Until Dawn is something that hardcore gamers love to hate: a film masquerading as a game. Movie-lovers, conversely, might well appreciate it. The game belongs to a genre that Sony has championed for years via games like Heavy Rain: essentially a traditional point-and-click adventure lavished with modern production values. The result, in this case, is a mildly interactive horror film.
Viewed in that light, Until Dawn succeeds admirably. Granted, it rolls out a procession of well-worn horror-movie tropes, but it is all beautifully produced. Character rendering, motion-capture and voice acting are among the best we’ve seen, bridging the Uncanny Valley with accomplished ease.
Plot-wise, it belongs to the slow-burning end of the horror spectrum. Eight brattish American teens pitch up at a creepy, remote mountain lodge; a typically crass prank goes wrong and two girls, who are sisters, die. We can see their death was caused by a scary, malevolent entity, but the others can’t, and subsequently reconvene a year later, with two additions to the group.
At this point the convoluted storyline, switching from group to group, unfolds. Gameplay-wise, you can move around, interact with objects, find clues as to the back-story and, most importantly, take decisions that alter Until Dawn’s outcome and bodycount – you’re basically trying to help as many of the group as possible survive until daybreak. There are chase sequences studded with timed button-presses, the odd puzzle to solve and even bizarre sessions with a creepy psychologist.
Playing Until Dawn is a rather sedate experience, but it sucks you in beautifully and could hold its own with any number of less out-there horror films of recent years. If you demand non-stop action from your games, it might leave you cold. But if the prospect of navigating your way through a top-notch (and very long) horror film appeals, you will absolutely love it.