In the outro of my LoTR fan’s Fall To-Do List I mentioned a great weekend involving scary games. And one of these games has stuck in my mind so adamantly that I really want to share my impressions of it with you guys.
I’m talking about new survival horror game Until Dawn.
Haven’t you always thought that you would be so much smarter than the characters of *insert name of any major, stereotypical horror movie*?
I used to think so too but now I’m not so sure anymore. Turns out making the right choice can be seriously complicated.
(Except if your choice is to instantly disagree to crap ideas like spending a weekend on a haunted mountain with a convicted criminal on the loose in combination with no cell phone reception. That would have been a good and simple choice.)
I will admit straight away that I did not touch the controller. That is still out of my league because the terror is real. But I was part of the decision-making and watched intently for about five hours so thus I feel qualified to tell you what I think of the game so far. xD
Until Dawn allows you to step into the classical horror movie tale of teenagers isolated in a cabin in the mountains. The wealthy Washington family has built their luxury cabin on a mountain that is sacred to a native american tribe, and now an unidentified lunatic is set on bloody, excruciating revenge.
You alternate between playing as the different teenagers, who are a rather dramatic and bitchy crew let me tell you, and chose how they react in different situations and what they say.
The game’s biggest unique selling point, in my opinion, is how one tiny action or dialogue choice heavily impacts how the game plays out- the butterfly effect. This is what really drew me in and kept me in the room even after shit hit the fan and I started screaming on a regular basis.
I had to know what happened because of the choices we made, and see if we could avoid the next death through smart play.
An interesting feature interacting with the butterfly effect was the totems. Tying in with the native american theme, you can find and pick up totems lying in the snow or in dark corners of the cabin. These can for example warn about Death or Loss or give Guidance. The visions of possible events add another level to the butterfly effect, will you create that very destiny in your efforts to avoid it? The atmosphere is one of constant doom looming and frankly, I was exhausted after a couple of hours trying to cheat death and get everyone through the night and off that damn mountain.
In between acts, we get to visit the shrink. I don’t yet know if he will turn out to be a real person or just a figment of your imagination. But he is very creepy.
This moody and gloomy character is modeled after and brilliantly voiced by Peter Stormare (swede high-five!).
For the record I think it’s awesome how it is possible to merge the film and game medium like this, letting professional actors lend their voices and even their mimicry through motion capture – another big name doing a wonderful job is Hayden Panettiere as Sam.
Anyway, Stormare’s shrink starts out semi-friendly and helpful, but soon things take a sinister turn and I have a feeling that these sessions will get very dark, very soon. I am also pretty sure that this is a clever way for the game to mold itself after your personal fears and preferences, while also giving tantalizing clues as to what will happen next.
You can’t write about Until Dawn without mentioning the graphics, because they are ah-mazing, as you can see from the screenshots I’ve included above. It’s a new, fresh game and it looks the part. Apart from a few dodgy freeze frames on too-toothy smiles when a new character is introduced, the game is eerily life-like. The snowy woods, the log cabins, the people, the gore– everything looks almost too real for me to able to cope with. And my guesses are that I’ve by no means seen the worst of it yet.
If you have nerves of steel, or back up from several friends including one that can handle the steering, I highly recommend trying out Until Dawn. I NEED to know how it ends! And then I would like to figure out how to get things to end better. Arrrgh.