Review: Until Dawn – I Survived… Barely

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Story changes each playthrough
Life-like characters
Detailed environments
Moving characters can be just a little difficult at times

An eerie mansion in the mountains. Only one way up and down. A bunch of teens. And the death of twins years back. What could possibly go wrong? Well, basically everything. All you have to do though is survive Until Dawn… if you can.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of horror and slasher flicks. I don’t necessarily enjoy getting freaked out and spending the next couple of months wondering when someone is going to jump out of my closet and kill me. That’s why I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy when our sadistic editor thrust a copy in my hands and said “c’mon you’ll have fun” with a stupid grin plastered on his face – a grip I wanted to wipe… with a bat.

However, I had heard interesting things about Until Dawn and I have to say, I was a little curious – and that’s how people end up getting slashed apart by an insane creep with mommy issues in the middle of a forest with no mobile coverage – I wasn’t worried at all. So I popped in the disc into the PS4 and turned off the lights to set the mood. The intro sequence came up, the music began, I got up and turned on the lights again and took a 5 minute break. Made some coffee, did a couple of stretches and finally steeled my nerves to give it a go.

Until Dawn, an homage to classic slasher flicks like ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘I know what you did last summer’ and ‘Scream’, is in set in a remote mountain getaway where 8 friends have gathered to commemorate the 1st anniversary of missing twin sisters, Beth and Hannah Washington. You take turns to control all 8 friends to unravel the mystery of what happened a year ago by looking for clues, interacting with friends and going through a series of quick time events (QTEs).

Each decision you make though affects the relationship between the characters a “ butterfly effect”. Your decision dictates who remain as friends and who lives or dies. Decisions and mistakes can have life or death consequences and can result in characters either falling in love or arriving a little too late to save someone. The game continues after a death of a character and brings in new changes to the other characters tale. I lost 5 friends *sob*.

A feature that I love, and hate at the same time, is that the game wants you to freak out. The Analyst, played by Peter Stormare, will ask you a series of questions throughout the game to nudge the way the environment renders, adding a touch here or a clown-faced scarecrow there.

Until Dawn looks very realistic and detailed but a little drab due to the dark tone. However, the characters, played by Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek and Ella Lentini look and sound like their real life counter parts and th. Environments look really good with detailed textures, but again the dark palette does take away some of the shine.

“Cheap shots” is another feature that can get irritating for the user but great fun for friends. If your Playstation 4 is connected to the Playstation camera, the camera will take a shot of you at certain points of the game when a ‘jump scare’ apprears. The shot can then be shared to your social media using the share functionality on the DualShock 4 controller. While an interesting feature, the low-light performance of the Playstation camera leaves much to be desired and the pictures aren’t especially clear if you’ve turned off the lights like I did.

All in all, I really did enjoy the 10 hours or so of my first complete run even though I had a little trouble at times maneuvering the characters around. However, in order to see and find all content, more than one run is needed – not something that I want to put myself through any time soon. My nerves are frayed as it is. The environments and soundtrack blend nicely to create a really eerie atmosphere that kept me on edge, never knowing when something might jump out at me.

The plot, while not totally unpredictable is still entertaining and engaging enough for you to want to see it through the end.

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