Until Dawn

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Until Dawn
Until Dawn cover art.jpg
Developer(s) Supermassive Games
Publisher(s) Sony Computer Entertainment
Director(s) Will Byles
Designer(s) Nik Bowen
Artist(s) Brandon Kosinski
Writer(s)
Composer(s) Jason Graves[1]
Engine Decima
Platform(s) PlayStation 4
Release
  • NA: 25 August 2015
  • PAL: 26 August 2015
  • UK: 28 August 2015
Genre(s) Adventure, survival horror
Mode(s) Single-player

Until Dawn is a horror adventure video game developed by Supermassive Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation 4.[2] It was originally scheduled to be released for PlayStation 3 and feature PlayStation Move support, but in August 2014 the game was re-introduced as a PlayStation 4 title,[3] and was released worldwide in August 2015.[4]

Set in Western Canada, Until Dawn centres around a group of eight teenagers who decide to have a holiday for a night in a cabin on the fictional Blackwood Mountain, exactly one year after the disappearance of two girls, the twin sisters of a member of their group. Shortly after arriving, the gang find themselves under attack by a madman and must attempt to survive until sunrise. Throughout the adventure, players alternate between all eight characters, making critical decisions as the story advances which drastically affects the game's outcome, leading to hundreds of different scenarios.[5]

Until Dawn was met with a positive critical response upon release, with praise directed at the visuals, 'choice' mechanic, horror elements, music, characters, voice acting, and gameplay design. Towards the second half of the story, there was criticism drawn to the camera angles, movement of characters and the partially linear plot. A prequel, The Inpatient, was announced in June 2017 and released in January 2018.

Gameplay

Until Dawn is designed to be played multiple times, as players cannot see all content with a single playthrough.[6] Each playthrough lasts about nine hours in length[5] and the game mechanics utilise an in-game system called the "butterfly effect" in which any choice of action made by the player may cause unforeseen consequences later on.[7] For example, locating a weapon in an earlier chapter may allow the player to pick it up down the line when a chase scene leads back to the same room. Throughout the game, players will make difficult decisions during ethical or moral dilemmas, such as sacrificing one character to save another.[8] The game also includes a flashback and flashforward mechanic where if a certain event has, or is about to, unfold, or if something important is realised by a character, the game will show a flashback through the eyes of a character that witnessed an event that caused the upcoming encounters, or it will show a choice the player made that resulted in the event. Flashbacks and flashforwards are normally not a good sign and are an indicator that something bad has or will happen. The Butterfly Effect system blurs the line between right and wrong decisions, and it is possible for players to keep all eight characters alive as well as having all eight of them die, allowing for many different paths and scenarios as well as offering several different endings for each character.[9] Until Dawn has a strict auto-save system to prevent players from reloading a previous save file to an earlier point in the game if they regret an in-game decision they have made. The only way to change the player's choice is to restart the game from the beginning or continue to the end and start a new game.[10] The developer has stated that Until Dawn has "hundreds of endings" but that should not be taken literally. Different endings have different variations depending on the combination of characters alive at the end of the game.[11][12]

The gameplay is focused on exploration, quick-time events and discovering clues as well as making decisions.[13] There is an in-game system that will keep track of all of the clues and secrets players have discovered in total, even if there are multiple playthroughs; these clues will allow the player to piece together the mysteries of Blackwood.[14] In terms of the gameplay mechanics and theme, Until Dawn has been noted to be similar to Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls.[15][16]

Plot

On 2 February 2014, Josh Washington (Rami Malek), his two sisters, Beth and Hannah (Ella Lentini), and their friends Sam Giddings (Hayden Panettiere), Mike Munroe (Brett Dalton), Chris Hartley (Noah Fleiss), Ashley Brown (Galadriel Stineman), Emily Davis (Nichole Bloom), Matt Taylor (Jordan Fisher), and Jessica Riley (Meaghan Martin) have a party in the Washington Lodge on Blackwood Mountain for their annual winter getaway. Mike, Emily, Jessica, Matt, and Ashley play a mean-spirited prank on Hannah, causing her to run away from the lodge into the woods, and Beth to chase after her. They are pursued by a fire-spewing individual who corners them on a cliff, which they both fall off.

On the one-year anniversary of his sisters' disappearance, Josh invites the group back to the lodge again. Once there, the group quickly splits, as couples Mike and Jessica walk to the guest lodge, Matt and Emily return to the cable car station to retrieve one of Emily's forgotten bags, and Sam goes upstairs to have a bath. After Mike and Jessica arrive at the cabin, Jessica is dragged away by an unknown creature. Mike pursues them into a mine, and can prevent her death, though he is not able to rescue her from captivity. He follows a Stranger into an abandoned sanatorium and learns about an incident in 1952 where 30 workers were trapped in a cave-in. Chris gets knocked out and wakes to find Ashley and Josh chained to a giant saw blade deathtrap by a masked man, which results in Josh being bisected. After learning about Josh's fate, Emily and Matt try to leave the mountain via the cable car, only to find it locked. They climb a radio tower and are able to contact a park ranger who says help won't arrive until dawn. The tower is then pulled down by some of the creatures that kidnapped Jessica; Emily falls into the mineshaft, and Matt is either separated from her or killed outright. Back at the lodge, Sam is stalked by the Psycho and is either knocked unconscious, or escapes into a workshop.

As Sam and Mike discover Chris and Ashley stuck in another deathtrap, the masked psycho reveals himself to be Josh, who was pranking the group in retaliation for his sisters' disappearance. He confesses to rigging the lodge to appear haunted but denies killing Jessica; Mike and Chris tie him up and leave him in the shed. In the mine, Emily finds Beth's head; she may also find Hannah's personal effects, discovering that Hannah survived the initial fall and that she had eaten her sister's flesh to survive. She encounters the Stranger, who helps her escape from the unknown creatures and return to the lodge, though she may be slain during the escape. The Stranger (Larry Fessenden) then confronts the main group and reveals the mountain is inhabited by Wendigos, humans that were possessed by evil spirits after engaging in cannibalism; he explains that fire is one of the only ways to kill them. Chris and the Stranger go to retrieve Josh, only to find him missing. The Stranger is killed, and Chris may be as well. If Emily is alive, the remaining characters then discover that she was bitten by a wendigo during her escape, and Mike must decide whether to kill her, out of fear of zombie-esque contagion, or spare her.

Mike, Sam and Ashley (and Chris and Emily, if alive) go to the sanatorium to find Josh and the cable car key. While Ashley and any others turn back, during which Ashley may be slain by a trap laid by the wendigos, Mike and Sam destroy the sanatorium to defend themselves from the monsters. They find Josh in the mines, hallucinating badly, and watch as he is either killed or spared by the Hannah Wendigo (depending on whether Emily discovered the clues to Hannah's fate). Matt and Jessica, if alive, awaken separately in the depths of the mine and return to the surface; if both are already dead, this segment is simply omitted from gameplay. Mike and Sam return to the lodge, where Ashley, Chris and Emily may be waiting, only to find it overrun with fighting wendigos. The creatures cause a gas leak, which the group then sets alight with an electrical spark, destroying the lodge, killing all of the creatures and possibly slaying some of the remaining characters. Outside, rescue helicopters arrive at dawn to take the survivors away.

Ending

As the credits roll, those who did not survive have their death scenes replayed, while the living friends give interviews about the incident to the police and warn them of creatures in the mines. If Josh survived, he is shown as having transformed into a wendigo and eating the Stranger's head. If at least one other friend survived, Josh is discovered by the police and he attacks them. If nobody else survived, Josh looks at the player.

Development

Until Dawn was announced for the PlayStation 3 at Gamescom 2012 and was originally set to use the PlayStation Move controller.[17] It was announced as a first-person video game, and the players were expected to use the PlayStation Move controller to control the flashlight and torch, as well as to switch between the game's eight different playable characters.[17] It was developed by Supermassive Games, who had previously worked on other PlayStation Move games including 2010's Start the Party!.[18] A trailer and gameplay footage was shown to the public.[19]

The game was originally set to be released in 2013. However, no more details about the game were provided, and the game had not been released as of late 2013. Until Dawn was reportedly cancelled, but Supermassive later clarified that the game was still in development.[20]

Until Dawn was re-introduced at Gamescom 2014. The title now served as a PlayStation 4 exclusive and would shift to a third-person perspective.[21] The PlayStation Move feature was replaced by the DualShock 4's motion sensor. In addition, the torch feature was scrapped in favour of a more traditional level approach, with the characters becoming playable at different parts of the game.[22] In addition to the trailer, a gameplay demo was released.[23] According to Supermassive, the game's transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 has led the developer to rebuild the game and to rewrite its story, so as to create a more cinematic experience, and to make the game to feel "darker and fundamentally more terrifying". It was also revealed that Until Dawn would utilise the Decima engine that originated from Killzone Shadow Fall.[24]

On 26 May 2015, Sony announced that the game would be released on 25 August 2015.[25] Players who pre-ordered the game would receive a bonus mission featuring Matt and Emily. Besides the game's standard edition, there are also an extended edition and a steelbook edition that is available for players to purchase.[26] On 31 July 2015, Sony confirmed that the game had been declared gold, indicating it was being prepared for duplication and release.[27]

As Until Dawn features graphic violence, all death scenes were censored in the Japanese version of the game.[28][29]

Reception

Critical response

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 79/100[30]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 7/10[31]
EGM 8/10[32]
Game Informer 9/10[33]
Game Revolution 4/5 stars[34]
GameSpot 8/10[35]
GamesRadar+ 3.5/5 stars[37]
GameTrailers 8.5/10[36]
IGN 7.5/10[38]
Polygon 6.5/10[39]
VideoGamer.com 8/10[40]

Until Dawn received positive reviews. It received an aggregated score of 79 on Metacritic based on 103 reviews.[30] In 2017, GamesRadar ranked the game 13 in their list of "the 20 best horror games of all time".[41]

Lucy O'Brien of IGN gave the game a generally positive review, giving it a 7.5 out of 10. She praised the "creepy" environments, "tongue-in-cheek" tone, and the choices the player is forced to make. She did, however, dislike certain characters, particularly 'Doctor Hill', and the second half of the game, mostly the story's focus, calling it "silly" and "derailing". She thought that the game was flawed but enjoyable and felt that the story dragged down the game's overall quality.[38]

Game Informer's Jeff Marchiafava gave the game a positive review, with a score of 9/10. He praised the player decision-making mechanic, which he felt dynamically changed the game's experience and story. He also praised the game's score, which he called "superb", the voice acting, the story, which was thought of as "intriguing and exciting", and the visuals. He called the gameplay "simple yet effective" and thought it was "engaging", but he criticized the game's animation, which he described as "awkward". Marchiafava stated that the game is a "remarkable experience that horror fans shouldn't miss".[33]

In her mostly positive review for GameSpot, Alexa Ray Corriea scored the game an 8/10, saying that she was surprised by the game. She particularly complimented the narrative because she considered its branching paths have significantly altered the game's story, saying "choices matter in big ways and affect the rest of the game". She also liked the actors' performances, calling them "incredibly good", and the overall replayability. Negative comments were concerning the story, mostly towards the end, and the "unflattering" camera angles. She also said "the visuals can be wonky at times".[35]

VideoGamer.com's Tom Orry gave the game a positive review. He scored it an 8/10, citing the horror elements, acting, "lovely" visuals, and the player choice mechanic as positives, even though he had some minor criticisms. Orry felt that the game had exceeded his expectations and added that the simple gameplay, alongside the story, successfully gives players a thrilling and malleable experience.[40]

Destructoid's Chris Carter gave the game a 7 out of 10. He praised the game's environments, collectibles, and premise. However, he criticised the game's story, which he thought was predictable, and the exaggerated acting. In addition, Carter felt that the game lacked meaningful choices.[31]

GamesRadar's Louise Blain gave the game a 3.5 out of 5, calling it a "beautiful" "bloodstained love letter to every horror movie you’ve ever seen". She enjoyed the jump-scares, pace, visuals, and overall tone, but criticised the game for being "painfully" short. She disliked the decision-making mechanic as she thought that the system was diminished due to several set plot points.[37]

Giving a mixed review for Polygon, Philip Kollar scored the game a 6.5/10. He found the game "generic", even though he thought it had offered him a unique experience. He did not consider it a great game, but he thought that the game was good enough to keep him engaged. He added that the narrative structure of the game could serve as an example for future narrative-driven video games.[39]

Sales

The game was the sixth best selling weekly software in Japan, selling 17,472 copies. The release of this as well as Dragon's Dogma Online provided a slight boost in PlayStation 4 sales.[42] In the United Kingdom, Until Dawn was the second best-selling software for the week of 29 August 2015, debuting at No. 2 in the UK retail software sales chart, behind only Gears of War: Ultimate Edition.[43] According to the NPD Group, Until Dawn was the seventh best selling game in the United States in August 2015.[44] Supermassive Games stated that the sales of the game far exceeded their expectations.[45]

Accolades

Date Ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref.
2015 Golden Joystick Awards PlayStation Game of the Year Until Dawn Nominated [46]
Global Game Awards Best Horror Game Won [47]
Best Original Game Third
The Game Awards Best Narrative Nominated [48]
2016 New Statesmen's Top 10 Video Games of 2015 Best Game Seventh [49]
Hardcore Gamer's Best of 2015 Best Adventure Game Runner-Up [50]
PlayStation Blog's Best of 2015 Best PS4 Game Nominated [51][52]
Best Story Runner-Up
SXSW Gaming Awards Excellence in Technical Achievement Nominated [53][54]
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Performance in a Drama Supporting Brett Dalton as Mike Nominated [55]
Use of Sound, New IP Until Dawn Nominated
British Academy Games Awards British Game Nominated [56]
Game Innovation Nominated
Original Property Won
Story Nominated

Spin-off and prequel

In an interview with PlayStation LifeStyle, executive producer Pete Samuels stated that Supermassive Games is exploring the possibility of continuing Until Dawn.[45] A non-canonical spin-off, titled Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, was announced by Sony at Paris Games Week 2015; described as an arcade shooter, the game's development began in the middle of Until Dawn's development. It was released on the PlayStation VR on 13 October 2016.[57] In June 2017, The Inpatient was announced as a prequel to Until Dawn, set sixty years prior within the Blackwood Sanatorium.[58]

References

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External links

  • Official website
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