Preview: Until Dawn – The First Four Chapters

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This preview will be completely spoiler free. Until Dawn is a unique experience. The situations you encounter and how you deal with them should be approached with no previous knowledge of events the first time through. An audio version of this preview can be heard on Episode 431 of the podcast.

We received a preview code for the first four chapters of the game and it was enough to give a good feel for how the final version will play and what the game is really all about. I’ll keep things purposefully vague so as not to ruin the experience for anyone.

The Prologue drops you into a party that’s winding down in a remote cabin with a group of friends fresh out of High School. There are a lot of characters involved and the section is pretty short so you probably won’t be able to pick up on all the relationships and nuances in your limited time with them. Playing through a second time (after completing the game) clears things up a lot.

The Prologue section also serves as a tutorial of sorts, teaching you how to move, interact with objects, and choose different paths that may affect your experience and your current character’s fate. You’ll see some action and some choices to get you comfortable with the controls and the Prologue ends.

… Native American folklore and supernatural occurrences …
Players have the choice of traditional controls with analog sticks and button presses or motion controls and minimal buttons. Both work fine and it’s really personal preference. I’d recommend trying both during the Prologue and first chapter to really get a feel for them. Since you can jump right into the menu and switch at any time, it’s worth giving both a go when you start.

In the various builds of the game shown at the PlayStation Experience and E3, when starting the demo, the player was asked a series of questions with two possible choices. The answers appear to affect a few things during gameplay but it’s still a little unclear just how much influence is involved. In the full game, the questions are still there but they’re presented at the beginning of each chapter and in a much different manner, one that’s best experienced without knowing about beforehand.

The game then skips forward a year to another reunion of our characters at the same cabin. It’s actually owned by the parents of one of the characters and apparently people had fought to keep them from building there in the first place. I won’t get into too much detail but the game follows some standard suspense/thriller tropes with Native American folklore and supernatural occurrences.

As a game, Until Dawn plays out as a mix between an interactive novel and an old graphical adventure but with much, much better graphics obviously. The action sequences will often require a quick button press. The icon for the corresponding button will pop up on the screen and you’ll need to hit it before a timer runs out. The nice touch with this is that as you get closer to the end of that timer, a noise will come out of the speaker on the DualShock 4 urging you to hit it quickly.

At other times you’ll be opening cabinets and doors, using weapons, examining objects, and more. For the most part I found the motion controls to be a bit more engaging, making me feel more connected to the story, but it’s really going to come down to what feels right for you.

If you happen to have the PlayStation Camera hooked up, turning it on through the menu will enable “Cheap Shots”. What happens here is that it will automatically record short reaction videos at key moments during the game. These are fun to watch and I can’t wait to see them pop up on YouTube after the full game launches.

… an interesting way to give the player a warning …
You’ll sit through a lot of exposition but it’s critical to your progress. Knowing how the characters feel about each other and how they may react to different situations is key to keeping them alive… if that’s what your goal is.

We’ve been told that it is possible to keep all eight characters alive through the end of the game but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do it on your first playthrough. Key moments are highlighted as “Butterfly Effect” moments where decisions made can have bigger ramifications down the line. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one wrong choice will doom a character but it’ll certainly make it a lot harder to change their fate.

Speaking of fate, among the many collectibles littered throughout the game, many of which will help you piece together an enlightening back story, you’ll find totems which will help you glimpse the future. Depending on the color, they can herald Death, Guidance, Loss, Danger, or Fortune. The brief, two-second flash you’ll see is a possible future event and depending on the choices you make it may or may not come to pass. It’s an interesting way to give the player a warning sometimes long in advance.

The Butterfly Effect also has its own place in the menu and as you play you’ll be able to see how each choice affected another and another deeper into the game. I like that this was added, giving players a chance to analyze what they did and what they could do differently next time. The nice thing is that since it’s tucked away in a menu you won’t see it unless you look for it. This allows players to figure things out on their own for each playthrough of the game if they want.

The key is that the game is set up like an 80’s horror movie so if/when a character dies, they’re dead. There’s no going back to an earlier save to revive them. The game is constantly autosaving so the only way to see them again is to start an entirely new playthrough. It raises the stakes for every choice you make during the game and makes replayability a must.

The cast is packed with an excellent group of actors and each brings their own character to life with a strong performance. We all know Hayden Panettiere is involved but I was surprised when I easily recognized some of the other actors. I’ll let you figure them out on your own though. For people who can’t wait, here’s the full cast at IMDb.com.

The gameplay will definitely not be to everyone’s liking. If you’re not up for a lot of dialogue and watching scenes play out between exploration and moments of intense action with quick-time-events mixed in, then this game definitely isn’t for you. From the short preview we’ve been given, it looks like there are dozens of possible outcomes to the game ensuring that many players will see very different stories. I’m really excited to see more of the story and (after I’ve played through at least twice) to even watch people stream it and see how their personal choices affect the story and the collective fates of their characters.

Until Dawn will be released on August 25, 2015 at a $59.99 MSRP.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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  • ChazzH69

    I usually avoid like games (or films) in this genre but there is something about Until Dawn that has me hooked. I can’t wait for it.

  • OsAndRavensFan1

    Can’t wait for this game! I showed my sister (who does not like video games) the PSX playthrough, and she wants me to get this when it comes out. I kind of wish it was releasing closer to Halloween. There are going to be so many “Twitch Plays” playthroughs of this.

  • So excited for this!

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