Until Dawn Review | The Game Grinder

Until Dawn Review | The Game Grinder


I’ve had this game for quite awhile now,
and just hadn’t had the chance to get to it. Lately, I’ve had a serious horror craving,
so the time was right for Until Dawn. More like through the Dawn, because that’s
how.. Much I played it? Church here, and welcome to The Game Grinder. Today we’ll be reviewing Until Dawn. Until Dawn was developed by Supermassive Games,
which of all things known for, also developed the Little Big Planet series. Just with that information alone, they already
have some expectations to overcome jumping into another genre, with what could be considered
a “high risk” game. In some of my investigation, I learned that
Until Dawn was originally going to be a first-person Playstation Move game, but was delayed a couple
years and eventually reintroduced as a 3rd person PS4 game. The game was published by Sony Computer Entertainment
for the Playstation 4 in August of 2015. One year ago during a mountain resort getaway,
a prank that lead to a tragic accident caused two sisters to disappear. On the anniversary, the friends have come
together in remembrance, but the night takes a turn for the worse as strange events begin
to occur, and people begin to disappear. It’s up to these 8 friends to figure out
what’s going on, and attempt to survive.. Until Dawn. So I’m sure for those not familiar with
the game, are wondering, “What the hell is Until Dawn?” Until Dawn is what I’d call an “interactive
survival horror adventure” game, meaning, the game-play is a far less significant focus
and it’s story takes center stage. We’ll be able to explore the environments
we find, but all other actions are mostly “Quick Time Events”, or scripted prompts
for certain buttons that are time sensitive. Now before you dismiss another “QTE” game,
let me just say Until Dawn is a game that does pretty much everything right, giving
us enough user control, without the overbearing use of command prompts leading to outright
failure. One of the biggest reasons Until Dawn does
this more than effectively, is the game’s incredible emphasis on choice. Right from the beginning of our story, it
introduces the almost cliche “Butterfly Effect” concept, where one action may ripple
to larger results – If a butterfly was to flap its wings, it may create a tsunami on
the other side of the world. So the big hurdle for these types of games
are their ability to create actual, meaningful differences in the choices we make, and it
many ways Until Dawn is more of the same in regards to how the main concept of the story
will not change, but what Until Dawn nails is how these choices affect our characters
throughout this story. Actions lead to consequences, and all our
choices will be deciding factors in how our characters interact with one another, and
if they will survive the night. How certain situations will play out can have
different results depending on how each person’s responded to other people, and during my two
playthroughs, I was surprised to see some of the changes when making different decisions. Throughout our playthrough of Until Dawn,
we’ll play as eight different people. Game-play basics remains the same for each,
but different situations may be more exploration focused, and some might have more scenarios
requiring the Quick-Time Events. It’s all very situational. This is pretty well balanced with each character
though, but again, the main focus is character building, which I’ll get to more about later. Basically, while playing each person, we can
explore the limits of the current location, and if by chance there are objects to interact
with, we’ll be provided with a prompt to hit “X”, and can further interact. As our characters proceed throughtout the
game, they are always communicating in some way, building their personalities and tell
us, the player, how what they are thinking during these scenarios. Otherwise it’s progressing and the occasional
Quick-Time prompts. Besides these sometimes life or death prompts,
we’ll also have the more significant “Butterfly Effect” decisions. These will usually take the form of polarized
responses or actions, accosting someone versus being supportive, or choosing to run versus
hiding. Sometimes there will be situations where it
might be wise to not react at all, say given the choice to shoot a random animal. Also, there are some situations where the
game makes use of the PS4’s motion sensitive controls, and tells us to “Don’t Move”,
and we have to hold the controller completely still. This can be bit more challenging than you’d
think it would be, and really makes for some intense situations. As we play through the game, there are various
clues we can find covering a few different topics. The most significant clues to find are related
to the two sisters who disappeared, and finding all their clues will provide some additional
story at the end of the game. There are other clues relating to other story
elements and paint us pictures of past events to add more depth to an already deep story. Another interesting findable series of objects
are the “Totems”. These are sections of a totem pole that our
characters can find, and their significance is for us, the player, rather than the character. These give us foreshadowing glimpses into
the future, and may warn of deadly situations, or hint about choices we would want to make. Of course how we use this information is up
to us to decipher it’s exact meaning, but this really lends itself to some of the tension
as we inch closer to the events where these visions will unfold. I mentioned before that the characters we
may play as are at risk. There are forces at work, and regardless of
intentions, will lead to the death of our protagonists unless we’re able to choose
wisely, and react quickly when needed. Not all of the significant choices seem black
and white, and it’s hard to say how other characters will respond in later situations
looking back at other’s choices. The severity of these choices is made ever
present by the fact there is no going back. We have a single-playthrough save file, and
after each decision it auto-saves and we have to live with the outcome. Conveniently though, once completing the game,
we can use a chapter select function to go back in the story and start again from a certain
point, but seeing the changes in action requires the rest of the story to be completed again. I actually did this immediately after my first
playthrough as I wasn’t satisfied with how things turned out the first time around. I went all the back to Chapter 3 and played
to the end from there to aim for the final results I had hoped for. There are a total of 10 chapters excluding
a prologue, and clues found, and decisions made remain important from the very beginning. Very cool stuff. Before jumping into story, I’d like to just
quickly give Until Dawn some serious praise for it’s story. As a horror film veteran, I’ve really seen
it all. When we’re delving into a potential slasher
genre, there’s not much that can be done uniquely, but this is exactly where Until
Dawn excels with its story. I hate to use this descriptor in a review,
but Until Dawn has some serious twists in it’s story. It’s not like groan worthy M Night Shyamalan
twists, but very unique and fitting to the events of the story, and helps to lead into
other major plot points. And again, besides the story itself, the characters
within are very well done and fleshed out. Until Dawn is presented in a series of chapters,
and in between each chapter is a recap of significant previous events that will be especially
relevant in the coming chapter. This is not only an interesting inclusion
giving it an “episodic feel”, but also provides good stopping and starting points
when we need to end the gaming session. Now’s the point where I’ll expand a little
more on the story, before jumping into spoilers, I’ll give a warning. As the game beings we are introduced to our
cast of characters. For some reason they thought it would be a
funny idea to prank their friend Hannah, who then out of embarrassment runs out into the
cold night. Her twin sister followers her, and we’ll
then take over. We’ll learn how things play out, see some
events that will make sense by the end of our journey, and see how they die. Unfortunately, this information is never learned
by anyone else. A year later the friends have reunited, planning
to spend some time together to celebrate their lasting friendships, and remember the lost
sisters. The retreat has been organized by the missing
sisters’ brother, Josh. We’ll then be introduced to the rest of
the friends. There’s the level headed Sam, and the couples:
dorky Chris and thoughtful Ashley, coolio Mike and prissy Jessica, bitchy Emily and
meathead Matt. We’ll slowly be introduced to each person
as they make their way to the resort and begin to learn more about how the past events have
affected them. A dispute begins between Jessica, who Mike
is currently involved with, and Emily, who Mike was previously involved with, so Mike
and Jessica decide to head out to a guest cabin. Emily realized Matt had forgotten one of her
bags, so Emily and Matt head back towards to lift car. Sam heads off to bathe, Josh, Chris, and Ashley
decide to bust out the Ouija board and perform a sauance. This is where things begin to go bat shit. And though I’m not going to talk in depth
about the remainder of it’s story, I’m going to talk about it’s direction, and
in way is sort of spoilery, so here’s fair warning. If you’d like to skip ahead, click on the
annotation, or skip to the time listed. This will be brief, but let’s move on. The unique take on some tired cliche horror
genres is another aspect where Until Dawn excels. In a way it splits off into some different
genres at this point. There some serious lost in the woods slash
lost in caverns monster movie stuff going down. Then back at the resort is the slasher stalker
events. We’ll also hit into other types of horror
once we find ourselves in certain areas. We’ll actually discover an old abandoned
sanitorium, doing some investigative work while delving into some more psychological
horror. Seriously, it’s kinda crazy how how this
game fluctuates the horror genres, and it does this well with the twists in the story
I mentioned before. Some events at the resort even really made
me think of old-school Scoobie-doo ghost hunting even. It’s great! Seriously! Unfortunately I won’t go more into the story,
as I think this one is best experienced with little to no spoilers about where it goes
from here. Throughout the entire rest of the game, each
character is a piece to discovere what the hell is currently going on, and at the same
time will be the catalysts to discovere events past, that all comes together by the end if
we pay attention, and how all of these vastly different situations enabled one another. It’s also worth mentioning that Until Dawn
was so well done with it’s story and characters, even after learning all the twists and secrets
within this complex storyline, it can definitely be enjoyed again just on it’s sheer quality
and enjoyment factor. Not those one and done “tweest” horror
films. I’d really love to talk about it more because
it was so much fun, and so surprising where things went, but I don’t have enough time
in this video sadly. So let’s talk about Until Dawn’s overall
presentation, and to this I gotta say I’m really glad Supermassive decided to delay
the game and release it for the PS4, because this is a gorgeous looking game. With all the various locations we visit, from
the resort itself to caverns, cabins, watch towers, and a sanatorium, every place looked
incredible real and believable. Every location was methodically detailed. Old dwellings looked dilapidated and lived
in, abandoned mines looked unkempt and perilous, not exactly something we shouldn’t expect,
but I was seriously impressed at what I was seeing. Some of the more basic inbetween snowy paths
were use to get to the main areas were alarmingly real in appearance and gorgeous to look at. Speaking of appearance, there’s no way I
could talk about this game and not bring up the character animation and the actors involved. I gotta say I’m a fan of the direction game
studios are going with motion capture. Sure there is some jankyness to some of the
actor’s facial animations and sometimes movements, but for me, I thought a majority
of the time they looked as realistic as they could using rendered graphics. I’m not jaded enough as a gamer to have
it bother me. The two most recognizable actors in this game
for me were Remi Malek who’s known recently for the TV series “Mr. Robot”, and Hayden
Panettiere for the TV series “Heroes”, and voice actress for Kairi in Kingdom Hearts. All the actors in this game did a fantastic
job with their characters, and I have no complaints honestly. Some characters I really liked, some I didn’t,
but it was all done on purpose. The “behind-the-scenes” unlockable videos
about the mocap process and acting was interesting, as not only did they do standard facial capture,
but the actors actually improvised the physical situations when delivering lines to help add
more realism to their reactions. It’s definitely worth mentioning that Larry
Fessenden was brought in to help with the script writing along with Graham Reznick. Larry is a long time actor, writer, and director
of the horror genre, much in the schlock B genre, but none the less was recognizable. What these two were able to do with some stereotypical
horror tropes, and write not only an engaging story, but as an interactive experience is
as I said before, nothing short of impressive. The soundtrack was composed by Jason Graves,
and he’s worth a mention as well because he’s also worked on some other great game
soundtracks like Dead Space and the reboot Tomb Raider. I enjoyed the moody and brooding music accompaniment
to the dark and menacing situations throughout the game, and I gotta say it stood out to
more than the average game soundtrack. Before wrapping this up, I’d like to comment
on the game as a horror entry. There’s a lot of really great horror games
out there, but how this game presents itself, the situations, characters, and the twists,
oh the twists, really set it apart from the pack. Expectations be damned, because Until Dawn
is exceptional taking your usual horror cliches, and owning them. I played through the game a second time immediately
after the first! I rarely do that, regardless of short game
or not. I was engaged the entire time, and as unconvincing
as a description could be of the plot might sound, it’s really freaking good. Until Dawn is a must play for any horror fan. Thanks for checking out my review of Until
Dawn. What were your thoughts on the game? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked what you’ve seen or heard,
please give the video a like, a share, and subscribe to see future videos. I’m on Facebook and Twitter as well, and
post a lot of other great game related content there, and links are in the description. Until next time on The Game Grinder.

12 thoughts on “Until Dawn Review | The Game Grinder

  1. Church reviews Until Dawn for the PS4.

    Game site: http://www.supermassivegames.com/games/until-dawn

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    Check out the podcast I co-host, available on any podcast app:
    The Game Tenants Podcast Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/the-game-tenants
    The Game Tenants Podcast iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-game-tenants-podcast/id1158484206

    Motion graphic design by Ian Peters
    Castlevania II: Monster Dance cover by a friend
    The Guardian Legend: Victory Fanfare cover by Artificialraven

  2. Awesome review of an awesome game, I hope to see more games along this line, always been a fan of horror games but seemed like that area was kind of stagnating for a while as a genre but seems to be getting some great new ideas poured into it the last while.

  3. One of my really good friends who is a bigger horror movie buff than what I am really need to play this game and do a blind playthrough. I'm already aware of all the twists in this game, but I'm still interesting in playing it blind and then I'll work on 100% completion. As a fan of the slasher sub-genre, I'm kind of disappointed that they transitioned away away from slasher and went into monster mode, but regardless of how much I hate that transition I highly doubt it will ruin the game for me. Like I said before, my first playthrough will be blind and then the next playthroughs will be with walkthroughs with 100% completion. Out of curiosity church, how many characters survived on your first playthrough. Also good job with the review, I think this is one of your best ones yet.

  4. "Not groan-worthy M. Night Shyamalan twists." XD I agree with you about the mo-capped characters. I think a lot of people are turned off because of it, but I thought it was handled well. Great review, as always.

  5. 4:05 That motion sensitive "don't move" scenario is unique. Most of the time I don't like motion control anything… but the use of it here is kind of appealing in a strange way.

  6. i still really need to get this. i watch my friend play a part of this and it seem really creepy and awesome. its like heavy rain but as an horror movie.

  7. An excellent review, dude! Love this game and I really need to do a second playthrough very soon.. Keep up the excellent work, Church!

  8. The funny thing i got this game during launch week and barely beat it last week lol. I stopped playing it at first because the game did not have inverted controls! as a inverted player it was really hard for me to get use to the camera. Glady they added the option for inverted controls in later patches. I played through the whole game on stream. I really enjoyed. Great review!

  9. Very good! The first time playing i killed 6 teenageers and in the second game 6 lived. I know that they all can live still dawn. Is the challenge.

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