We never like seeing games get delayed, but Until Dawn illustrates why more time in the development cooker can make a world of difference. Originally designed as a first-person horror game for PlayStation 3’s Move controllers, British developer Supermassive Games realized the game was more enjoyable when played from the third-person perspective, and also found out people didn’t want to buy a strange controller to play a game. Sony granted the team more development time to change the vision, which just happened to occur during a console transition, meaning the game needed to move to PlayStation 4.
When Until Dawn was first shown at Gamescom in 2012, I didn’t think much of it, and questioned the decision to make games exclusively for Move. Years went by and Until Dawn became a distant memory, until it resurfaced on PlayStation 4 in a video that blew me away. I didn’t know it was the same game. It was moody, legitimately scary, and I got a huge kick out of seeing the cheerleader from the Heroes TV show in a starring role. That would be Hayden Panettiere. In that trailer, Supermassive nailed the teen slasher flick vibe, and I was all in.
When the game finally released on August 25, 2015, after beginning development in 2010, I played all the way through it in one sitting, and immediately called it the sleeper hit of the year. No one was talking about it, yet it probably should have been in discussion for Game of the Year. Nothing was going to touch The Witcher III: Wild Hunt that year, but I thought it was brilliant. On my Top 10 list for the year, I listed Until Dawn as my number five pick, behind The Witcher III (at number one), Batman: Arkham Knight, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Bloodborne. That was a hell of a year for games.
So what did Until Dawn get right other than the slasher-flick setting? Meaningful player choice, do-or-die consequences, acting, scripting, and twists and turns you won’t see coming. It also makes you realize that, under pressure, you too do the absurd things you see characters in slasher flicks do. We yell at them on the screen for getting themselves killed, and yet, making the wrong choice here, which is sometimes obvious, puts you in those same shoes.
I don’t want to give away what happens in Until Dawn, as everyone just needs to experience it for themselves, but it goes places, to wonderful and scary places. In my first playthrough, only three of the teens survived. I played it again to save them all. Your choices matter that much.
The game features the writing talents of Larry Fessenden & Graham Reznick, and stars Panettiere as Samantha Giddings, Peter Stormare as Dr. Hill, and Rami Malek as Joshua Washington, among others. Yes, that Rami Malek.
So why bring up Until Dawn now? Supermassive’s spiritual successor, The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan, releases on August 30. It’s not only one of my most anticipated games of the month, but the year, right behind Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Play Until Dawn, and I bet you’ll be counting the days until Man of Medan hits. Supermassive created one of the most unique and enjoyable horror games to date, and I hope they can do it again next week.
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