If horror movies have taught us anything, it is that you do not spend your summer in a cabin in the woods. Especially if you’re a group of young adults, you’re just asking for trouble and it’s not just because you’ll make bad decisions while you’re there. Or perhaps it is in Supermassive Games’ new title, Until Dawn.
When eight college kids go to a cabin in the woods to spend their summer they find themselves in a fight for their lives. You play as each of these individuals as they run and hide from a psychopathic killer. The choices will often be made in the moment where you only have a couple seconds to respond. Do you run or hide? Do you fight back or try to slow the killer down? These choices can change how the scene plays out and creates a movie like atmosphere in which you play both the director and the actor.
The game does something we don’t often see in games, much less horror games. Death is permanent. Miss a step while running down a set of stairs and you can find yourself injured and unable to run. A mistake that can get you killed and that makes this horror game more like a roguelike than traditional horror. You won’t just reset back to your last checkpoint. You’ll go on to play as the next friend in the cabin and they may even see what happened to their friend that you played previously. This creates a spine chilling atmosphere that is unique to this game a horror movies alike. You have someone you’re rooting for, the one you want to make it out alive. The person you’re shouting at the screen, “Don’t hide there!” Just now the controller is put in your hands and you have decide, would you hide there? Or would you keep running?
In the E3 demo you play as Sam. As a tutorial the game gives you some questions to answer in which you tilt the controller towards and pick by looking at the related icon and pressing X. The questions give you some choices between different fears, asking which are you afraid of? Such as, suffocating or needles? Which seems irrelevant at first and just a way to teach you the core game mechanic but they’ll come back up later.
The game then picks up as Sam is enjoying some music in a nice, soothing bath. A bath in which she is being watched by a man with a seriously creepy clown mask. The suspected killer leaves the room and by slamming the door, catches the attention of Sam. You then have control of the character where you can walk throughout this very large cabin (though with limited control with locked camera positions) until you reach a private theater. That is where the thrills begin.
The doors slam behind you and an ominous voice comes over the speaker. A video begins to play of Sam in the bath and the voice commentates on her. Says how beautiful she is and ask the question, “Do you think this creature's last moments were peaceful?” Not only stripping you of your humanity but implying you’re going to die, as many horror villains do. Then a short clip plays of one of Sam’s friends being cut in half, a nod towards a previously played character meeting their gruesome demise, and soon after the door bust down and it’s time to run.
You’ll have a few choices to make throughout the demo and it gets tougher as you go. At first it seems even if you mess up you won’t die but it quickly turns around. Soon your mistakes can kill you if you make a couple back to back, and then if you manage to survive that the punishment is even more severe. Sam may or may not survive based on what you do in the short, yet agonizing minutes that follow.
Releasing on August 25th, 2015, Until Dawn has the potential to be a game worth gathering your friends around and instead of just watching a horror movie this summer, you each could play a character and see who can make it out alive.