Written by Fessenden and Graham Reznick for Supermassive Games,
this BAFTA winning game stands the test of time!
#1: UNTIL DAWN
Until Dawn’s core appeal is that it gives us enlightened genre aficionados a chance to put our money where our mouth is and finally demonstrate that we would actually be able to hack it in one of those slasher flicks we know so much about. Everyone has watched Halloween, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or Friday the 13th and ruminated on how they would be a much sharper protagonist than those making dumb mistakes on the screen. Always mocking these fictional characters for their errors – like investigating suspicious noises, tripping over in the woods, and failing to pick up defensive weapons – we’re under the impression that our survival instincts are above reproach and that, if we ever found ourselves in a comparable scenario, we wouldn’t falter.
Supermassive Games’ interactive horror movie invites us to test out that theory, by making us responsible for a group of prospective murder victims so dated and stereotypical, that you almost expect it to be foreshadowing some kind of Cabin in the Woods meta-commentary. There’s the rich mean girl, the arrogant jock, the class clown, the awkward bookish type, the aspiring model, the pervy weirdo and, of course, the token final girl. To a certain extent all these characteristics are inflexible and set in stone (it’s not like you can transform the athlete into an engineering major, or make the unbearable comic-relief actually funny) but what you can do is influence their actions, within the parameters of the given personas of course, to facilitate desired outcomes.
For example, you could fan the flames of a hormonal dispute to create entertaining drama, you could deliberately lead one of them to meet a grisly end at the hands of a wood chipper, or – if you want to be super boring about it – you could try to keep everyone alive until the credits roll. The game won’t admonish you either way, meaning that you’re free to pull the strings however you see fit. It’s almost like you get to direct your own horror movie, tallying up the ideal kill count, indulging in your preferred clichés and, at one point, even dictating what form the scares will take. I personally enjoyed discovering just how many gruesome death variations there were for each character, as some of the elaborate fatalities proved to be exceptionally imaginative.
Experimenting with all the different branches is what’s so engrossing about Until Dawn, because it legitimately feels like an open-ended narrative. People can die at the drop of a hat (due to either an obscure decision that was made hours ago or something as insignificant as a failed QTE) and whole environments can be skipped over if you don’t forge the requisite path. Granted, it’s not an especially frightening game – and those sections wherein you sluggishly potter around looking for glistening objects to advance the plot can get a little wearisome – but that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. Because getting to be the puppet master is just way too much fun. – Harrison Abbott
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