Until Dawn is certainly one of the most anticipated survival horror games of the upcoming year. With its crisp visuals, point-and-click style and cinematic quick time events, the game seems more like a film than an actual video game. There were moments that felt as though I could lift my fingers from the dualshock and allow the game play to itself —good thing I decided against that.
In the E3 2015 playable demo, the introduction takes off with two teenagers alone in the woods. As they utter slasher cliches and engage in harmless young adult hijinks, a predictable feeling of “they won’t be along much longer”, begins to settle in.
As the two wander about Blackwood forest, they encounter a herd of green-eyed, unusual deer. It is clear from the abnormal behavior and appearance of the herd that they should be avoided. As the two stand in fear with their backs against the cliffside, you are given the option to run away or act calm. I chose to act calm.
The two teens hold hands and proceed with caution through the pack of deer in an effort to avoid provoking an attack. You play as the male character and lead the woman through the herd, unintentionally provoking one of them. You are forced to act quick and swing at its neck with your handy axe.
The herd moves forward to attack and the male is quickly shoved off a cliff. Clinging on for dear life, you must react speedily to quick time events in order to keep him from falling. To no avail, I missed one of the prompts and sent the male character straight off the cliff, falling to his death. What came next surprised me.
As his brain lay exploded on the rocks beneath the cliff, I expected a menu option to pop up, allowing me to retry the quicktime event once more. Although this is quite traditional for many cinematic games such as Tomb Raider and others, this was not the case for Until Dawn. Once the male character fell off the cliff and died, he was removed from the game completely and the lead focus was shifted to the woman he was with before he fell.
As the demo progresses, the woman finds herself in a similar scenario. Holding out at the top of a telecommunication tower in the middle of a snow storm, she attempts to contact a forest ranger to send help. Unfortunately, she never makes it “until dawn” and falls prey to the lurking Blackwood serial killer.
From what has been shown this far, Until Dawn does not rely so much on ambiance as it does thrills and frights, similar to a slasher flick. There is no blood dripping from the walls or any other fictional horror game trope in the events of Until Dawn, which in my opinion is quite refreshing. Most horror video games are typically unrealistic and paranormal, Until Dawn does not exist within that same space and seems more tangible.
Although there were minimal buffer issues present in the game, the overall renderings and visuals looked great. There also seems to be many options present in the game, since there are several teens in the group encountering different events. However, once the other alternate plot lines are explored for different characters, it seems as though there would be little replay value afterward.
Look out for Until Dawn on PlayStation 4, August 25, 2015.