Review: Until Dawn

Say ‘Until Dawn’, One More Time…

Until dawn was an amusing experiment in narrative video games. The games action takes place mostly in the form of quicktime events. It takes you through a trope-filled horror romp set in an isolated mountainside full of cabins and rime laden rock faces. The cast are your typical reckless group of teenagers and it’s relatively hard to care about what happens to any of them. Also, almost without fail, the characters make sure to say the words “until dawn” a silly amount of times. We get it.

The game itself however, is gorgeous. The animations on the models however, ranges from almost unbelievably lifelike to extreme uncanny valley situations. It’s jarring at times to see someone who looks so lifelike all of a sudden behave like a mannequin that’s come to life and then snap right back to its former self. That in fact, may honestly be the scariest thing about Until Dawn. Well, aside from Peter Stormare’s creepy-ass face.

The Quicktime Effect

Gameplay mostly boils down to “walk here while listening to some banter, then make a decision about what to say/do” and is interrupted with action sequences out of nowhere that prompt for quicktime events. It will keep you on your toes, that’s for certain – but not for the right reasons. The terror here that grips you and keeps you on the edge of your seat doesn’t come from the setting, but mostly from the “I better pay attention so billy doesn’t trip on a rock and impale his face on a sharp object for no good reason”. The game leans heavily on elements/theories laid out from the film “The Butterfly Effect”, which isn’t all bad, but also doesn’t do it any favors in the innovation department.

Without giving spoilers away, there are a few genuinely shocking moments in the gameplay, but the rest is completely predictable. The sequences with your shrink are meant to serve as a “what are you scared of so we can throw that shit into the game randomly and without context”, but regardless is a nice way to customize the terror.

One and Done

Overall, Until Dawn is worth a rent. Redbox, Gamefly, or pick up a used copy for dirt cheap. The replay value here is not high at all. They make an attempt with the totems you pick up and obviously the choices you make but, again, without saying too much – I can’t see most gamers playing through this game more than once. It’s solid enough to stand out from the rest of the PS4 titles that fall into more conventional categories/genres, but it’s still nothing too special beyond a tech demo with a few good surprises.

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