Until Dawn Hands-On Preview

During the 2014 PlayStation Experience, one of the new playable demos was on display for the upcoming horror/adventure game, Until Dawn, from developer Supermassive Games. As far as I can tell, Until Dawn is the first major game release from Supermassive. With Until Dawn, Supermassive Games adopted the style and gameplay of Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. Supermassive games implemented the style of the aforementioned game titles and utilized it in a scenario that is basically a slasher horror movie 101 plot. At the inaugural PlayStation Experience, I got the chance to play and successfully complete the new demo.

The story follows a group of eight friends taking their yearly vacation at a remote cabin in the woods. Soon, the group members are terrorized by a rampaging and masked killer who wants them dead. The actual game will allow players to step into the unfortunate shoes of all eight characters. However, the PSX demo only allowed players to assume control of Sam, played by actress Hayden Panettiere. At the start of the demo, players take part in an interactive survey that is supposed to gauge what the player is scared of. The survey asked questions such as “Are you afraid of the dark or are you afraid of creepy crawlies?” I was not able to try many different combinations to truly see the different variations of the gameplay.

Until Dawn

The demo begins with Hayden’s Sam enjoying a nice solitary bath. However, the killer is in the bathroom and stalking the unsuspecting Sam (her eyes are closed and she’s listening to the music). The killer takes Sam’s clothes from the bathroom and leaves. Sam hears some movement and goes to check. She sees that her clothes are gone, and she believes her friends are playing a prank on her. Here, the game allows the player to assume control over Sam, who is wearing nothing but a towel. The environment is dynamic and even simulates jump scares, just like in a typical horror movie. Eventually, Sam wanders into the screening room, where the killer projects a grisly film of one of Sam’s friends being cut in half by a circular saw. The killer taunts Sam and then opens the doors to give chase. The killer appears to have a limp, and he wears a ghoulish mask. I would be remiss if I did not mention that the killer’s voice, mannerisms and mask are highly reminiscent of Jigsaw from the Saw movie franchise. During the chase, the player is given the choice to do things like run away or throw a vase at the killer. The chase continues through the cabin and into the wine cellar. The chase is formatted with a series of quicktime events. There is only a limited amount of time for Sam to choose certain options. One option could mean her escape; the other could mean her getting captured and gassed by the killer.

I was able to reach a certain area with Sam to hide from the killer. During this sequence, the motion controller cannot be moved, or else Sam will move and the killer will find her. This feature is quite ingenious and visceral. The demo definitely shows promise. The idea of turning a slasher horror movie plot into a highly interactive video game is very interesting. The game will boast multiple pathways and different endings, depending on player choices. The demo sequence was very effective. However, I wonder whether Supermassive Games can make the entire game just as compelling.

Until Dawn is due out in 2015 for the Playstation 4.

Leave a Reply