playstation experience

Until Dawn

Hands-On Preview: Until Dawn Wants To Torment You
by Kimberley Wallace on Dec 06, 2014 at 05:21 PM
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Supermassive Games
Release:
Rating: Mature
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3

What's scary for one person is rarely the same for another. Some of us get squeamish at the sight of blood, others believe in the supernatural and wouldn't dare touch an Ouija board. At the same time, plenty of people can face these things without any fear. Until Dawn is intriguing because it takes into account that not all players are the same, offering choices in your scares and how you survive.

Little has been revealed about Until Dawn, but its premise has always intrigued me. I just love the concept of a story-driven horror game that focuses on creating an emotional experience by directly involving the player in the decisions. Telltale's The Walking Dead has already proven how effective this can be, especially in the areas of suspense and emotional investment. As a fan of horror, I find it even more appealing in a game that tests your instincts and your ability to rise above your fears. After some hands-on time at the PlayStation Experience event, I'm optimistic about the direction of the game. 

As mentioned previously, Until Dawn doesn't treat every player the same. Before I started my demo, I was asked to take a brief survey, which inquired about which of two things was more horrifying to me. For instance, are you scared of creepy crawlers or of massive crowds? Are needles or suffocation more disturbing? Depending on these answers, the section you play will change. The killer might be chasing you with a needle or a mask to suffocate you depending on your choice to the aforementioned question. 

The part I played was from the section in the trailer Sony showed off this week. This portion stars Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) as Samantha. Samantha is just taking a bath and listening to music, but there's someone watching her. Samantha doesn't see the being, but gets the sense something isn't right. She then walks around the house, calling out the names of her various friends. As she does, little touches like a clock chiming startle. The tension is great; you're just waiting for the figure to reveal himself and balloons with arrows are leading you to the moment. The final balloon pops and as Samantha moves forward, you see the leg of someone behind her.

As Samantha enters the next room, a voice overpowers it, taunting her and then showing her the video he took earlier of her in the bath. Soon a masked figure appears and the chase is on. Samantha has options around every corner on how to best this crazed man. I wish the choices had more variety, as the majority were regulated to: Should she run or hide? It's all about timing and looking around to assess the situation before you commit, but it felt like some of these decisions came down to luck. After choosing to run when I should have hid, the masked man comes in and suffocates me to death. 

I start the demo again with new answers to the survey and choose to hide at the right moment. This lets Samantha's story go on; the demo ends without a death scene, but still has her in peril. If she survives is anyone's guess, and with the level of choice Supermassive Games is after, her fate is most likely in your hands.

Here's all I know: I want to see more. The whole concept of the game relies on the Bufferfly Effect. Every decision - big or small  - could change the outcome and the course of the narrative. I'm interested in how far-reaching these choices end up being, but if Supermassive Games succeeds, it could be one of the more intriguing titles to hit next year.