Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Until Dawn Forces Players to Make Difficult Choices: A Video Game Review

Developers: Supermassive Games and Sony Computer Entertainment.

Director: Will Byles.

Writers: Graham Reznick, Larry Fessenden, Justin Villiers, Will Byles and Pete Samuels.

This writer and gamer is continuing to catch-up on some of the exclusive releases on the PS4. Until Dawn, a horror survival game, was originally released just over a year ago (August 25th, '15). Developed by Supermassive Games and Sony Computer Entertainment, the game plays out much like a horror film as you control up to eight characters. Your decisions decide on whether each character survives. This game also allowed this player to use "motion controls" for the first time. This experience had its highs and lows. As well, the game introduces you to a psychoanalyst. He will question you and out your fears. The more you tell him, the scarier the game becomes. Meanwhile, you will need to search under every rock, to determine what happened to two other missing characters and another group of hospitalized miners. Your choices and how you play the game will have consequences. And, these consequences, along with the many possible choices, will bring you back to play Until Dawn many more times.

You have seen the game's initial story before. Several young twenty-somethings head up to a remote lodge, for a night of remembering and debauchery. But, plotlines begin to diverge from the norm fairly soon. After the characters are introduced, petty rivalries and conflicts solidify or dissolve friendships. These minor brush-ups are nothing compared to what is coming.

A masked killer begins to hound these eight friends. He is not alone, however. With a needle in his hand, he stalks the basement of the lodge. He captures some and forces moral (or immoral) choices. Soon, the blood is flying about the room. Later, something emerges from the local woods. Its name will not be spoken here. But, this creature fears nothing and hungers for your digital skin. You must use fire or flee as the thing's hands reach out for you. There are no shortage of villains within Until Dawn.

This game offered two initial ways to interact with the game. You could use "Traditional Controls" or "Motion Controls." Ever curious, this gamer used the latter and quickly wished he had not. Still, the "Motion Controls" will require you tap buttons, at the appropriate times. Much like some of the Telltale Games' series, you will need to hit the correct button, displayed on the screen, at the right time. Surprisingly, you will also need to hold the control steady, when the game says: "do not move." As a killer rounds a corner, this reviewer recommends you hold your breath or stabilize the controller on your knee. Otherwise, you will lose one of your characters, in short form. Also, you will also be asked to aim weapons. The light sensor must be pointed at a small target on the screen. Even with a large flatscreen, it is difficult to find that reticule, which caused a good deal of frustration. Still, the "Motion Controls" offer another, immersive way to play the game.

This player enjoyed the inclusion of the analyst character. As Dr. Hill (Peter Stormare) probed this gamer with more and more questions, it became clear that this reviewer's fear of needles, rats and zombies would somehow be included in future parts of the game. This suspicion was confirmed when a dead rat was later displayed, gutted, on the good doctor's desk. These choices also likely influenced how the stalking killer appeared, in later sequences, needle in hand. The doctor's identity and his patient's identity are revealed later. In the meantime, it is best to answer his questions truthfully, to get the most excitement out of this release.

Experienced gamers will know what to do and how to do it, in this title. Still, this critic will talk of a couple of quick tips, which helped this player keep most of the characters alive. As with many games, including the Resident Evil series or Silent Hill games, you will need to search every room and under every hiding spot. Until Dawn offers dozens of clues, which much be discovered. Their discovery reveals more of the game's backstory and history. Some items must be found before you can proceed further, into the central plotline. As well, your choices will have consequences. And, these choices must often be made in very short order. How you direct a swirling saw blade will determine if a character lives, or if another dies. As Ayn Rand said in "The Virtue of Selfishness:" "man is not a sacrificial animal and...[to] help others is not his moral duty." Basically, you will need to point the gun at others, rather than pointing it at oneself. And, there is one scenario that asks you to do just this. Always watch your own back when facing death and help others, only when it is safe to do so. Finally, you can sometimes decide to do nothing, even when the game asks for a choice. By being more passive, in pivotal sequences, you can save a life or two. Hopefully, these tips will get all eight of your characters into the final roll of credits.

While this title has released over a year ago, console gamers are encouraged to play this award winning game ("Best Story," BAFTA). Voiced by actors such as: Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek, Noah Fleiss and Nichole Bloom, the game draws you into an unsettling horror universe. Writers Larry Fessenden (Wendigo, 2001) Graham Reznick and others have penned a truly remarkable story, which can be enjoyed in a number of different ways. Until Dawn is full of action, conflict and harrowing situations. Your choices have consequences, known as the Butterfly Effect. And, Until Dawn is memorable for its tale of revenge and on how you decide to unbox its underling moral play; it is not to be missed.

Overall: 8.25 out of 10.

*many of the game's trophies are obvious references to horror films e.g. The Psycho Path (Psycho, 1960), Scream Too (Scream, 1996 or Scream 2, 1997), Fatal Grudge (The Grudge, 2004) and many others.

You can watch some of the gameplay here as this reviewer talks to himself, through the prologue and part of Chapter #1:

Until Dawn Microphone and Youtube Stream Test

Readers can add this gamer on the PS4, or similar consoles, at MRAllen134 (Michael Allen or Mike Allen).

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