BY BETH PETER
Game developer Supermassive Games released an adventure/thriller game on August 25 that has since taken the gaming community by storm. A PlayStation 4 exclusive game, Until Dawn follows the story of eight friends trapped in a mountain cabin and their struggle to survive the night. Players are forced to make decisions throughout the game that determine who will live and who will die – and any combination of survivors is possible, including all or none. This presents a “butterfly effect” scenario, where choices that seem insignificant can influence the plot overall. With an impressive 79 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on the reviews of 101 game critics, Until Dawn promises remarkable replayability, as players will start the game over multiple times attempting to save their favorite characters. According to the NPD Group, a market research company, Until Dawn was the seventh best-selling title of August 2015, and the only PS4 exclusive title to make the top ten list. This is impressive for a new title, as every other game in the top ten is a part of a series.
Until Dawn is an exceptionally well animated game, and while not an entirely immersive experience, the plot-driven gameplay invests users in its characters. It is an ideal game for those new to PlayStation or to video games in general, as the tasks presented to the player are not overly complex, yet they also don’t seem inane to video game pros. The only critiques to game control confront the optional motion controls the player can select in lieu of traditional button operation. The motion controls do not work as well as they should in an otherwise well crafted game. They feel akin to a gimmick, disturbing the immersive storyline. The game’s realistic animation, compelling characterization, and thrilling soundtrack nonetheless combine to create an enjoyable game with immense replay possibilities.
Until Dawn follows in the footsteps of impressive predecessors such as Heavy Rain, a 2010 Quantic Dream game that also relies on player choices that influence the plot. Heavy Rain has a 4.5 out of 5 on Metacritic, following the hunt for a serial killer that targets children. Another horror game, the genre consistency raises the question of the compatibility for butterfly effect games and the horror genre. Does the fact that players are directly responsible for the characters’ futures create a more intense feeling of guilt should tragedy fall? I think so. When I lost a character in Until Dawn due to choices I made, I was legitimately upset. When I lost another child to the Origami Killer in Heavy Rain, I felt painfully guilty. The responsibility on the player for the futures of the characters emphasizes the stress of a horror game and creates a tense atmosphere.