By: Brianna Autrey
Like horror? Great. Like video games? Perfect. Like horror video games that force you to choose a characters unpredictable (but surely gruesome) death? Even better! A PlayStation 4 exclusive game, Until Dawn, might catch your interest.
Many people question horror in video games as a duo; they’re typically more hit or miss than horror movies are. There are some well-known horror games that have broken the mold, such as Amnesia and Outlast (which by the way, Outlast is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already – but that’s another blog post for another time). These games were more than just cheap jump scares, the gripping plot and well executed elements of horror made them stand out. Until Dawn deserves a part of that spotlight, too.
The plot of the game revolves around eight friends who return to a cabin in the mountains (typical but bear with me) where two of their former friends have tragically died. Boring? Turns out there are supernatural creatures that live in the mountains and, long story short, things hit the fan and they have to wait until dawn for help to come and rescue them. What makes Until Dawn stand out is that it’s an interactive horror game with a butterfly effect system. As you play as different characters, you will make the dialogue choices in the game you are presented with, find clues about future deaths that can be prevented; that’s where the butterfly effect comes in. Whatever choice you make will change the course of the game. You also don’t have much time to make that choice (maybe twenty seconds?) until the game makes the choice for you.
For example, let’s say a wolf aggressively approached you in the mountains, would you attack it before it attacked you or would you stand still to let it know you’re defenseless? Keep in mind, you don’t know how this decision will affect the game later and now you have about ten seconds left to pick because the countdown starts immediately. If you chose to stand defenseless, then the wolf will return later in the game to help you fight off one of the creatures. If you chose to attack it, the wolf will injure your leg before running off, the commotion attracted the attention of the creatures, and because your leg is injured you can’t outrun them so they capture you and your eyes are gouged out before the creature decides to eat your head whole. That kind of stuff.
The butterfly affect in the game isn’t the only noteworthy feature. The PlayStation 4 uses a motion sensor controller, and some video games take advantage of that. Until Dawn is, to much approval, one of those games. When your character is hiding from the creature, the words “DON’T MOVE!” will spontaneously pop up on your screen and damn it, you better not move because the creature will hear you and you will die. Your job as the player is to keep the controller as still as possible while you watch the ugly, blood dripping from their teeth and claws creatures sniff around looking for you. Needless to say, those are some of the most intense moments of the game. I also find the fact that you can’t tell what decisions you make will affect everyone’s mortality incredibly tense and pressuring.
Until Dawn is willing to make fun of itself, which makes the game even more enjoyable. The game and plot are purposely using cliché horror movie themes. There’s the classic teens who can’t control their hormones, some dumbass who insists on using a Ouija board and the dumbasses that agree to it, the one or two characters that you like and hope make it to the end (which is totally in your hands if they do), and those characters that insist on investigating every single weird noise even though they know there’s death around every corner. Those are the best. The silver lining is, even though that character was stupid and went to investigate the deathly sound, you as the player can still make choices that can get them out of that situation alive (or not if you really hate a character and want to kill them, I’ve done that).
I’ve refrained from going too into detail about the plot and characters of the game but I highly suggest watching a gameplay video or two of the game on YouTube, or read spoilers about it if you’d prefer. Until Dawn is steadily becoming one of those video games you just have to talk about.