We’ve heard about this project from Supermassive Games for quite a while now. First it was coming to the PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move support. but in August 2014 the developer re-announced Until Dawn as a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It’s built using a modified version of the Killzone: Shadow Fall “Umbra3” engine, the game is said to show off what the PlayStation 4 is really capable of. After going hands-on with the game it certainly left an impression.
If I were to sum up what Until Dawn is, I would lean heavily towards a ‘teen horror movie done like any Quantic Dream game’. Following eight teenagers who spend the night in a log cabin on the anniversary of the death of a friend they all have in common, they are unaware initially that they are being hunted by a serial killer with a vendetta. For the purposes of the demo, I was put in the role of Ashley as she explores a desolate basement trying to look for one of their friends alongside her companion Chris.
Firstly, I have to say that the character models are incredibly lifelike; utterly terrified of the predicament they are in. When tears form in Ashley’s eyes, they look insanely good, instead of the typical watery blobs we’re used to in most games. There’s a real sense of fear in their eyes that makes their situation all the more believable. Voice performances use their talent well and spoke naturally; yet fitting for the teen horror flick aesthetic Supermassive Games were going for.
On top of that, the basement is very atmospheric. By moving the PlayStation DualShock controller, you can manipulate where the torch shines. It takes a little getting used to, but the uncertainty of the control scheme brings potential situations where something scuttles in the distance, only for you to shine your light on where the sound is to find nothing. Beyond that however it felt to play like most modern survival horror games – no tank-controls, but not much beyond walking around and inspecting environments.
The demo eventually led me to a room with a bit of a puzzle aspect. There were supernatural elements in psycho analysis clue. This only appeared on screen for a few seconds and before I knew it I was in the next set piece, unable to go back. Perhaps this is intentional, a way to reward those who inspect the clues, with the potential for new scenarios if you inspected all the clues. But I was not so lucky.
If I had one reservation, it would be that akin to Quantic Dream games, the demo felt extremely guided, leading you from one set piece to another. You have some key decisions to make however, such as whether you go with your companion into a locked room or split up temporarily. While I was only allowed to play once through, I’m reasonably sure that the choices presented change the story accordingly.
It also submits you to that infamous creepy dead woman screaming jump scare. Not exactly what I was expecting at 10am and I’m not sure how I feel about that!