Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?
Will saying something now spark a heated argument in an hours time?
Can one tiny action ultimately lead to a horrific series of deaths?
The Butterfly Effect, as explained by everyone's favourite chaotician Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, is the concept that each and every action and decision you make can have massive repercussions via a chain of events that you could not have possibly seen at the moment of action. The Butterfly Effect is the driving force behind Supermassive Games' terrifying horror story Until Dawn
A year after a cruel teenage prank went horrifically wrong, 8 friends end up spending the night at the scene of the tragedy - a remote cabin in the mountains. When things take a turn for the worst, they are left frantically fighting for their lives and hoping to survive until dawn...
I don't want to give away too much about the plot, as it really is one of those games that you need to play with as little prior knowledge as you can. Needless to say, if you are a fan of horror films then you will enjoy the ride. Influences touch on everything from Saw to Scream and even The Descent paired with a finely crafted atmosphere and sense of dread. Jump scares will cause your heart to jump out of your chest, but it's the tangible terror around every shadowy corner and that makes you want to hold your breath and steel yourself for what is to come.
Regulars will know that I'm a huge fan of horror games, and I rank Outlast as one of my favourite games this generation, but Until Dawn is probably one of the scariest games I have played for a long time!
Suermassive have done excellent things with this PS4 exclusive, the facial animations in particular are phenomenal! While still not completely lifelike, at times they get very close - and the uncanny valley effect of these computer drawn emotions pays off in particular with the character of Doctor Hill, a psychiatrist who periodically probes your mental state throughout the cause of the game. Equal parts creepy and intriguing, he has probably the best facial animation I've seen in a game.
The score is also great, with strings jangling the nerves and adding to the whole interactive movie experience. It hits the beats perfectly and manages to replicate the kinds of soundtracks heard in the films this game drawns so many of its ideas from.
Voice acting is mostly top notch, a few misses but the majority of the cast (Including Hayden Panettiere from Heroes and Brett Dalton from Marvel's Agents of Shield) manage to tap into the slasher movie genre and create characters that seem realistic, some likable, some you just want to punch in the face. This mix of character types creates some of the difficult choices created by the Butterfly Effect System
What could have been a retread of the type of gameplay seen is Heavy Rain is given more substance through the much hyped Butterfly Effect System. The game will track what decisions and choices you make over the course of the game, and each of these will play out differently depending on what you do. Do you follow a path cautiously taking the safe route rather than rushing ahead blinding? Do you sneak a peak at someone else's phone? Do you sacrifice your life to save someone else? Would you kill a friend in order to save another? These are all choices you will have to make and will all alter the story that unfolds.
On my playthrough I managed to finish the game with 5 of the initial 8 friends alive. Not a great run through but each agonizing decision made me want to save them all, even those who annoyed me, and felt genuine regret when I made the wrong choice! It's like having to face one of Jigsaw's games, and sadistically you will want to carry on to see it through to its conclusion. Next time I'm going to try and save them all, next time I wont make the same mistakes! While not the longest game in the world, clocking in at about 10 hours, it does have lots of replayability to try and see each and every possible outcome and find all of the hidden clues. I genuinely believe that each person who plays this will do things different and get a unique experience. Each chapter consists of an hour of the companions night, playing out between different characters until that hour is over. These are preceded by TV Series style "Last time on Until Dawn" segments that keep you up to date with what decisions have been made so far.
If you have a PS4 and are a fan of horror then you really need to pick this game up! I finished it in two sittings, with the game drawing me into its world as the hours flew by, and at the end of it I already wanted to go digging into other corners to see what was down paths of fate i didn't take. Yes, it is QTE and talking heavy, and its probably more an interactive story than a true game, and this is something that will not appeal to everyone, but it is something that has to be experienced! I give it a spooky Buy it Now award!
Until Dawn by Supermassive Games is out now for PS4