The one thing audiences of slasher movies love to do is to use the power of hindsight and poke fun at the victims.
Who has not commented that if it were them in the movie, they would have done something else that would have led to their survival?
If that is you, Until Dawn gives you the chance to prove your knowledge of the horror movie genre.
It has seemingly taken every horror trope and shoved them into an intense interactive title that few will escape unscathed from.
The setting is a cabin in the woods where, a year ago, a pair of twin sisters went missing. The game starts with a group of friends who have gathered there to honour the memory of the twins. The scene then treads the familiar path: Snow is building up. The friends realise they are being hunted one by one. And yes, rescue is not coming.
Is the killer the brother of the twins, or the innocent best friend who is well liked by everyone in this group of eight?
What is easier to identify are the recognisable token characters who make up the group. Will the hot but bitchy cheerleader type be the first to be killed, or will it be her arrogant jock boyfriend? What about the shy nerd who has a serious crush on the emotional but well-meaning girl in the group?
And can the jock's ex-girlfriend, or her new boyfriend, play a bigger role in the unfolding events? Or are they merely fodder in this bloodthirsty simulator?
Oh, and did I mention that the massive cabin up in the snowcapped mountain just happens to be located right beside a long forgotten and abandoned sanatorium?
At various points in the game, players get to control the action of each of the fateful eight, to determine their fates.
Now, some horror cliches, such as having the group of eight break up into smaller groups, are unavoidable. There are also the typical scares, such as finding out that the lights in the cabin are not working, or having an animal jump out at you.
But for the most part, gamers get to chart their own fate. For instance, they can choose between taking the safe but slower route, and taking risks with a short cut.
The game is filled with quick-action moments where players have to press a button within a short window of time to save their skin.
At other times, it is also possible that not doing anything, even in the face of overwhelming danger, can be the right thing to do.
The game offers great replay value because players can choose a different path during their next play- through. The variations are aplenty: Imagine mixing up the options available to each of the eight friends, to see where the specific choices bring you.
It is possible that the majority of your party get killed and when that happens, your choices can still bring you to the game's conclusion. But what you will not find is closure as each character's narrative reveals different parts of the game's plot. Thus, there is further incentive in replaying the game, to uncover the true story behind the missing twins.
The plot is not very strong, but what sells the game are the motion capture graphics that bring each of the eight friends to life.
Actress Hayden Panettiere plays the role of best friend Sam, while Peter Stormare takes on the role of a psychiatrist, and you would be convinced by the voice acting and realistic graphics that Sam's life is in danger as she is being chased by a masked stalker.
Of course, you might wonder why she would even bother to take a bath in an empty cabin, and why she would feel it was perfectly acceptable to roam around the cabin wrapped only in a towel, instead of going back to her room for a change of clothes. But if she did that, Until Dawn would not be the loving tribute to every bloody horror film you have seen.
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Survival horror
Price: $69.90 (Disc), $62.90 (Digital)
This article was first published on September 17, 2015.
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