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Review

Until Dawn Review

  • First Released Aug 25, 2015
    released
  • Reviewed Aug 24, 2015
  • PS4

Fun 'til Dawn.

The choices you make in Until Dawn have more far-reaching consequences than in most other survival horror games: the butterfly effect feature it so heavily relies on is highly effective, adding weight to seemingly innocuous choices and creating a game that feeds deeply into player paranoia of making the wrong choice. Couple this system with the game's tongue-in-cheek exploitation of slasher film tropes--including over-the-top gore and flirty teenagers--and you have an enjoyable experience controlling you own '80s horror film parody. Until Dawn is a thoughtful experiment in how far you can go with multilayered player-driven narrative games, and despite some ugly visuals, delivers an engaging experience where story and controls meld for powerful meaning.

The game's plot follows the classic slasher film recipe: eight teenagers get together on a snowy mountain far away from their parents and civilization. The get-together falls on the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of their two friends--twins Hannah and Beth--and the makeout party soon turns into a complete disaster. The group's clashing personalities force them to break off in couples to do their own thing. But we all know what happens to groups that split up in horror movies; within an hour, everything goes to hell as a feral creature and a masked madman begin terrorizing the teens.

Between each in-game chapter, you visit a mysterious psychiatrist in an office. You, controlling an unknown person, answer the analyst's questions, all of which revolve around what scares you and how you feel about the characters. You'll be asked to choose between spiders and snakes, needles and gore, ghosts and zombies. This is the game's way of setting up the horror story you'll experience, placing needles or knives in the hands of attackers and throwing out elements the program knows you're frightened by. It feels a little too out in the open for a game that so subtly weaves your choices into the narrative, but I didn't mind this forwardness in the grand scheme of things. Until Dawn's setup is wonderful enough to overlook it.

These psychiatrist visits are the most obvious examples of Until Dawn's biggest feature: the butterfly effect. Small choices will have major consequences in future events. They aren't one-offs, either: a choice you make in chapter one presents a difficulty in chapter two, and depending how you solve that difficulty, further chapters will offer you different tools or different interpersonal conflicts. Choices made in chapter one determine events that branch with the next decision and again with the next, creating a large number of narrative paths and outcome.

Not my idea of the perfect date.
Not my idea of the perfect date.

I played through Until Dawn multiple times, and I saw new scenes and learned new things the second and third time around. By attaching the branching narrative to not one but eight separate characters, you have a massive playground on which to control your own horror story.

The game expertly keeps track of and broadcasts these decisions, too. When a big choice is made, the screen will display a "butterfly status update." Digging into the menu, you can find which actions will come back to haunt you later. And when an event happens as a result of that action, the game tells you. By using Until Dawn's system, I was able to figure out that who I gave a gun to in chapter three would determine who got hurt in chapter eight, and how others would react to the attack. Choosing to not side with one guy's girlfriend in chapter one resulted in her being derogatory and snide to him for the rest of the game, which in turn affected the choices the game gave him to assist her. She got meaner, and he could either take it or fire back. This dynamic would affect how they escaped a situation in the second half of the game. The level of intricacy and humanity to these interactions impressed me. It's complex and brilliant, and during repeat playthroughs I constantly referred back to the menus to make better decisions.

Your psychiatrist isn't all that he seems.
Your psychiatrist isn't all that he seems.

And once you make these choices, there's no rewinding. Only when you beat the game can you go back to the beginning or restart from later, individual chapters. The aggressive save feature prevents you from undoing anything, forcing you to live with the choices you make. It's a courageous move locking players into choices in such a far-flung branching narrative, but it's a move that makes the narrative--and your experience controlling it--more powerful.

Less than an hour in, I was already hoping certain characters would just die already. But when my favorite character died halfway through, I found it hard to continue. Until Dawn does that to you: each character has a distinct, fleshed-out personality and you'll find you empathizing with some of them. With their fate completely in your hands, it's difficult not to get wrapped up in the moment-to-moment when protecting your chosen ones.

The party don't start til the murderer walks in.
The party don't start til the murderer walks in.

As you explore the snowy mountainside, you do some light environmental puzzle solving, such as finding tools to start a fire or turn on the water heater. There is very little in the environment you can interact with; a glowing silver light indicates items you can touch. It feels like you're in rails for most of the game, which is somewhat disappointing given how tantalizing the game's snowy woods and creepy cellars are for exploration.

The objects you can pick up and examine are the most interesting, as they unlock narrative clues and warnings. They reveal information about your missing friends, the murderer stalking you, and other mysteries of the area. Each clue seems unimportant on its own, and after a while I felt like they were just "gamey" objects taking up space, just meaningless pieces to collect and fill an in-game trophy case--until, like I mentioned before, they suddenly weren't. I found myself lingering in the game's menus trying to string hints together, matching clues to butterfly effect updates to shed light on the story.

You also collect totems, which are wooden objects that reveal the future. Totems show character deaths and hidden dangers that can happen down the line. I referred back to them throughout my playtime to inform my decisions. If I saw a character's body in flames, I made more careful choices when she picked up a torch. When one guy investigated a cliff, all my decisions got him away from the edge when I remembered a totem of him falling to his death. Like most things in Until Dawn, the totems look gimmicky until suddenly they aren't, and you find yourself constantly mulling their warnings.

Who will you protect?
Who will you protect?

Lengthy action sequences are strings of quick-time events. The time to react is incredibly short and requires precision, giving you--like the teens trapped in this horror story--very little time to react. Missing a command results in characters stumbling as they run, tripping over objects, or even missing a rock ledge and falling to their doom. When characters stumble and waste precious time during quick time sequences, even once, whomever they are racing to save could die. It's a great way to hold onto immersion, keeping you tense and adding heavy consequences to every missed button.

My absolute favorite feature of Until Dawn is its use of the DualShock 4 controller's gyroscope feature. Some PlayStation 4 games tend to shoehorn gimmicky uses of the controller's additional features, but Until Dawn uses the gyroscope in a way that's just a little too perfect for the slasher film aesthetic. One command requires you hold the controller still while hiding from an attacker. You are frequently given the option to run or hide; in the latter, if you jostle the controller even a little, you'll be caught, and like every other decision in this game it could mean death. During these segments I began holding my breath--it's the best way to keep that controller still--and it pulled me deeper into the experience.

The game's narrative playground is fun to navigate, but the visuals are occasionally disappointing. The camera frames scenes at odd angles, such as up from the ground or down from a ceiling corner, and sometimes ruins the action when you can't see where you need to walk to. Characters will cross a bridge and ascend a stairway, and the camera will stop, letting the characters walk out of frame. Angles often obscure pathways in caverns and hallways that lead to hidden clues. I spent a lot of time walking on the edges of the screen, as I wouldn't have found some clues otherwise.

Moving that controller is the difference between life and death.
Moving that controller is the difference between life and death.

The acting is excellent; I empathize when the characters are feeling flirty or scared or sad, thanks to a swathe of believable, poignant vocal performances. But character faces cross into the uncanny valley, and body motion and some facial expressions remain rigid and awkward. The motion capture for grimaces didn't translate well into Until Dawn, with long stretches of time where a character leaves their mouth wide open or teeth bared. Occasionally character mouths over enunciate each word and phrase, making dialogue look unnatural, and unsettling. It's unfortunate because the vocal acting is so superb. Until Dawn's all-star cast nails the terrified teenager thing, down to their tone and reactions, and because of this I tended to wave off the weird mouth stuff. On top of it all is a chilling soundtrack by Dead Space composer Jason Graves, which crescendos and subsides to highlight panic, terror, and anguish.

I didn't expect to have so much fun with Until Dawn, and the depth with which my choices mattered and affected the final outcome encouraged repeat playthroughs. The visuals can be wonky at times, but in the end Until Dawn succeeds in being a thoughtful use of familiar mechanics, a great achievement in player-driven narrative, and a horror game you shouldn't miss.

Alexa Ray Corriea on Google+
Back To Top
The Good
Narrative offers dozens of branching paths with varying outcomes
Choices matter in big ways and affect the rest of the game
Actor performances are incredibly good
Mechanics are utilized in a meaningful way that feeds into the horror film experience
Repeat playthroughs offer new information and scenes
The Bad
Camera angles are unflattering
Story gets predictable at its midpoint
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Alexa Ray Corriea played Until Dawn religiously for about a week, and has completed four total playthroughs with some dabbling in rewinding to specific chapters. She still hasn't' seen everything.
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Avatar image for tsunami2311
tsunami2311

started playing this cause was free for ps +, I like it but facial animation are so god damn bad, that is disturbing

Avatar image for Whakamole5
Whakamole5

I'm really interested in this game but I'm avoiding the reviews due to spoilers. Can someone compare it to another game? What can I expect - gameplay-wise? Someone compared the camera angles to Resident Evil 1. Is this true? I LOVED that perspective.

Avatar image for pinkfloyd6789
pinkfloyd6789

@Whakamole5: No spoilers in this review.

Avatar image for sxerks
Sxerks

@Whakamole5: The game plays a lot similar to "The Walking Dead" series. Each choice you make greatly influences how the story unfolds.

Avatar image for sig_kveldulv
Sig_Kveldulv

I wanted to play this but the 60 dollar price tag was holding me back. Bought it for 20 at best buy on black friday. I just beat it yesterday. Started out slow for me but it turned out to be quite nice. How is the reviewer going to bash the visuals because of the camera angles? I quite enjoy this style as a long time fan of the original RE games. I feel like its supposed to give you the feeling you arent actually playing but watching. I agree with the final score of the review.

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megantereon

Next time have an editor review your review. The awkward sentence structure and grammar were so hard to read I gave up on this review, though what I deciphered was that this is a game worth trying.

Avatar image for Orgodemir
Orgodemir

These new games look great....until I realized that I have about 100 games I have never finished that I own. Procrastination for the win! Keep pumping out games, one day I'll get a PS4 and play them for 10 bucks...or not.

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chicago

Does anyone know if there is a demo?

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Jestersmiles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrHnqNinmaI&feature=youtu.be

and you guys call this game good?

WOW.

Avatar image for sonypony4eva
SonyPony4eva

Just finished this game.........What an awesome experience.

Sam = Survived

Chris = Surived

Mike = Survived

Emily = Survived

Matt = Survived

Jessica = Died (made boneheaded choices)

Ashley = Died (my fault again? )

Josh = (unavoidable?)

Avatar image for he4rtl3ss
He4rtl3ss

@sonypony4eva: Nice spoiler.

Avatar image for Speranza318
Speranza318

This game was certainly interesting. Alexa, I thought you did a fair review. Having played through once, I managed to keep everyone alive. I went back and replayed to change the characters' fates as well. This game did a couple of interesting things that I haven't seen before (may have been done in other games). The totems were a very nice touch. Without ruining the plot, they are items the character collects that give a short video that helps guide future decisions. Some of them are straight forward, others take multiple watches with attention to the environment, particular clothing (to figure out what character), etc...It was a nice touch to add a layer of thinking to my future decisions. The gameplay was nice, but this game really would have shined in the era of the upcoming VR as a truly interactive horror game.

The big selling point (in my opinion) was the game's presentation. The graphics are truly amazing, the lip sync is the best I've seen thus far in gaming, the facial expressions are spot on, and the voice acting overall was great. I am a big "PC fanboy", but I was impressed with this game's graphics. The story is easily figured out about half way through the game if you took the time to collect and read the clues (especially if you are a fan of horror movies, as this game is a big tribute to them), but that's not to say there are some unexpected twists.

The one thing I disagree with is the choices matter. Here's why: Unfortunately, at the end of the day, you're forced to make decisions that branch you toward A or B. Who makes it to the end of the game or not has very little outcome in the ending credits (just some extra dialogue) and gives you trophies. How you treat other characters changes some dialogue, but won't influence if you need to save someone or not later on. What I would have liked to see is the game completely change after the first decision point in the game, meaning that when you either drop your sister or choose to fall with her, it influences who the main antagonist is, puts a whole new spin on the story (I personally hated the supernatural/Wendigo plot line, it ruined what would have otherwise been an amazing revenge themed plot), and may have changed the ending significantly based on these choices. I understand that would have been a huge increase in cost/production value, but that is how a game should be if it's marketed as "choices matter".

Avatar image for gunslingersnafu
GunslingerSNAFU

I really like it. Only a few hours in though. The majority of the "horror" elements are mainly sudden, loud music and jump scares, which don't really affect me, but the social-interactive is interesting and keeps me playing.

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LexLas

I won't read due to spoilers, but i liked what i saw online. Very cool game, a thriller.

Avatar image for goose14gmangun
Goose14gmangun

@LexLas: Totally agree, this game looks great!

Avatar image for RaveNRolla
RaveNRolla

Wow, i can't believe the reviewer spoiled the Monster. That was a huge surprise for me about halfway through the game, because up until then it was all about human threats. Sorry for those who haven't played it yet.

Personally i give the 1st run a 10. It was amazing. I played it with 2 friends, and we were so in it and driving each other crazy ("no, u gotta do that! no, u shouldn't have done that, now this and that is gonna happen!") and of course we didn't know the Story yet.

I found subsequent playthroughs far less fun sadly. The Story remains the same, no matter what decisions u make. The decisions u make effect relationship Status and of course who lives and who dies but the Story itself Plays out the same every time. If u manage to kill everyone before the end obviously not. For example when Sam has to run away from the 'psychopath' (as seen in the DEMO) it didn't matter at all wether she got caught or not as the halfway-reveal Plays out the same way, wether Sam found out about it or not. At least in the 2 Versions i played.

I also thought it'd be fun to try all the wrong decisions (or decisions u normally wouldn't make) after beating the game. It isn't though, the game works like the reviewer said in feeding the Player with the Paranoia of making the wrong choice. Making the wrong choice by choice is no fun, because there's nothing that drives u to go on. On my 1st playthrough i managed to get everybody through till 6am (game Ends at 7 am). In the last hour i lost 2 Girls i really liked, 1 by making the wrong choice (run or hide) and 1 because that 1 time i couldn't hold my Controller still. I wanted to make some other decisions on the next playthrough but it felt silly to do so, knowing that's how i can Keep everybody alive.

Still an amazing idea for a game, which did a lot of things right. There's loads of Tension build up in this game and a nice pacing of jump-scares. The game manages to really get u into the Story and the actors are really good. For future games of this sort it would be cool that if depending on your decisions it effects plottwists and reveals. Maybe someone else is the Psychopath if u make a certain decision. It would also be cool if People could go different ways that unlock different Areas, depending on the choices u made. For example wether Matt wants to go to the Radio Tower or not, he still goes. It would be cool if he could go somewhere else and do something else.

Avatar image for wkadalie
wkadalie

Hollywood will probably try to make it into a movie if sales are good. They still don't understand. That Heavy Rain, Last of US, Max Payne. Are good because they're games.

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Goose14gmangun

I really want this game, unfortunately I don't have a PS4. I will have to invest in one eventually to play this and Horizon :)

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Art_of_Victory

@goose14gmangun: Until Dawn is a great game. You will not regret buying or playing :-)

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Goose14gmangun

@art_of_victory: Yeah for sure. Whenever I get a PS4 it's at the top of my "To Buy" list :)

Avatar image for Gbullet
Gbullet

If you want to play this game, but don´t have a PS4, don´t worry.

Play this video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6VW-AVQqck

Fullscreen.

Grab your old PS2 or PS3 controller and there you have it - since the game is mostly just quick-time events, it is almost like you are playing the real thing.

Avatar image for ianbrettcooper
IanBrettCooper

@Gbullet said:

If you want to play this game, but don´t have a PS4, don´t worry.

Play this video...

Anyone who watches it before playing it has forever lost about half of the fun that the game offers. You gotta play it first.

Avatar image for Jdzspace
Jdzspace

@Gbullet: yeah, except you can't make any of the decisions or find do any of the exploration, or do anything having to do with anything.

it's like watching someone else play Super Mario Bros. you can see the game, but it's nothing like actually playing the game.

good try though

Avatar image for ray1102
ray1102

@Jdzspace:

Like

Avatar image for cherub1000
Cherub1000

As some others have stated, the video gives a bit too much away in regards to some in game situation, could do with editing a little more carefully in the future GS. Otherwise, solid review and so far I'm really enjoying this. I didn't know what to expect at first but it holds up very well I'm looking forward to the sun going down so can keep playing.

Avatar image for Zoulezz
Zoulezz

Huge spoilers in the video review kinda annoyed me :( The wolf thing in particular.

Avatar image for jonconner33
jonconner33

Lower frames rates in games in not cinematic. 24fps in movies are completely different than 30fps in games. An individual frame in a movie captures motion in a blur, which helps create the illusion of fluid movement, which video game dont. Frame rate should be top priority. Frame rate is king.

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kenpachi212

good game but they ruined it with the fictional stuff (wendigo). It they kept the story about real people murders it would have been great.

Avatar image for ianbrettcooper
IanBrettCooper

@kenpachi212 said:

good game but they ruined it with the fictional stuff (wendigo). It they kept the story about real people murders it would have been great.

The whole game is fictional. And supernatural horror is a perfectly valid choice of theme. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's not great.

Avatar image for NTM23
NTM23

@kenpachi212: While I personally found the story predictable right from the get-go, and it could for others, you're saying a major spoiler here.

Avatar image for kenpachi212
kenpachi212

@NTM23: this game has been out for a while so everyone knows what it is about already. Thanks for the heads up anyways.

Avatar image for NTM23
NTM23

@kenpachi212: It's been out for a few days actually, certainly not long enough to start spoiling things. Honestly, you unfortunately have to wait for months, or even a year or so before you can spoil stuff. In any case, it doesn't bother me personally because I avoid such things if I hadn't played it, but still, I simply warn you because many people will take issue with it, and that's something you should be aware of, and perhaps be sensitive toward even if you dislike that idea. I would also say I doubt those that have played it yet, know about such things unless they don't care about spoilers. Your comment comes off as saying "I wasn't in the wrong here, so it doesn't matter", but unfortunately, it does.

Avatar image for kenpachi212
kenpachi212

@NTM23: don't be so hard mom

Avatar image for NTM23
NTM23

@kenpachi212: I'm not, others might (not necessarily here, but in the future for other games).

Avatar image for kenpachi212
kenpachi212

@NTM23: too bad for them

Avatar image for lambazelda
lambazelda

i don't have a PS4 so i just watched full let's play of it. it's a good game so if you have PS4 you should try it. not sure if it worth full price though. i mean technically they spend a lot of money on it specially by hiring real actors, but the outcome doesn't worth the full price for us as gamers imo.

oh and also, that dude from Mr Robot is in it. so another +.

Avatar image for wkadalie
wkadalie

@lambazelda: I think it's worth it. And then play it again with friends. or at parties. I have no idea how I got so many people killed. Only one survivor.

Avatar image for Kos1c
Kos1c

It'll still be something I'd wait on. Not something I think I'd feel great about paying full retail for.

The edges of textures are slightly horrible, a lack of AA seems to be a punishment on this title in certain scenes.

It's a bargain bucket purchase for me, as I have no rush and no excitement from the title, sadly.

Avatar image for wkadalie
wkadalie

Just started playing it, And am loving it.

Avatar image for wkadalie
wkadalie

@wkadalie: Just finished my first play through, and loved it. Want to do it again, because I made some terrible choices the first time.

Avatar image for p1p3dream
p1p3dream

I just about finished my playthrough for this game. I think an 8 is just about right, a realistic score. This game definitely follows in the footsteps of Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain, and of course, the influence of Telltales walking dead is all over this thing. Graphics wise this is definitely one of the best in its class, the story is stronger than anything that has come from Quantic Dream's games in my opinion. Sure it gets into some cheese territory, but the story is actually COHERENT which is such a rarity in video game narratives. It's consistent with its narrative and even when the story veers into the super natural it makes sense according to the world the game sets up.

I kept waiting for Bret Dalton / Mike to double cross everyone and reveal a hydra plot, but maybe that is just my fault for watching too much Agents of Shield. :) It was an interesting novelty to have such recognizable actors in a video game. The performances, for the most part, were great- you kind of want to kill some of the characters for being so annoying, but it kind of goes along with the horror movie territory.

Avatar image for braceyourself1
BraceYourSelf1

"Camera angles are unflattering"

How else were they supposed to do the angles? First person? They took a chance and went back to how old awesome Resident Evil games were, with fixed camera angles. Fixed camera angles allow a lot more creativity and I wish more games were like this nowadays. Fixed camera angles also fit the games theme perfectly, making it seem like a horror movie. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Awesome job developers. I look forward to your next game.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla
RaveNRolla

@braceyourself1: totally agree.

Until Dawn More Info

Follow
  • First Released Aug 25, 2015
    released
    • PlayStation 4
    Eight friends trapped together on a remote mountain retreat, and they aren't alone. Gripped by dread, with tensions running high, they must fight through their fear if they all hope to make through the night in one piece.
    8.2
    Average Rating328 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Until Dawn
    Developed by:
    SuperMassive Games
    Published by:
    SCEA, SCEE, SCEI, SCE Australia, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Genre(s):
    Third-Person, Adventure, 3D
    Theme(s):
    Horror
    Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating. Appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and should be replaced by a game's rating once it has been assigned.
    Rating Pending