|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Genre(s)||Interactive drama, survival horror, adventure|
Until Dawn is an interactive drama survival horror adventure video game developed by Supermassive Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation 4. It was originally scheduled to be released on the PlayStation 3 and feature PlayStation Move support, but in August 2014 the game was reintroduced as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, and was released worldwide in August 2015.
Set in Western Canada, Until Dawn centers around a group of eight teenagers who decide to vacation for a night in a cabin on the fictional Blackwood Mountain, exactly one year after the disappearance of two girls, the twin sisters of a member of their group. Shortly after arriving, the gang find themselves under attack by a psychopath, and must attempt to survive until sunrise. Throughout the adventure, players alternate between all eight characters, making critical decisions as the story advances which drastically affects the game's outcome, leading to hundreds of different scenarios.
Until Dawn was met with a positive critical response upon release, with praise directed at the visuals, 'choice' mechanic, horror elements, music, characters, voice acting, and gameplay design. Most of the criticism the game drew concerned the second half of the story, the camera angles, character movement, and the game's partially linear plot. A prequel, The Inpatient, was announced in June 2017.
Until Dawn is designed to be played multiple times, as players cannot see all content with a single play-through. Each playthrough lasts about nine hours in length and the game mechanics utilize an in-game system called the "butterfly effect" in which any choice of action by the player may cause unforeseen consequences later on. For example, locating a weapon in an earlier chapter may allow the player to pick it up down the line when a chase scene leads back to the same room. Throughout the game, players will make difficult decisions during ethical or moral dilemmas, such as sacrificing one character to save another. The Butterfly Effect system blurs the line between right and wrong decisions, and it is possible for players to keep all eight characters alive as well as having all eight of them die, allowing for many different paths and scenarios as well as offering several different endings for each character. Until Dawn has a strict auto-save system to prevent players from reloading a previous save file to an earlier point in the game if they regret an in-game decision they have made. The only way to change the player's choice is to restart the game from the beginning or continue to the end and start a new game. The developer has stated that Until Dawn has "hundreds of endings" but that should not be taken literally. Different endings have different variations depending on the combination of characters alive at the end of the game.
The gameplay is focused on exploration, quick-time events and discovering clues as well as making decisions. There is an in-game system that will keep track of all of the clues and secrets players have discovered in total, even if there are multiple playthroughs; these clues will allow the player to piece together the mysteries of Blackwood. In terms of the gameplay mechanics and theme, Until Dawn has been noted to be similar to Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls.
On February 2, 2014, friends Mike (Brett Dalton), Sam (Hayden Panettiere), Chris (Noah Fleiss), Ashley (Galadriel Stineman), Jessica ("Jess") (Meaghan Martin), Matt (Jordan Fisher) and Emily (Nichole Bloom) celebrate their winter getaway at the Blackwood Pines lodge, owned by mutual friends Josh Washington (Rami Malek) and his twin sisters, Hannah and Beth (Ella Lentini), located near Blackwood Mountain in Alberta. Mike, Ashley, Emily, Jess, and Matt trick Hannah into opening her shirt for Mike while they hide. They then come out of hiding, embarrassing Hannah and causing her to flee into the forest. As Beth follows, they are hunted by an unknown pursuer that corners them to a cliff, where they both fall to their deaths and aren't recovered.
A year later, the group are invited again by Josh to the lodge for reconciliation and to put the past behind. Now, Mike and Jess are in a relationship, as are Matt and Emily. As they arrive, Emily and Jess bicker, with Jess deciding to go with Mike to stay at the guest cabin, while Emily and Matt go back to retrieve Emily's bag at a cable car station. After Jess and Mike arrive at the cabin, Jess is taken by an unknown figure and Mike pursues them to a mine, either finding Jess dead or badly injured before the mine elevator beneath her collapses. Mike continues through, following a Stranger, getting his index and little fingers ensnared in a bear trap, amputating or saving them with a machete, and enters a sanatorium and learns about an incident in 1952 where 30 workers were caved-in. Meanwhile, Chris and Ashley are attacked by Psycho, a masked assailant, who ties Ashley and Josh into a sawblade deathtrap. They force Chris to choose to save Ashley or Josh, but Josh is bisected and killed regardless of Chris's choice. Sam is stalked by Psycho and is knocked unconscious or escapes into a workshop. As Mike returns to the cabin to find Sam, Chris and Ashley are strapped to chairs, where Psycho forces Chris to either shoot himself or Ashley with a blanked gun in another deathtrap, being stopped by Mike and Sam. The Psycho is revealed to be an unstable and deranged Josh, blaming his friends for causing his sisters' disappearances and had faked his death. While he confirms having set up the traps, he denies presumably killing Jess as he never wanted to kill. Mike, in disbelief, ties up Josh and leaves him.
Meanwhile, Emily and Matt head to a radio tower, contacting a ranger who will send rescue helicopters when the storm subsides. The tower collapses into the mine when she and Matt are attacked by a figure. Matt either escapes and ventures deeper into the mines, is killed by a humanoid creature or falls off a cliff during an earlier encounter with a herd of deer. Emily explores the mines, finding Beth's head and Hannah's personal effects, realizing that Hannah had survived. She encounters the Stranger, who helps her escape from the creatures. In her escape, Emily is killed or returns to the lodge and tells the others of the creature and Beth.
The Stranger (Larry Fessenden) then arrives at the cabin and reveals himself and explains that the mountain was cursed by a First Nations tribe because people were destroying nature in the area. The humanoid creatures, Wendigos, humans who resorted to cannibalism or those possessed into one, have hard skin and severe burning will kill them and release the evil spirits. Chris and the Stranger search for Josh only to find that he has disappeared, and the Stranger is then decapitated by a Wendigo. Chris retreats to the cabin, and is either killed by the Wendigos, gets back to the lodge, or is left to die by Ashley if he tried to shoot her earlier. If Emily is bitten by the Wendigo, the group discovers this and debates on leaving her or shooting her, fearing the Wendigo bites are infectious. Either way, Mike goes to the sanatorium to find Josh, who has the cable car keys, venturing deeper and finds that the 1952 miners were turned into Wendigos, trapped in the sanatorium. After accidentally freeing the miners, they chase Mike throughout and he is forced to blow up the sanatorium. Meanwhile, after Sam and others find out about the Wendigos from the Stranger's journal, they find Mike and warn him. Ashley and Chris can be lured and killed by a Wendigo. Mike and Sam can learn that Hannah became a Wendigo when she ate Beth to survive if they explore the area and find Hannah's notebook. Mike and Sam find Josh in the mines, suffering from severe hallucinations of his sisters. As Sam goes back to the lodge, Mike and Josh are ambushed by a Wendigo. If the player found enough clues about Hannah, Josh recognizes the Wendigo as Hannah, who proceeds to drag him off. If not, Hannah kills Josh.
Meanwhile, if Jess and/or Matt are still alive, they regroup and attempt to flee Blackwood Mountain, being pursued by a Wendigo. Mike and Sam return to the lodge to meet with the other survivors, only to find that the Wendigos had broken in. The survivors freeze, knowing that Wendigos can only sense movement. A fight suddenly breaks out between the Wendigos, with one being thrown to the fireplace, breaking the gas pipe. Mike and Sam eventually break a light bulb and use electricity to ignite the gas, exploding the lodge and killing the Wendigos. The remaining survivors regroup as helicopters locate them.
Depending on the player's actions, Sam and/or Mike and any other survivors can die before or while setting the lodge ablaze, but nevertheless the Wendigos are killed.
As the credits roll, those who did not survive have their death scenes replayed with respective times of death, followed by interviews with scenes of the police interrogation of the survivors. The police are warned by the survivors of what is within the mines. If Josh survived, he is shown eating the Stranger's head and transformed into a Wendigo. If anyone survived, Josh is discovered by the police and he attacks them. If nobody else survived, Josh looks at the screen.
Until Dawn was announced for the PlayStation 3 at Gamescom 2012 and was originally set to use the PlayStation Move controller. It was announced as a first-person video game, and the players were expected to use the PlayStation Move controller to control the flashlight and torch, as well as to switch between the game's eight different playable characters. It was developed by Supermassive Games, who had previously worked on other PlayStation Move games including 2010's Start the Party!. A trailer and gameplay footage was shown to the public.
The game was originally set to be released in 2013. However, no more details about the game were provided, and the game had not been released as of late 2013. Until Dawn was reportedly cancelled, but Supermassive later clarified that the game was still in development.
Until Dawn was re-introduced at Gamescom 2014. The title now served as a PlayStation 4 exclusive and would shift to a third-person perspective. The PlayStation Move feature was replaced by the DualShock 4's motion sensor. In addition, the torch feature was scrapped in favor of a more traditional level approach, with the characters becoming playable at different parts of the game. In addition to the trailer, a gameplay demo was released. According to Supermassive, the game's transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 has led the developer to rebuild the game and to rewrite its story, so as to create a more cinematic experience, and to make the game to feel "darker and fundamentally more terrifying". It was also revealed that Until Dawn would utilize the Decima engine that originated from Killzone Shadow Fall.
On 26 May 2015, Sony announced that the game would be released on 25 August 2015. Players who pre-order the game would receive a bonus mission which features Matt and Emily. Besides the game's standard edition, there are also an extended edition and a steelbook edition that is available for players to purchase. On 31 July 2015, Sony confirmed that the game had been declared gold, indicating it was being prepared for duplication and release.
Until Dawn received positive reviews. It received an aggregated score of 80.37% on GameRankings based on 71 reviews and a 79 on Metacritic based on 103 reviews. In 2017, GamesRadar ranked the game 13 in their list of "the 20 best horror games of all time".
Lucy O'Brien of IGN gave the game a generally positive review, giving it a 7.5 out of 10. She praised the "creepy" environments, "tongue-in-cheek" tone, and the choices the player is forced to make. She did however dislike certain characters, particularly 'Doctor Hill', and the second half of the game, mostly the story's focus, calling it "silly" and "derailing". She thought that the game was flawed but enjoyable and felt that the story dragged down the game's overall quality.
Game Informer's Jeff Marchiafava gave the game a positive review, with a score of 9/10. He praised the player decision making mechanic, which he felt dynamically changed the game's experience and story. He also praised the game's score, which he called "superb", the voice acting, the story, which was thought of as "intriguing and exciting", and the visuals. He called the gameplay "simple yet effective" and thought it was "engaging", but he criticized the game's animation, which he described as "awkward". Marchiafava stated that the game is a "remarkable experience that horror fans shouldn't miss".
In her mostly positive review for GameSpot, Alexa Ray Corriea scored the game an 8/10, saying that she was surprised by the game. She particularly complimented the narrative because she considered its branching paths have significantly altered the game's story, saying "choices matter in big ways and affect the rest of the game". She also liked the actors' performances, calling them "incredibly good", and the overall replayability. Negative comments were concerning the story, mostly towards the end, and the "unflattering" camera angles. She also said "the visuals can be wonky at times".
VideoGamer.com's Tom Orry gave the game a positive review. He scored it an 8/10, citing the horror elements, acting, "lovely" visuals, and the player choice mechanic as positives, even though he had some minor criticisms. Orry felt that the game had exceeded his expectations and added that the simple gameplay, alongside the story, successfully gives players a thrilling and malleable experience.
Destructoid's Chris Carter gave the game a 7 out of 10. He praised the game's environments, collectibles, and premise. However, he criticized the game's story, which he thought was predictable, and the exaggerated acting. In addition, Carter felt that the game lacked meaningful choices.
GamesRadar's Louise Blain gave the game a 3.5 out of 5, calling it a "beautiful" "bloodstained love letter to every horror movie you’ve ever seen". She enjoyed the jump-scares, pace, visuals, and overall tone, but criticized the game for being "painfully" short. She disliked the decision making mechanic as she thought that the system was diminished due to several set plot points.
Giving a mixed review for Polygon, Philip Kollar scored the game a 6.5/10. He found the game "generic", even though he thought it had offered him a unique experience. He did not consider it a great game, but he thought that the game was good enough to keep him engaged. He added that the narrative structure of the game could serve as an example for future narrative-driven video games.
The game was the sixth best selling weekly software in Japan, selling 17,472 copies. The release of this as well as Dragon's Dogma Online provided a slight boost in PlayStation 4 sales. In the United Kingdom, Until Dawn was the second best-selling software for the week of 29 August 2015, debuting at No. 2 in the UK retail software sales chart, behind only Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. According to the NPD Group, Until Dawn was the seventh best selling game in the United States in August 2015. Supermassive Games stated that the sales of the game far exceeded their expectations.
|Date||Ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref.|
|2015||Golden Joystick Awards||PlayStation Game of the Year||Until Dawn||Nominated|||
|Global Game Awards||Best Horror Game||Won|||
|Best Original Game||Third|
|The Game Awards||Best Narrative||Nominated|||
|2016||New Statesmen's Top 10 Video Games of 2015||Best Game||Seventh|||
|Hardcore Gamer's Best of 2015||Best Adventure Game||Runner-Up|||
|PlayStation Blog's Best of 2015||Best PS4 Game||Nominated|||
|SXSW Gaming Awards||Excellence in Technical Achievement||Nominated|||
|National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers||Performance in a Drama Supporting||Brett Dalton as Mike||Nominated|||
|Use of Sound, New IP||Until Dawn||Nominated|
|British Academy Games Awards||British Game||Nominated|||
Spin-off and prequel
In an interview with PlayStation LifeStyle, executive producer Pete Samuels stated that Supermassive Games is exploring the possibility of continuing Until Dawn. A non-canonical spin-off, titled Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, was announced by Sony at Paris Games Week 2015; described as an arcade shooter, the game's development began in the middle of Until Dawn's development. It was released on the PlayStation VR on October 13, 2016. In June 2017, The Inpatient was announced as a prequel to Until Dawn, set sixty years prior within the Blackwood Sanatorium.
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