|From Left to Right: Em, Mike, Matt, Sam (has to be Jess behind her), Beth, and Ashley. Not Pictured: Chris, Josh, and Hannah.|
Saturday, September 12, 2015
REVIEW: UNTIL DAWN
If you are looking for a great horror game that will feed your insomnia; look no further. Until Dawn was developed by Supermassive Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively for the PS4. It's a single-player game, originally released in August 2015, Gamespot gave it an 8 out of 10 rating, and Metacritic gave it 4 out of 5. Not only are the graphics phenomenal, the acting talent you'll recognize: Hayden Panettiere plays "Sam"; Peter Stormare immortalizes Dr. Hill; Brett Dalton brings "Mike" to life; and Rami Malek brilliantly portrays "Josh". But, all this information you can find on-line.
If you don't want spoilers and continue to read and bitch about it you'll be left for the Wendigos!
The game opens with a group of young adults enjoying their friend's lavish ski lodge that they have converted to their own private luxury home. The Washington's, who own the home, include three siblings, Josh (the brother), and then Hanna and Beth (twin sisters). Their friends set-up Hanna, who has a major crush on another friend, Mike. After the prank goes terribly wrong; which, really - that was a horrible "prank", I would classify it more under the lines of bitchy-bullying. So, in her embarrassment, Hannah runs away... while there is a horrible snow storm (blizzard categorized), and of course her sister goes after her (their brother is passed out in the kitchen). When Beth finally reaches Hannah, something very threatening seems to be following them and they run to a nearby cliff where they inevitably (and there is nothing you can do --as far as we know-- to save them) fall to their demise. Why she runs out into a blizzard is beyond me! There are only one or two of the "friends" that I would categorized as "young adult", the rest are ridiculously immature and just plain annoying. I was further pissed that the one person I wanted to see die, and die miserably, lived at the end! But, we can always hope that the next installment, we could finally be satisfied. Although, I have watched game-play on YouTube where "Em" does finally get her due. Okay, enough ranting...
Jump to a year later as Sam is on a train with her ear buds in and we're informed that the group is returning, under Josh's wishes, on the year anniversary of his sister's death. Immediately, I had thoughts that he wanted to seek revenge. I know for some people, it took them a while to get there, but they did eventually. Why Sam has to hike so far alone is another thing that irritated me and I kept wondering why more of them didn't travel together, just seemed wonky to me. But, it's the classic horror genre and it doesn't have to make sense, right? The game is basically quick-time events and searching the different locations for totems (which will let you have a glimpse into the future), and you get to learn what all the different "butterflies" mean. The games design involves the Butterfly Effect, where one event can ripple out and change the future etc. I did love the intro where it explained this. The game is also full of psychological analyzing, which are down-right creepy. Dr. Hill definitely gave me the creeps and I loved how those sessions evolved. Depending on what you choose during those sessions the game will mimic what you chose. There is one choice in particular that asks you if you are more afraid of clowns or zombies, of course I chose clowns, and during those sessions a clown mask is utilized... while I watched another game-play where the player chose zombie, and a creepy zombie mask is used instead. I loved this part of the game, as a Psych major, it was right up my alley!
The different sections jump between the different characters and you explore some relationship drama between Mike and Em, who had been dating a year ago when the accident happened, have since broken up, and now dating Em's good friend "Jess" back in the day; now, not so much. They actually get quite catty, which is just another irritant and accomplishes the task of breaking the group up. So, Mike and Jess go off to "bang" in a cabin that's out in, yet another snow storm taking place. Not as severe as the year before, but still enough that makes you wonder sometimes how they're not getting hypothermia and frostbite --then again, it is fiction. While they're off exploring the woods, you get some creeps and a scare or two. Meanwhile, back at the lodge, Sam and Josh explore the basement so that she can get her hot water for her damn bath. No one can turn on any lights, or worry about heat, but hey --she wants to take a bath. The other couples in the group include Em (the annoying high-maintenance bitch) and her jock boyfriend Matt; and then there is the hopeless couple Chris and Ashley, who like each other but can't seem to move forward. The one thing this game shattered was the horror cliche of the virginal deaths, sex innuendos where everywhere. It was annoyingly evident with Jess and Mike, who just reaffirmed for me that women like her (vainly beautiful) men will bend over backwards for --Jesus Mike, grow a fucking pair! It was also shown, yet another high maintenance vain "woman" in Em, treated Chris like shit too --but, hey; they're beautiful, so they should get what they want --right? BLEH!
Things really pick up when Jess is taken and Mike takes off after her through the snowy wilderness. They come to the old Asylum (conveniently located in this remote snowy hilltop, right?), where (in my game-play) we befriended a wolf (which was one of my favorite treats). He tracks the man he thinks is responsible for Jess's death (yes, she died in my game play). The game cuts back and forth between chapters and the nice meetings with Dr. Hill where it is revealed that we are the killer... meanwhile Sam has some spooks of her own where the big twist is revealed that Josh is the mastermind behind his huge prank, what he thought was just Chris, Ashley, and Sam. He didn't know people were actually dying because of something else on the mountain. Then again, Josh is certifiable cray-cray! Mike found his way back to the lodge, while Chris and Ashley have experienced their own levels of hell (thanks to Josh) in true Saw fashion. Mike and Chris tie Josh up out in the shed, and once shit starts going down, they mindlessly left him there for the "creatures" to take. Meanwhile, the "Flamethrower Guy" who the games makes you think is the "bad guy", is actually trying to help these kids. He knows the creatures stalking the mountain and he uses his flamethrower to chase the beasts away.
The different scenes are vast and amazingly imagined, from the lodge, to the wilderness, to the mines, the cabin, the shed, and even the asylum, the animation never disappoints. However, at times you don't know what you're suppose to do and can get turned around easily; but then again, I guess that adds the the genuine feel to it. The creatures themselves are terrifying; Wendigos. As I am part Native American, this folklore creeped me out within my blood! Through the game it is gut wrenching when you find the clues that the sisters didn't die right away. They found their way to the mines where there was a grave marker for Beth, and even a skull was found. However, another great aspect of the game was that Hannah had actually become one of the beasts. Further more, was I the only one through the game play that realized she was still protective of Mike, and even Sam. I feel like no one is drawing attention to the fact that she was fighting off the other Wendigos when they were in the lodge at the end, and when Sam ran for it, Hannah as the beast was the one to take-down the beast that was chasing Sam, and probably would have reached her if it wasn't for Hannah. Then, in true horror-style, once the house is blown to smithereens, Hannah or one of the Wendigos spirits screams out and flows through Mike and Sam... PLUS, Em was bitten so we don't know the extent of her transformation or not. Guess we'll have to wait for Until Dawn 2.
I definitely enjoyed this game and didn't want to stop playing. The studio did a marvelous job of raising your heartbeat and drawing you in. I've watched different game-plays and there are various endings. There is also a "secret" ending where during the gangs interviews at the end, they challenge the authorities to go into the minds and see for themselves. When they get there, Josh is munching on a head, what happens next we don't know because in true thematic styling, the screen goes black. I'd love to see an Until Dawn 2 and hope that they further explore what scares us most and customize our game-play, I think that's amazing! I would like to see, if they do make sequel, for them to add more realization. I mean, it was terrifying in a real way when Mike had to wack-off his own fingers... so, when they're tracking through the snow, it would be a real thing to freeze to death, hypothermia, or frostbite. I mean, come one... Jess fell into the stream, she wouldn't have lasted as long as she did, especially as bitchy as she was. Supermassive - make us truly terrified! I don't regret paying the money for the game, I would usually wait until it was reduced, drastically. But, the stars aligned and I was able to get it and play it (especially because I don't have a PS4 either). Now, I want to replay the game and make different choices to see how the game differs. Of course I didn't add everything here, you'll just have to play it for yourself! *wink*
Have you played Until Dawn, or have you watched any of the game-play?
What are your thoughts?