Graphics:
8.0
Gameplay:
8.3
Sound:
8.5
Control:
7.8
Replay Value:
8.4
Overall Rating:
8.2
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
SCE
Developer:
Supermassive Games
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Survival/Horror
Release Date:
August 25, 2015


Teen slasher flicks really aren’t my thing. The hackneyed storyline, laughable acting, and generally ham-fisted approach to instilling fear just doesn’t do it for me. I might find them to be a silly diversion at best, and only if nothing else is on that’s worth watching. That’s why I went into Until Dawn with some trepidation. Despite my strong desire for a top-notch PlayStation 4 exclusive, I began this adventure with a wry, knowing smile, hoping the situations wouldn’t be too overtly stupid and the jokes didn’t tip the cornball meter. But after a few hours of play, it became clear to me that Supermassive Games had actually entered the realm of Quantic Dream.

…and then, everything changed.

But let’s begin with the visuals, which are admittedly critical for any game that relies on thrills and chills. Even the original Resident Evil , as dated as it appears today, wouldn’t have made us jump if we were still mired in sprite-ville from the 16-bit days. Well, it might’ve made us jump a little . At any rate, it’s the design and character models that stand out in Until Dawn : These are wonderfully realistic characters exploring a fittingly creepy environment, and the sharpness and excellent shadowing keep us riveted. It’s always hard to avoid making a horror experience too dark but here, I think they do a good job of balancing the meticulously crafted visuals. There are some facial animation snafus, though, which mar an otherwise top-tier presentation.

While the animations can skip a beat, the acting almost never does. This is perhaps the biggest – and most welcome – difference between Supermassive’s title and the standard teen horror flick. The latter historically has awful acting, while Until Dawn thrives on professional, believable performances. Obviously, the all-star cast (featuring the likes of Hayden Panettiere, Peter Stormare and Rami Malek) really helps, and it was an absolute must. When a game relies on evoking fear and suspense in the player, the acting absolutely cannot take him or her out of the experience. As for the rest, we’re treated to a creepy soundtrack from Dead Space composer Jason Graves and background effects that will whiten the knuckles and shorten the breath.

At its core, Until Dawn is a surprisingly ambitious ‘80s teen horror movie, but with much better acting and the obvious spin: We get to choose what the characters do. We all know people who yelled advice at the screen, especially when one of those pretty – yet decidedly stupid – teenagers was about to meet their imminent demise. Well, this game is for everyone who wanted the characters to actually hear them and respond accordingly, as the game depends strongly on choice. Yeah, we’ve got the obligatory scenes highlighting a bit of gore and a bit of sex, but there’s an erratically pulsating heart beneath that simple exterior, and it demands our attention. During the downtimes, we’re only preparing for the heart attack that lurks around the corner, and this, of course, is the hallmark of any good scary story.