Until Dawn Preview – Flirting With Fate
Until Dawn is a horror game that started its life as a PS3 title featuring PlayStation Move support, but was later reintroduced to the PS4. The fact that it once was meant to be played using PlayStation Move shouldn’t be too surprising if you know of developer Supermassive Games, who were the team behind early PS Move titles Start the Party! and Tumble, and worked on Walking with Dinosaurs for Wonderbook (which also required a PS Move controller). But Supermassive is back on the PS4 with something a lot more ambitious, teaming up with indie horror scriptwriters Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick to create a seemingly adaptive and deep slasher film that you get to be an active participant in.
The Makings of a Slasher Film
It isn’t very long into Until Dawn until it feels awfully familiar. The setting is based in and around a creepy snow-covered lodge up in the mountains called Blackwood Pines, where a group of teenagers (played by a star-studded cast of actors like Hayden Panettiere and Rami Malek) sans parental guidance are having a party…on the anniversary of the night two sisters went missing. This is the premise of so many slasher films, although it might be at a log cabin by a lake, or a haunted mansion.
And just like your typical slasher film, these overly flirtatious and sexually frustrated teens — some you’ll actually either like or dislike — essentially are begging to get murdered by inspecting every scary noise they hear, travel down dark paths alone, bring out the Ouija board, etc. But unlike a slasher film, you don’t have to sit idly by and just shout at the screen telling them to “look out behind you” — you’re in control and can actually play a role in their survival, or their death.
The Butterfly Effect
During the game’s prelude, you learn in detail about the butterfly effect — the belief that one seemingly meaningless event could trigger or have an effect on a later event. The theme is found throughout the game, through the lore of Native American tribes that settled in the Blackwood Pines area, through various Totems found throughout the gameplay that show snippets of ominous events that may or may not occur, and even when you trigger such events during gameplay, you’ll see a ripple of butterflies in the corner of the screen.
This helped make you aware of what decisions you made that have effect on the outcome of the storyline, though you may not yet discover in what way. It also made you more cautious overall of the decision making process — quick-time events that make up the bulk of the gameplay — although often a timer accompanied the decision selection, forcing you to make hasty, instinctual calls.
Fear and Loathing
Everything about Until Dawn is fairly scary, and not necessarily in a gory way. There are plenty of surprise or suspenseful moments that will have you either on the edge of or jumping out of your seat. Strangely enough, it appears as though the game is learning your every move, be it through the decisions you’re making during gameplay, or during mysterious between-chapter psych evaluations being conducted by a lunatic. Do you dislike clowns? Don’t tell the game, because you’re going to encounter a clown mask. It made me rethink the way I answered anything the game was asking of me.
It also had me wondering just how many different branching paths might be possible in Until Dawn, and had me itching to play through the preview build again to find out if I could change the course of what I had already seen thus far. Characters I had formed a bond with were the first to encounter an estranged killer loose in the woods. Could I have saved them? Had I chosen another path, would one of my friends still be alive? Who was behind all of the murders?
After roughly three hours and four chapters into Until Dawn during a recent preview build we went hands-on with, it’s safe to say its shaping up to be something unique, and we’re eager to have all of our remaining questions answered when it releases on August 25th exclusively for the PS4.