Let's get this out of the way now- If you dislike QTE's in games, you're more than likely not going to enjoy Until Dawn.
With that out of the way, if you're still here, let's get into precisely why THIS is what I've been waiting for.
Too many people look forward to the next-gen of consoles almost primarily on the shiny overhaul of graphics- and there's nothing particularly wrong with that, but UD shows just what the horsepower of our now current-gen machines really can do- tell a story that makes it YOUR story, chock full of action-reaction, choice and consequence. Oh, sure, you can make the case that UD is the best looking game on the PS4 as of now. Like PS3's Quantic Dreams' games (in particular, Beyond Two Souls) they've digitized live actors into the game world and given you control over them.
And while Quantic Dreams gave us great opportunities of choice, the levels of such decision-making pale in comparison to UD. In controlling every character at various times, and thus, interacting with your friends, your choices in what you say and how you speak to them will influence how they treat you as the game progresses.
UD's Butterfly Effect system kicks in with every important decision you make, all with a fluttering of the insects in the corner of the screen to let you know you've made a choice that could have been handled otherwise and will, in all likelihood, play some larger role later in your playthrough.
Until Dawn as a game is perhaps better than 75% of the horror movies it borrows heavily from, and in handing you the reigns of the characters, removes the need to scream at your television set "why would you do something that STUPID?!?" If it was a stupid choice made in UD, you're the guilty party.
The premise is simple, with a group of friends gathering at a giant lodge, trying to help their friend (the son of the owner of this abandoned building) through a rough time- at their last get-together the year prior, his twin sisters died when a prank went wrong.
And, like all teen horror flicks, the power will go out, the lodge (conveniently located atop a mountain where the only way up is via cable car, and the only neighboring building is an abandoned sanitarium,) will be cut off from all help, cell phones will be useless, and blood will flow.
Never before have I felt so in control over the characters I was given guardianship over- it's amazing knowing that every choice, big or small, very well could lead to it rewarding you down the line... Or biting you in the backside.
The graphics are gorgeous, but it can be a shame with the setting calling for so much darkness, that you don't always get to appreciate them fully.
The game is played in chapters, often leaving on a cliffhanger, and you'll be taken to the office of "Dr. Hill" (played with scene-chewing deliciousness by the wonderful Peter Stormare) where he'll talk to you as your psychiatrist- Usually about your fears... And of course, the game is learning about you as you answer his questions, making subtle changes to the setting and happenings in the game to try and get the best possible frights from you.
And it will scare you- it's a game best played with the lights off, the sound up, and as late as possible. For the gore-hounds, UD also delivers, blending these sides of horror unlike most movies do, where it's usually one or the other.
This is precisely the type of game I LOVE. ( I enjoy just about every type of game known to man, but no sports, no FPS, no racing game are going to get you as involved in the characters as well as a game in which you can sculpt the characters AND the story). While I love games, Until Dawn is best described as an experience.
And while I give the game a 5 star rating, a 4.5 would still be best served for UD. Despite all its wonderful qualities, it still has some minor issues.
Another great addition is NO PLAYER SAVES in your first playthrough... The game saves itself and does so FREQUENTLY (no technical issues with this) to make your first attempt at UD as "fresh" as possible. There is no going back. No changing a choice you might have regretted making as you heard the timer ticking down. No saving a character you let die because you weren't still enough.
(Yes, "still enough"- the game will require you to remain almost perfectly still at times.)
The story is great, but is far from perfect- like most teen horror flicks. You won't need many of the scattered clues lying around to figure things out as you play.
Another negative is the voice-acting. NOT with the actors themselves, nor is it game sound (which is actually excellent). But no matter where the characters are, they all seem to sound as if they're talking in a sound studio. It's bothersome, but eventually you'll get used to it and it will cease to be as major of a nuisance as it is when you first hear it.
Unfortunately, the isometric camera angle is here with the ugly "walking tank" controls, as well. Ever since the original Resident Evil employed this, it has frustrated me. Fortunately, UD never has seemed to get me killed because of this choice in control/ camera, it's still an unnatural feel to be walking in one direction, only for the camera to change and you're holding the control stick in the opposite direction of which way your character is walking. Putting the stick in neutral for a moment corrects this, but it takes you out of the immersion ever so slightly.
The only other negative I can point to, and I know it was done intentionally, is a slightly too common reliance on "misdirected" jump-scares... The old animal jumping out of the closet is a pretty standard horror trope, but those similar type scares that don't involve the actual killer, appear a few times more than I'd care. They'll still make you jump... You'll just catch yourself asking when the real reason to be scared is going to happen.
Until Dawn is what this new generation of consoles needs to investigate- choice and consequence. If some company can make a game that makes you care this much for your characters, all while delivering with less QTE's, they're going to score big. If they can manage to combine it with the action of a God of War or GTA, they'll have created perhaps one of the best games ever. Unfortunately, it seems to be a choice (ha) the devs make- focus super heavy into the story or super heavy into the action. Until then, games like The Order: 1886 and Until Dawn are going to have their supporters (although UD seems to have gathered more support than the Order- probably due to the subject matter of the two. Horror buffs are going to love UD even if they have to put up with the QTE heavy play they normally wouldn't with any other game) of which I am one. I'm a sucker for story that keeps me interested all the way through- one that doesn't just assign me to kill the next round of bad guys.
Until Dawn is a game that should be in the hands of fans that enjoy horror, enjoy gaming as an experience, or that are simply tired of "blowing stuff up real good".
Here's hoping they make a sequel!