are actually seeing this and giving the game a higher score, I think you guys kinda horribly missed the mark....

NotTrusted...

TrustedReviews Sam

August 25, 2015, 10:05 am

I played it through twice, as I stated in the review. Both times it took me around seven hours and it feels a lot shorter than that - even though I made totally different decisions each time.

TrustedReviews Sam

August 25, 2015, 10:06 am

I'm not sure how you think you can compare Black Ops 3 and Until Dawn. Black Ops will have a campaign, co-op options and a multiplayer. Until Dawn is single-player only and, trust me, you won't want to play it through again. I'm speaking from experience - I played it twice.

Horus Shepard

August 25, 2015, 12:08 pm

"I'm not sure you can compare Black Ops 3 and until dawn. Black Ops will have a campaign, co-op option and a multiplayer."

-This comment makes no sense. The context being discussed here is whether you can review a game based off of price and length. COD games have a 4 hour campaign and charge upwards of $100 to access all of the content. You've painted yourself into a corner on this one, since not judging COD with the same level of scrutiny would brand you a hypocrite.

"Until Dawn is single player only, and trust me, you won't want to play through it again."

-Odd, since most other reviewers disagree with you. But I'm supposed to "trust" you, when you're docking points for a 7 hour campaign THAT WAS MEANT TO BE PLAYED MORE THAN ONCE? How does anyone take you seriously with such willful ignorance? You have to be the only person on the planet who didn't know what they were getting before they bought the game. Nearly everything that you complained about are the exact reasons why people want to play it.

Sorry bud, COD and Until Dawn are a logical comparison to make, when discussing price and length. Can't weasel out of this one. The perceived value that COD offers has been discussed for many years now, and still is a bone of contention among players. A review is an opinion, so you're entitled to that. Consistency is the key word though, and I don't think you can adequately review a game based off of these parameters. Your choice, you're site. My suggestion is before you dock a game on length, you might want to check the average length for other games in the genre. If you would have done a small amount of research you would have seen that the average horror game over the last four years was between six to eight hours. You obviously didn't do that research. Plus, I don't know how long long you expect a game to be that has more than 10 different endings. smh

A. Mir

August 26, 2015, 12:25 pm

This reads as a 7-8/10 game but you notched two-three points off the total score because of your 7th hour playthrough? COD has a 4 hour campaign and you have to pay to play it online....

Yeah, totally Trusted review... Geez

Walter

August 28, 2015, 9:58 am

Thanks for the review, although I do think you're a bit off what most of the other reviews are saying, I do appreciate honest opinions.
I'll be getting it anyway since I'm a big horror fan and a huge Heavy Rain fan.

Sean

August 28, 2015, 3:01 pm

Except that it's not. You would have be completely out of the loop to think COD is primarily a single-player focused experience. When you buy a COD title now, the developers fully EXPECT you to play the multiplayer as well. Exactly why there was is a multiplayer BETA running right now. CoD stopped being about the single player campaigns back at Call of Duty 4... where have you been?

Until Dawn is nothing BUT a single-player experience. There is no multi-player experience, and there is no other content to play once you have beaten the game... the game's length is literally capped at 7 hours unless you want to go through the game several times to get every single little choice... which the large majority won't want to do, let alone reviewers. FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE EVERYTHING.

Despite what you might think the multiplayer and co-op experience in COD DO add up to the overall playtime time and duration of the title; and you can't weasel out of this one... as I've said, the developers actually expect you to play co-op and multiplayer. In the past, the developers of COD have even admitted their focus on campaign was weak because players primary focus of time was solely on the multiplayer which they gathered over time through statistics / online data. PLAYERS asked for the short campaigns without knowing they did.

Now stop creating strawmans and do a little research before you, like the rest of the idiots, use COD as a bad example of a game.

Terry Hartung

August 28, 2015, 11:04 pm

It's very kind of you to reply to this person, but why bother? They obviously prefer the reviews elsewhere because they gave it a score that they feel warranted their purchase. I appreciate your honesty and will likely wait for a deep price cut before picking this up.

Ian Cooper

September 1, 2015, 5:28 pm

Why did you think that the plot would change? That was never the intention of the developers, nor is it ever a good idea to have multiple plots. It was always about who lives and who dies. Multiple plot lines always lead to disappointment - secondary plots are never as good as the original idea.

Here is part of the intro from the developer's site:

"Gripped by fear and with tensions in the group running high, you'll be forced to make snap decisions that could mean life, or death, for everyone involved.
Every choice you make in your terrifying search for answers - even the seemingly trivial ones - will carve out your own unique story."

Sure, this is open to interpretation, but it's clear to me at least that the second sentence refers to the first. It's a "unique story" in terms of who survives, not in terms of where the plot leads.

Amazon's blurb says:

"Carve your path to survival with branching story lines..."

Again, it's all about the survival - the branching story lines carve a path to survival - not to a different plot.

Replayability in this game comes from the desire to save more people, not from the desire to see a different plot. You ignore that fact, because you already decided that the game should be what you wanted it to be, not what the developers told us it would be.

I've played this game for 20 hours so far and the best I've managed is 5 people saved. That probably means I have at least another 7 hours to play, if I get lucky, to save all 8. $60 for 30 hours gameplay seems like a really good deal to me, especially when a trip to the movie theater costs a quarter of that and all I get is 2 hours of non-interactive entertainment.

Also, your idea that the choices are trivial? Don't you understand the game at all? Choices that "seem" trivial lead to devastating conclusions. That's the whole point of the game. They are supposed to look trivial, but I guess you can't see beneath the surface.

In short, I don't trust your review, and I don't see any reason to trust your future reviews, because your preconceptions about what you thought the game was going to be are not allowing you to see what this game is actually supposed to be. How can you honestly and accurately review what you never bothered to understand?

Gato crackudo

September 2, 2015, 12:38 pm

He's wrong. Three game looks amazing and it's unpredictable. The hours of the game couldn't be longer to this type of game.

Mack

September 4, 2015, 8:28 am

In my opinion despite how much it costs, price shouldn't be taken in account with reviewing a game. Knowing a games price does sway the customer/consumers choice if they're going to get it but prices change and go down as time goes on. Fast-forward 4 years, it may cost $20 but that cant compensate the review you did 4 years ago and it would still be 5/10 instead of maybe 6.5/10. Kind of rambled and I hope you understand what my point is. ^_^

Deepsouth

August 18, 2016, 7:28 am

I share most the same views as the reviewer with the exception of price and length. IMO price is subjective. To some people £45 is alot to pay for a 7 hour game, to others it's totally worth it. I believe 7 hours is the right length for this type of horror movie game. And you shouldn't place your decision of waiting for a price drop because of this single review. Reviews are just one persons opinion, and should be used to help you form your own opinion. There are a ton of games that I have paid full price for but didn't have HALF as much fun as I had with this game. The review is right about a second playthrough though, there is no motivation to do so. Either way It's good to support the developers on games like these so that maybe we could keep getting more in the future. Just my opinion.

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