There was Heavy Rain which became an unexpected part of the PS3’s claim to glory. Then there was Beyond: Two Souls, a game the PS3 couldn’t distance itself from fast enough. Now we have Until Dawn, which thankfully follows in the footsteps of Heavy Rain. Designed to be interchangeable with any teen horror movie Until Dawn has its issues but is still better than the average, hell it could even be called above average. Prepare yourself for a lot of reading… or listening if subtitles give you a headache I suppose. My guess is that most people will be turned off right away when they realize this game involves more reading than actual action. Which is just as well because after you play it one time all the plot twist are gone and it quickly becomes a lot of re-reading.
The plot of the game is simple enough really; you have a random assortment of teens with different personalities, the slutty one, the bitchy one, the geeky one, the psycho and so on. You put them all in an impossible to escape private resort with a series of possible killers and watch the hijinks commence. Christ, it’s like watching Scooby Doo but it takes itself way too serious. I found the sway back and forth between psycho killer and killer magic confusing at times but at some point the games just switches from one to the other without so much as a second thought. My main problem with the plot doesn’t even have to do with the plot which was predictable at best. Sure I was surprised once or twice and was almost misdirected with the ghost thing, maybe spoilers by the way; but the story followed such a linear track to compensate for who had died or not it was fairly obvious.
My problem is that as a gamer it is believed we play games in order to portray ourselves as the character we are playing. Of course this isn’t entirely true but I can’t go on blow-everything-up sprees with my tank all the time but the metaphor still stands. With a game so thick in dialogue where the player controls multiple characters with different roles it becomes a question of whether we are playing as ourselves or as that specific character. Did Mike really transform from a dick into a good guy or is that just the way I was playing him? It kind of makes any character growth feel meaningless in the end… and it is odd how the slutty one never went through much of any change.
The other problem is how Until Dawn claims to have hundreds of endings or whatever it is but really there is only like two or three real ones. It follows the Fallout method of ending a game; you have a few principle endings depending on how much of a douche you were and then a couple of dozen side notes that don’t really mean anything. The game is also extremely repetitive and regardless of what path you choose you basically end up doing the same thing in the same place. This game could really use a ‘skip all the BS talking stuff I already went through before’ button. So unless a choice actually has some potential to kill a character it is rendered almost entirely meaningless by default. Yes some choices and actions have significant consequences later but again; if they only exist to move the plot forward they are only good once. Heavy Rain also suffered from this but at least there was a change in scenery from time to time, like the strip tease section of the club. I still haven’t finished Beyond Two Souls but I assume it is the worst off.
Graphically it looks very nice but I suppose they had a lot of practice on underground cavern or snow covered cabin by the end, SINCE THEY MAKE UP THE ENTIRE GAME. Although I was impressed how fluently the character models worked, we’ve come a long ways from LA Noire it seems. I did have clipping issues, especially some majors ones where the characters flashlight would merge with their leg. I also found the wolf model to be extremely stiff and unnatural. It took me a while but I finally realized the reason I found it so unsettling was because the wolf never blinks. During any scene the wolf is present it just stares at you without blinking forever. Other than that there isn’t much else, the game doesn’t really have cut scenes and all action is dumbed down to quick time events anyways. Gore effects when a character gets killed are fun to watch and actually had me cringe a couple times; or at least cursing my inability to keep them alive but most of this doesn’t even come until the end.
Some features of this game are interesting like collectibles which have more use than simply to collect them. Many provide information that inform but most of the information could have already been figured out or is redundant. The totems though are the most helpful. In a game where every choice makes a difference it is nice to have some sort of guidance. The problem is that the hints are so quick and generally show the latter part of scene so it is impossible to know what is happening until it is already happening. I also found the personal stat page of each character confusing. In a life or death situation I don’t really care about how funny I am and since actions are pre-determined and only actions I do affect the future it doesn’t really matter. Why so many games feel they need to shove in an RPG element in games now is beyond me. Maybe it is interesting… for a second but then it becomes lost in the sea of meaningless. There is also a meter for how you get along with other characters but again, actions determine consequences so as long as you pick the right choices it doesn’t matter.
Basically if you like listening to other people talk about their lives or think movies would be better broken up into smaller pieces this game is for you. Hell this game would probably be good for anyone but only the first time you play it. After the first play through it doesn’t have much to offer any more. If you like cheap horror thrills and simple jump scares this game will do it for you… the first time anyways. Frankly my favorite parts were in the psych office because that psychologist was far creepier than anything else in the game. I was just disappointed that the only effect the psych profile had on the game was cosmetic at best. I was hoping that it would have a more meaningful effect, like Silent Hill on the Wii did. Maybe you can set a goal or something for yourself. Like keep them all alive or just kill them all, I won’t judge. I tried to keep them all alive but a bad QTE and a BS trap screwed that for me. It seems I did enough of the story right to get the main or best ending though. Personally near the end of the game I didn’t care so much anymore but my neighbors had a lot of questions the next day about why I was screaming “JUST FIRE BOMB THE F-ING MOUNTAIN ALREADY!” all night.