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Sometimes, you worry about a game when it hits the development limbo status. Most of the time, those games end up in an unfinished state, and get labeled as one of the worst games of that year. We have seen this before with games like Duke Nukem Forever and Ride to Hell: Retribution. However, some have turned out to be fantastic experiences like South Park: Stick of Truth. Luckily, Until Dawn survived development limbo, and is one of my favorite games of this year. For those that may not know about the history of this game, it was originally announced back in 2012. It was supposed to use the PlayStation Move, but since that became a gigantic failure, my guess is that they retooled everything, and made it an 80’s horror homage version of Heavy Rain. Now then, what is this game all about? Well, read on to find out, if you dare!
The story revolves around eight teens that are actually in their 20s, who go up to a cabin in the mountainside on a special anniversary. Sadly, this anniversary is for the loss of two girls who were their friends that went missing in the mountains. These eight teens include Sam, voiced by Hayden Panettiere, Mike, voiced by Brett Dalton, Chris, voiced by Noah Fleiss, Ashley, voiced by Galadriel Stineman, Emily, voiced by Nicole Bloom, Jessica, voiced Meaghan Martin, Matt, voiced by Jordan Fisher, and the individual running the whole thing, Josh, voiced by Rami Malek. Of course, since this is a horror game, a psycho is stalking them, and weird things begin to happen around the mountainside. Can they all get out alive? What is up there? What’s going on? And why is there a psychiatrist played by Peter Stomare? The story is a lot of fun. It captures that goofy, but scary nature of an ideal horror film. I mean, it does help that they have some great actors who have been in some good stuff like Rami Malek of Mr. Robot fame, and Peter Stomare of Fargo fame. Any stereotype you can think of, it’s here, from the really unlikable girl, the jock guy, the joker, to the token African American character. It was just fun to go through the story and see the interaction between all of the characters.
Have you played Heavy Rain? What about any other kind of David Cage-style experience? Well, that is basically Until Dawn. You will be controlling a majority of the characters in the same way most story-focused games have you do, as you solve puzzles, find collectables to piece a lot of the backstory together, and of course, go through narrative trees and decide who lives and who dies. Fun fact, you can actually save everyone or let everyone die in this game. It’s rather enjoyable to see a horror game that creates its story by letting the player decide who lives and who dies. You really do get a lot of time with this game. It might only be seven to nine hours, but with how much replayability there is, it’s worth whatever the current price tag is for this game.
Graphically, Until Dawn is one of the best looking games around. It captures the look, feel, and overall atmosphere that every 80s/early 90s slasher/horror flick gets right. The world around is cold, haunting, powerful, eerie, intimidating, and well, scary. Everything looks pretty good, and I didn’t notice any slowdown during my time playing the game. The voice acting is perfect. Every actor in this game captures the ideal stereotype of every young teen that is actually someone in their 20s that you see in every horror film. The music is also quite fitting to the overall atmosphere that the game gives the player. The composer is Jason Graves, who worked on the horror action Dead Space franchise and The Order: 1886. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised this talented composer knows how to enthrall you with eerie worlds.
I really love this game, but I have a few problems. The biggest issue is that the ending is underwhelming. It builds up to this big event in the final third, but instead of having a proper ending, it cuts to the teens that are alive talking to the police. I don’t know, since this game loves being everything that made horror films great in the 80s, but I was surprised it didn’t get a corny happy ending or something. I also found the controls to be slightly finicky in some areas. For example, I lost my favorite character because of that stupid motion bar thing that forces you to stay still or die. I feel like holding down a button would have been much better than having to deal with a very stingy motion bar.
To be frank, Until Dawn is one of my top 10 favorite games of the 2015. It has great graphics, an entertaining horror story, a fantastic script, eerie atmosphere, ominous music, and is just a fantastic experience. For all the games that are releasing buggy at launch or with disgusting micro-transactions that either have no reason to be there or ruin/hurt the game, it’s nice to see a big budget triple-A game come out and be a wonderful experience. I do wish more people knew about this game, but I am glad the sales of the game are better than expected. I can’t wait to see what this developer does again, since they are releasing a VR-only DLC add-on to the game. If you love horror games, then you need to pick up what is quite possibly the best horror experience of 2015.
This game gets an 8 out of 10.