Hands-On Preview: Until Dawn
Until Dawn‘s “everyone can live, everyone can die” premise is alive and well in the game’s E3 demo. The demo centers around two of the game’s characters, Matt and Emily, with control of each character swapping after each major segment. During my time waiting to play I witnessed multiple ending scenarios and different actions that each effect your “Butterfly Effect,” the game’s overarching map of how your choices change the outcome.
Before launching you into the vertical slice for the demo, the game simulates the events of the story prior to the scene and recaps them in a “Previously on Until Dawn” montage of clips. While waiting to play, and when playing, I didn’t see any identical “Previously on” segments, though they were all decently similar. For instance, some had four characters in a scene, while someone else’s matching scene would only have three (presumably that missing person had died).
When the demo begins, you (Matt) and Emily are at the edge of a cliff and turn around to realize you’re surrounded by about 10 or so bucks who are all looking at you quite menacingly, antlers and all. Matt however has an axe with him and twice you’re given the option to swing the axe at a buck that won’t let you pass. I witnessed people who both killed the buck and others who did nothing, both cases let you pass and move on to the next segment, though your choice added to your “Butterfly Effect”.
The next scene has you navigating your way to a park ranger watchtower, with you controlling Emily. Movement isn’t exactly what I would call perfectly smooth, nor is Matt’s who is following behind you being controlled by the computer. Keep in mind though this is only a demo, and hopefully the movement is tweaked in the final build of the game.
You then navigate your way up the watchtower, peppered with a couple of jump scares, in an attempt to get to the radio and call for help. When inside the watchtower you have to find a way to turn on the power so you can actually use the radio at all. It’s here that you can tell the game used to be a Move title.
From unnecessary prompts to open the trap door to get inside, to having you manually rotate the right stick to turn the radio dial even though there’s only one working channel, the signs are certainly there. It’s not particularly cumbersome or annoying, but is a stark indicator of the game’s Move-based roots.
After calling for help on the radio, the tower is toppled to the ground and into some underground mines (convenient I know, but this is a teen horror movie). You switch back to playing as Matt and are given the choice to try to save Emily as she dangles above the abyss, or jump to safety before the tower collapses fully. You are given the choice twice, and depending on your choice, in the demo at least, either Matt lives and Emily falls to her death, or Emily STILL falls to her death but Matt gets caught and has his jaw impaled (much like Mr. Skinner in Hot Fuzz).
Overall, the game certainly delivers on its goal of having a multitude of possible outcomes, the full extent of which we won’t know about until the game launches. The game’s “Butterfly Effect” is certainly out in full force, with almost every choice you make adding to it.
Personally after playing the demo, even with its oddities, I will definitely be picking up Until Dawn when it launches exclusively on PlayStation 4 this August 25th.