Until Dawn mini-review

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I think myself, along with a lot of other people, expected Until Dawn to be a damp squib. A tumultuous development process (the game was meant to be a PS3 Move-only game), a developer with a patchy track record at best (Start the Party, Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock) and next to no marketing or support from Sony before or on release gave off the air that this was going to be a PS4 exclusive that was brushed under the carpet when the time came to judge the console’s games library.

In that case it’s great to report that Until Dawn has been received well by critics and players alike turning it into a sleeper hit, with interest peaking over the past month in the lead up to Halloween. The game manages to perfect the David Cage formula better than Cage himself has in even his better works; one of my favourite parts of Heavy Rain was the fact that the various playable character’s stories could be altered depending on your actions, and could even just end prematurely if you make a fatal decision, and it’s nice to see this mechanic return with even more characters involved. I was also impressed by the homage to cinema’s horror movie clichés; there’s the obvious references in the cabin-in-the-woods setting, character traits and the ‘rules’ of horror films, but then are also more subtle dialogue and action sequences which echo scenes from the heavy hitters of Hollywood horror.

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I also applaud any game that makes collectibles interesting; the trinkets you find within the game flesh out the game’s story without being too exposition heavy, while others provide ‘premonitions’ of possible future actions which can occur. These are situations which might happen in your playthrough, or they might not but it gives a nice alternate reality feel to your playthrough. It’s kind of become my thing as well, but I must say something about Jason Graves excellent soundtrack which captures the setting and tension of the game almost perfectly, as well as Amy Van Roekel’s fantastic cover of ‘O Death’, which is used as the game’s opening and closing theme.

It’s best to go into the game not knowing too much so I won’t say much more, only that this is one of the best games currently available on the PS4, and if you’ve enjoyed games like Heavy Rain and Telltale’s The Walking Dead, you’re going to have a good time with this. Even if you haven’t I think there’s enough here in the story, characters and atmosphere to sway anyone who’s enjoyed a horror film to that way of thinking. This is most definitely the most welcome surprise in games this year and I look forward to seeing what comes out of both the genre and Supermassive Games in the future.

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