“Until Dawn” pays tribute to ’80s horror movies

AP Photo Who will live? Who will die? The choices the player makes change the entire story of “Until Dawn.”

By: Sean Ray | a&e Editor

You have two choices laid out before you. You can choose to not read this article and go on with your life or you can choose to spend a few minutes to read it over. Unfortunately, not reading this article means not discovering the correct series of choices needed to be made that will make the difference between life and death in “Until Dawn.”

These are the kinds of choices given to you in the latest horror video game by Supermassive Games for the PlayStation 4. “Until Dawn” is a game that plays like a choose-your-own-adventure style story. These kinds of video games aren’t new, with previous installments in the genre including “Heavy Rain” and “Fahrenheit” (known as “Indigo Prophecy” in the USA). However, while the former was a crime thriller and the latter science fiction, “Until Dawn” is a slasher movie from head to toe.

The game follows a group of friends going on their annual camping trip to a ski lodge. A year before, two of their friends were lost in the snow and never found, though they were shown to be chased by someone or something. Now whatever chased their friends appears to be back and wanting more victims. The right choices will have to be made at the right time in order to escape the killer, as well as anything else that might be lurking in the woods.

“Until Dawn” plays up a lot of classic horror movie tropes, with a set-up not dissimilar to the “Friday the 13th” Camp Crystal Lake setting, only with snow added to give it a “The Shining” vibe. Indeed, being genre-savvy to the normal tricks horror movies play will help you keep more characters alive and well.

For someone who is usually bad at quick time events, I am glad to report the ones featured in “Until Dawn” aren’t overly hard. Most of the time if you mess up, you merely have to start the sequence over again. However, there are a few instances where pressing the wrong button at the wrong time means death, and unlike a traditional video game, when a character dies in “Until Dawn” they are dead for good and the game keeps going.

The creators even claim there is a chain of events that will end with all the player characters being dead before the plot ends.

The game does a good job of making players sit on the edge of their seats, with fixed camera angles that feel right out of a horror movie, tense music and all-encompassing darkness. Even playing this game in a room with a group of friends, players will find themselves clenching their teeth and waiting for something to jump out of them in a mix of terror and excitement.

Unfortunately, the game has an over reliance on fake-out jump scares. A character jumping up on another for no reason, a branch suddenly falling, harmless things that seem to only be there to make the player get startled for a few seconds before moving on.

Where the game really falters is in the writing for the main heroes and heroines. Quite a few of the characters are unlikable, and it becomes really hard to see how some of them are friends with the others. There will be certain characters you want to save and others you just want to get killed already so they’ll stop being so annoying.

The game’s story also suffers quite a bit in the second half. While still remaining a scary story, a minor twist half way through shifts the game from the slasher genre it had so far built itself upon. While the game keeps its ‘80s horror stylings, the twist leaves a bad taste in the mouth for fans of the slasher movie and can make finishing the game a bit tedious.

Another minor complaint is the controls during the game’s investigation sequences. Moving the character around feels very awkward and hard to do. Many times characters will walk into the wall or a table endlessly. Luckily the player is rarely attacked during these sequences, so while the controls are annoying, they are not adding artificial difficulty to the game play.

Overall, “Until Dawn” is a must for any fans of ‘80s slasher movies. It’s a fun and tense experience that will leave gamers wanting to play through again and trying to make all the right … or wrong choices.

Finally this: run, run and then hide. You’re welcome.