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Until Dawn


Release Date

ESRB Rating




Bob Hoose

Game Review

Subject yourself to seeing a slasher-style teen horror movie and at some point in the middle of it you’re likely going to think, “No, you silly girl, don’t open that basement door!” The stereotypical teens in those pics always seem to make the dumbest choices. Nobody with half a brain would do that, right? Well, Supermassive Games’ new title Until Dawn is a teen horror movie homage through and through. And it’s eager to help you see just how easy making dumb choices can be.

The game’s storyline feels oh-so-stereotypically familiar. It starts with eight pretty, pre-adult pals (the class goofball, the sexy blonde, the buff jock, the cute nerd girl, etc.) all gathering at sundown in a secluded lodge up at the top of a dark and wintery mountain. The guy whose parents own this spooky getaway proclaims it’s time for he and his friends to “party like porn stars.” Of course, the only way to get there is to use a rickety old cable car that might just break down and leave them stranded … but, hey, the words party and porn stars have already quite clearly befuddled their brains.

Along with the partying and porn starring, these besties are also marking the one-year anniversary of the disappearance and death of two friends—two friends who vanished in these very woods, no less. So in that way is it kinda fitting that their setting is a shut-down and disconnected mansion surrounded by heavily forested icy trails, an abandoned and decaying old sanatorium, crumbling mineshafts, and scores of hostile wildlife?

Still, feels like a whole lot of bad choices have been made already, doesn’t it? And it’s only the beginning of this crew’s choice-fueled troubles. For there’s also a snaggletoothed stranger lurking about, half arsonist and half madman. And let’s not forget the possibility of some flesh-eating something-or-others that Indian legends say might be up in those woods, too.

OK, now it’s your turn to choose.

The Dead of Night

Your goal, if you choose to shoulder it, is to get as many of these kids as possible out of there in one piece by dawn. It’s not an easy task. You play as all of the various teens at some point in the game. (If they live that long, that is.) Your choices are many and constant, and they’re used to justify the game’s “Butterfly Effect” system—where the ripple effects of one seemingly insignificant decision made early on might trigger a dark and nasty happening later.

So killing that squirrel on a lark at one point might mean other deadlier animals decide to retaliate. Or dissing someone in an aimless argument could mean they’re less likely to jump to your aid when the chips are down. The “right” choice isn’t always as obvious as you’d think, either. And the consequences can be disastrous. Especially when you get to the parts with swirling saw blades and thump-in-the-night monstrosities.

The game also attempts to uncover and exploit your own personal fears. Short psychiatric sessions with a thick-accented doc pull you away from the action at the end of chapters. The fevered psychiatrist runs you through a series of tests in an effort to pinpoint things that you might find disturbing. Of course, your choice to answer questions truthfully or not will change what you see pop up in your play.

Decisions by Dawn

If you’re sorta thinking that kind of gameplay sounds compelling—never minding for a moment the horror side of things—well, that’s what I felt at first, too. The ongoing string of choices and consequences that shape characters, mixed with good voice-over acting and interesting story twists, make Until Dawn feel like a natural step forward in the interactive-story video game genre. But like all the choices in this game, there are consequences for deciding to play through it, as well.

First of all, the dialogue is an awful clatter. These are not kids who shout out, “Oh, darn!” when beasties threaten them. The nastiest of f-bomb-laden obscenities and profanities pepper the script even when these teens are happy, so how much more so when they’re scared out of their gourds? And I should note that when they are rather cheery, they’re also talking on about who’s going to be sexing up who, with lots of crude and winking innuendo.

Graphic gore and rent flesh take the fore as people are murdered in many messy ways. Depending on how your choices go, people are cannibalized, heads are ripped off, flesh is seared in roaring flames, saw blades tear someone in half, guts are exposed, eyes are gouged out, someone is ground to mulch in a giant shredder, a girl is shot in the eye. Etcetera. And no amount of even perfectly good decisions clean all of that up, I should tell you. Clearly this game takes its slasher movie inspiration to bloody heart.

So we arrive back at what is really Until Dawn’s biggest choice: Whether or not you want to spend your weekend playing a game that’s the equivalent of binge-watching the entire Saw series.

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.