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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Video Game Review: Until Dawn (2015), Choices and Fear of the Unknown

Until Dawn (2015)

Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek, Meaghan Martin, Brett Dalton, Noah Fleiss
Platform: PS4
Developed By: Supermassive Games
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Rating: A

Summary: A bunch of teens in the woods are stalked by a madman of some sorts.

My Thoughts: What we're presented here in Until Dawn is not only a homage to old 80's and 90's horror, but also story that really keeps you on edge and packs the scares with its big names and even bigger and greater game mechanics. One important game mechanic that is introduced to us at the beginning of game is one called "The Butterfly Effect" where we can control our progress in the game and how it relates to the finale with a single choice.

 Reminiscent to 2010's Heavy Rain, any ill-character interactions or the failure to complete one of the game's many quick time events can all result in the demise of one of our 8 playable characters which what I enjoyed the most about Heavy Rain in particular because once we kill off any of the characters based on our choices, they're gone forever and we can no longer play as them. However, a major downfall to the game is that when a character dies, their death doesn't really concern any of the other characters, unless they come across the body and we're once more reminded of our failure, and neither does it effect any of the plot besides the fact they can't be played as anymore, however, they are mentioned again at in the game's finale as a final reminder that we messed up and it got someone killed. What the game does is reminds you of your mistakes and that you messed up more so than carve more room for character development as the body count rises among this group of friends.

And like Heavy Rain, here, your choices do matter because as with horror movies, you bond with these characters, you're screaming at the screen hoping they'll make the right choices when there's not an option for you to do so and you're egging them to do what you think is best and here you're choosing the choices for these people in order to keep them alive whether or not you even actually like them or not because as the story progresses these people change. Their character traits begin to diverge from the cliche horror tropes they originally were. We begin to root for the "Asshole Jock" or the "Bitchy Cheerleader" and instead want the "Shy Sweet One" to get her comeuppance.

 The fear in this game lies in the unknown behind these choices. When we're watching a movie, there's really no weight behind these character's actions as they chose to do whatever they did to lead them to their early demise, here we're leading them and their lives are in our hands. It's the fear of making the wrong choice that drives Until Dawn and makes it the great game that it is. The most dreadful moments in the game are right when you miss a quick time event and you know that something awful may happen or before you click the button to make a major decision like choosing to go follow a noise or stay on the correct path. It's moments like these where we're fearful the most not because of the outcome itself but because we do not know where they outcome will lead and while this sort of mechanic is not one that Until Dawn invented, it upholds this mechanic well in order to create suspense and leave us on edge and even when the decisions are low pressure, the fear is still there that something we may do may get someone killed.

As I stated before, there are big names in this game and everyone puts on a great performance even though there are some cringe-worthy lines (and I mean a lot!),but as the game draws from typical horror movie cliches and tropes, it's forgivable, especially because it eventually diverges from this cliche ways to become it's own thing.

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