Until Dawn is a surreal, dark horror interactive video game made for the Sony PlayStation 4 platform featuring a stellar cast of well known actors and actresses, such as Peter Stormare (Armageddon), Hayden Panetteire (Heroes), Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), and Larry Fessenden (I Sell the Dead), who’s also one of the writers.
The game opens with a group of high schoolers enjoying a getaway at the Blackwood Pines lodge during the winter. Some of the kids decide to pull a prank on one of Josh’s (Malek) twin sisters, Hannah, whilst he is passed out, which causes her to run off into the woods in embarrassment with her sister Beth, only for both of them to disappear completely.
A year later, Josh decides to have a reunion at the lodge on the anniversary of his sisters sudden disappearance. The stage is set for pulling sick and twisted pranks on those responsible for his sisters untimely demise and it is in the players hand’s to determine each characters fates via interactive choices and quick time events.
There’s also a real threat thrown into the mix in the form of an urban legend known as the Wendigo, half-beast creatures that inhabit the woods around the lodge and are being hunted by a mysterious old man known as the Flame Thrower (Fessenden). Oh, and Stormare is perfect in a neat twist as the “video game player’s” psychiatrist.
Throughout the game you’ll get to play as a variety of different protagonists, each unique and not your typical video game hero that’s constantly battling villains. For instance, with Sam (Panetteire) you’ll spend time taking a hot bath while being absorbed in classical music.
As for the gameplay mechanics, it’s mostly a series of investigation sequences and quick time events in which you have a short time to press the corresponding button to prompt specific actions. This is similar to games such as Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. The game also doesn’t feature any daylight cycles, so you will have to get used to the intense darkness that runs throughout the game, but literally and figuratively.
One of the more interesting things about this game for me was that it’s filled with references to notable cabin horror films such as The Evil Dead and Cabin in the Woods. These cliches and references can often leave you horrified and laughing at the same time. The score is also very impressive, working on a level similar to classic horror films by Alfred Hitchcock. The texture mapping of the actors to the characters is excellent as well, using very impressive facial technology.
During production of Until Dawn, the developers screen tested it on volunteer video gamers in a dark room while monitoring their actions, much in the same way producers would screen a horror movie in a dark auditorium. The goal was to monitor the scares and perfect their execution, something I believe they’ve been successful with.
Unfortunately for non-PS4 owners, Until Dawn is a Playstation exclusive. In my opinion and those of many gamers I’ve seen enjoying it on YouTube, it’s a must have for fans of the survival horror sub-genre of video games, though whether or not it’s worth the cost of buying a PS4 for is up to debate. However, there are a number of unlockable extras, like behind the scenes content and other exciting in game stuff such multiple endings, so even though it’s a straightforward game it does offer some replay value.
Finally, the trailer for the game is fantastic. Check it out below.