Until Dawn…an interactive movie?

Not long ago, I managed to sit down and had a go with a game that feels like playing an interactive movie. No, I am not talking about Telltale’s Walking Dead or just about any game from that studio. I am talking about Until Dawn.

Until Dawn cabin
Can they survive Until Dawn (sorry, had to do it!)

Until Dawn is one of those rare games that won’t grab your attention at first but if you are a horror movie fan like me, you will appreciate the developer’s efforts for trying to do something different.

If you don’t know the whole story, here is the low-down. Until Dawn is a story about eight characters who meet at a cabin for their Annual Winter Retreat. The group is trying to deal with an incident that took place a year ago when a prank went horribly bad and resulted in the disappearance of two their best friends – both happened to be identical twins, I may add. As the story goes on, the group discover that they are being hunted by a psychopath who wants to torture the friends in the worst possible way. Now, they must do everything they can and survive until dawn (see what I did there?).

First thing’s first: let’s get one thing out of the way – this game was originally announced for PS3 before going AWOL and reappearing as a PS4 exclusive. As far as I can remember, it was supposed to be a downloadable title but it was pushed as a full-fledged released title later.

Until Dawn PS3 screenshot
Until Dawn was originally announced on PS3.

It seemed like it was a smart choice by the development team as the extra horsepower under the PS4 bonnet certainly helped the title elevate among its rivals like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and many more titles that seemed to be coming out from Telltale games. Another notable mention here is Life is Strange. Now, I have not played that game personally but I have read the critics and they can’t seem to shut up about it.

Going back to Until Dawn, the game does a nice job of bringing characters to life with a story that is intriguing and keeps changing depending on the choices you make. I can go on forever how awesome the Butterfly Effect was but it is something gamers have to determine by themselves. It’s nice to see how your actions just change the storyline completely.

Also, collectables also have a new meaning. In games before they have been optional – a reward for exploring the environment but Until Dawn takes a new spin in a way an interactive movie could. There is a character (won’t spoil this for you, rest assured) that dies if certain characters have not found some collectables before interacting with that said characters. It’s a nice touch.

Until Dawn Sam stalked by killer
The game has plenty of jump scares. Be sure to plug in Playstation Camera so the game could record your reactions

You can read the reviews on the net that are mostly positive. I will be talking about the game as a product I have used as a consumer. Don’t know what I am talking about, you will if you carry on reading.

For me, Until Dawn was more like a movie where I was the director. I decided who died and lived, which was the most fun part. There were characters that I liked, some I didn’t. There were some that I liked in the first half but ended up disliking in the second half and vice versa. One character I would like to mention here is Mike or Michael voiced by Brett Dalton. That was one character that I didn’t like at the start of my time with the game but in the second half, I really wanted him to make it through the night.

Just like a slasher movie, we are introduced to a bunch of teens who are pretty keen on getting down and dirty but what makes Until Dawn stand out from games like Heavy Rain (another Playstation exclusive) were the relationships between the characters. Be harsh to a character and the relationship drops, be nice and you can see the likeness bar increase. I don’t know how it affected other players’ experience but for me, that was crucial as I continued to strengthen the relationships between characters to stand against their common threat.

The developers made sure that each character was unique and had an identity of his/her own. A round of applause goes to the person who brought the voice talent in. Voice talent include Peter Stormare (Dr. Hill), Galadriel Stineman (Ashley), Nichole Bloom (Emily), Jordan Fisher (Matthew) and Ella Lentini (Hannah and Beth). High points go to Brett Dalton (Michael), Hayden Panettiere (Samantha), Rami Malek (Joshua) and Meaghan Martin (Ashley) for their superb voice acting. They really brought the characters to life. You will not look at them as some pixels being rendered in real-time but as real-life people who are in danger.

Until Dawn Cast
The cast of Until Dawn that you will grow to love and hate

And that is the strong point of Until Dawn. It’s storyline with believable characters. Play it like a game and you will find issues like you cannot run when you are in control of the character but they seem to run just fine in cut-scenes, which seem to be a lot of them, not a lot of action, etc. But if you just experience it like a film where you are in charge of the storyline and take it the way you want it to, you will love it.

At the time of writing, Until Dawn 2 has not been announced but it is in talks. The sales have exceeded expectations and response has been fairly positive which is a good thing as new IPs struggle to impress gamers and push sales. Good thing, Until Dawn was not one of them.