Until Dawn could be the game slasher movie fans have been waiting for

Posted September 16, 2014 by Sean Mesler in Video Games

At a much too young 12 years old, I snuck into the dark theatre to watch Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Having become obsessed with horror and more specifically, slasher movies, at an even younger age, the thought of not being able to see the latest “adventures” of Jason Voorhees was something I couldn’t abide and yet here I was because the lady at the ticket booth wouldn’t allow me to purchase a ticket for the R rated film. In hindsight, she was probably doing the right thing because the movie is brutally violent and at times quite graphic. However, there I was, sat in my seat, my expression shifting from horror and glee as Jason dispatched of his victims in resourceful ways, using all manner of sharp instruments of death.

Something clicked for me watching that movie that had never actually dawned on me before. It was movie. By that I mean, I became aware of the relationship between the movie and the audience. The way the movie was staged to manipulate the emotions of its audience, with cutting, shots, music and make up FX. From that moment on, I never viewed movies the same, and while I continued to love horror, and more specifically, slasher films, I couldn’t image how much more effect horror could be using the same tricks over and over.

Video games have since surpassed film as a way to immerse the player into terrifying stories and making their audience feel true terror and unease in a way that few movies have been able to accomplish with the most battle hardened horror fans. Series like Resident Evil, Fatal Frame, and Silent Hill all offered their own take on zombies, ghosts, and twisted imagery respectively, but with the exception of the incredibly poor Friday the 13th game for NES, none have truly embraced the slasher genre.

That is, until now.

Until Dawn - Ashely and Chris

I was lucky enough, and surprised, that Sony had Until Dawn’s demo at the recent Gamestop Expo in Anaheim last week. Having been re-unveiled at Gamescom, Suppermassive Games’ take on slasher movies by way of Heavy Rain adventure games could just be the horror game I’ve been waiting for since I was 12.

What is incredibly intriguing to me about Until Dawn, is how much it seems like it uses the formula for slasher films – teenagers in an isolated location, without adult supervision or the presence of authority figures, separated and picked off one by one by a malevolent being. Except, by adding in video game elements, there is a real sense of urgency and tension knowing that any character can live or die based on decisions the player makes.

As a video game, Until Dawn is actually pretty stunning. Character models are incredibly detailed as we inch this much closer to photorealism. Movement is slightly awkward due to somewhat finicky controls, and a return to fixed camera angles, but the walking animations are alarmingly detailed. From the demo, gameplay feels very much like Heavy Rain-light, with button prompts for interacting with the environment, use of the DualShock 4 motion controls, and minimal “action” moments. I spent the majority of the demo walking around, interacting with things, and doing some light puzzle solving. As a fan of this kind of game, I’m perfectly OK with this, though I understand that many others may not be.

The demo lasted about 15 or so minutes and nails so much of what makes slasher movies adored by fans that I can tell a lot of care has gone into crafting something special. The atmosphere, the bad to middling acting, the clunky dialogue – some of which may sound awful to fans of more recent standouts like The Last of Us, but as a slasher fan, I get exactly what Supermassive is going for here in terms of presentation. So much so, that I think players that aren’t into this subgenre of horror may have trouble really getting into it thus making the game incredibly niche. Which is fine for me, I just hope everyone involved making the game expects as much. With a promised “hundreds” of endings, consequences for your actions, Until Dawn could be the game fans of slasher films, both new and old, have been waiting for.

About the Author

Sean Mesler

Sean is a semi-retired hardcore kid, semi-grown up and transplanted from his original home of New York to Los Angeles. A lover and critic of movies, music and video games, Sean is always quick with an opinion, a heaping dose of snark, and a healthy dose of pragmatism. PSN & Live Gamertag: N2NOther