PS4 Exclusive Until Dawn Preview

“Through the course of the night, anyone can live, anyone can die, and things  aren’t  always what they seem.”

Developers appear to be pretty determined to scare the crap out of players right now. It’sa trend we’ll see hit the mainstreamthis month with the release of Alien: Isolation, and then there’s impending arrival of Silent Hills after the bone-chilling P.T. demo. Horror isn’t so much creeping out of the shadows right now, but bursting through the front door and charging towards you wielding a meat cleaver. Now Sony is getting into the act with PlayStation 4 exclusive Until Dawn directed by hitherto unknown studio Supermassive Games, tossing players into a claustrophobic environment where you control a group of tormented teenagers trying to survive the night with a killer on the loose. The decisions you make throughout the game will decide who lives and who dies, as you try to survive until, well, dawn. Will you make it through the night alive? Well, first let’s go through some of the basics…

A small developer based in the south east of the UK, Supermassive Games has established a decent track record with Sony over the past few years, developing party titles for the PlayStation Move launch, Wonderbook, and contributing to other titles (the developer designed a few levels in LittleBigPlanet Vita and ported the original Killzone to PS3). There’s no question that Until Dawn is the studio’s biggest undertaking to date, and will finally cast the spotlight on the modest developer and elevate it to the ranks of triple-A game design in a big way.

You might have heard of Until Dawnbefore its announcement in August. Unveiled a couple of years back as a PlayStation Move motion sensing game, Sony later shelved the idea, demanding a redesign. Motion control still plays an integral role but now, arriving on the PlayStation 4, it’ll use the DualShock 4 motion sensor used to shine your flashlight to illuminate ominous shadows, or, in one of the numerous setpieces where you must makea vital decision, point it at your choice.

And you can see the difference, particularly in the expressiveness of the character animations. Performance capture was heavily utilised, with Supermassive calling in the talents of notable US television actors Brett Dalton (Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Hayden Panettiere ( Heroes) to voice and mo-cap the entirety of the game’s story. It’s a feat made even more impressive when considering the sheer volume of story, with multiple deviating narrative strands that splinter off depending on the decisions you make during the campaign.

It’s not a surprise that Until Dawn is being compared to David Cage’s Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, as it prioritises its narrative ambitions within a confined series of interactive scenes. Here, the story hinges on the concept of the ‘butterfly effect’, where a tiny choice can have radical ramifications. Specifically, the decisions that you make through the game can result in anyone or everyone dying. So instead of yelling at hapless teens in horror films, you can see how well your own survival instincts hold up.

That really shouldn’t need to be a highlight of a horror game, but it’s worth mentioning. Most of this is down to the outstanding cinematic presentation, not to mention the high-quality facial animation, with no horror cliché going unexplored. But we’ve also seen some genuine moments of intense psychological horror, not to mention a generous portion of gore. If it manages to stretch its frights beyond generic jump scares and offer some truly unsettling imagery, then Silent Hills might have some serious competition when both arrive next year.

Developer ProfileBased in the prosperous climes of Guildford in the heart of Surrey, Supermassive Games is relatively fresh-faced, making the list of ‘Best  New Studio’ at the Develop Awards 2011.

The studio’s work includes Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, Wonderbook title Walking With Dinosaurs, and Start The Party! Save The World.

Developer History
Walking With Dinosaurs 2013 [PlayStation 3]
Start the Party! Save the World 2011 [PlayStation 3]
Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock 2012 [Multi]
Start The Party!  2010 [PlayStation 3]
While Supermassive Games hasn’t worked on anything that matches the scale of Until Dawn, the studio’s debut Start The Party! was a decent party title to coincide
with the release of PlayStation Move

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