The set-up reminds us of several classic horror films, innocent kids heading to the mountains for a weekend of fun at an old cabin, only to run into a maniacal killer that will stop at nothing to pick them off one-by-one. Usually we know how the story ends, with one survivor remaining to tell the tale.
With Until Dawn, however, Supermassive Games and Sony are set to put a twist on the formula. This time around, the decisions are in your hands as you guide several teenagers through dangerous scenarios, running from a deranged clown-face killer hell-bent on everyone’s demise.
Until Dawn has a few traits in common with Sony's previously released Heavy Rain, as you follow on-screen commands to avoid skirmishes with the killer, while at the same time making decisions that affect the flow of the story.
Case in point – one character, Sam (voiced and modeled by actress Hayden Panettiere), takes a bath, but soon finds herself in peril when the killer shows up out of nowhere. She scrambles for her life as he continues his relentless pursuit, locking a door for a few seconds of relief.
It's here where the player takes control of Sam's actions, which play out in real-time and eventually decide her fate. Will you take a chance and hide in the closet, or crawl under the bed, where she'll have a clear view of her killer's feet?
No matter what decisions you make, tension follows. If a character dies in Until Dawn, that's it – there's no coming back unless you start over again. Once they're gone, the rest of the characters will adapt. Your choices eventually decide their fate.
The game has been in development for some time now, as it was originally conceived as a PlayStation Move-compatible adventure on the PlayStation 3. However, Supermassive Games gave it a new lease on life with the ability to use the DualShock 4 controller. Now for a primer on how to remain alive.
First, staying in plain sight for too long will instantly result in the killer catching you. You must think quickly and make your decisions before he arrives. Second, you can try to injure the killer, but remember, this is a horror movie inspired video game. You may think he's dead, but obviously he isn't, so figure out your next move. Finally, running around in circles will anger him, to the point that he catches up and stabs you, just to move on to the next kid.
In other words, it's important not to fall into the typical horror movie traps – and that's where Until Dawn succeeds. The sheer tension of "will I live or not" sets in with each move you make, and while it lacks the full-tilt action of the recent Resident Evil games, it more than compensates with sheer terror, especially when the killer bursts through a wall.
With that in mind, Until Dawn’s plot seems to be the primary selling point. It plays out entirely different each time you play. For instance, if Sam survives her first run-in with the killer, the other characters will take a different route than before and set up dangerous new scenarios. This should make the story worth experiencing several times to see how everything plays out.
Unfortunately there’s no release date for Until Dawn, but the more time Supermassive Games receives to polish its newest creation, the better it should be. We'll see how everything plays out when the game arrives on PS4 later this year.