Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood Review – All aboard the fright train
Virtual Reality (VR) is going to separate the wheat from the chaff in horror game development.
Given the fact that a VR experience envelopes players in a game’s world more thoroughly than ever before, the potential it offers developers to scare the bejesus out their audiences is greater than that offered by traditional gaming interfaces.
In short, if your horror game isn’t frightening in VR, pack it in, because you’re failing on an intergalactic level. As evidenced by Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood, even a horror game spin-off with one of the more ridiculous premises imaginable can still manage to creep players out – and at times, terrify them – if you add a VR interface to it .
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood Review – Off the rails
First, a bit of housekeeping; if you’re one of those players who enjoyed Supermassive Games’s narrative splintering horror title Until Dawn, put it out of your memory altogether. Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood (which will be referred to hereafter as Rush Of Blood) has practically nothing in common with last year’s release.
Some of the environments recall the first game and a couple of familiar antagonists turn up – oh, and it has the words Until Dawn in the title – but structurally, narratively and mechanics-wise Rush Of Blood is about as far away from its franchise stablemate as you can get. Until Dawn was a horror adventure featuring a cast of characters the player was tasked with keeping alive. Rush Of Blood is a VR ghost train in which players shoot at targets with a pair of pistols. Yes, really.
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood Review – Move & shoot
If you can get over your disappointment that Rush Of Blood makes no attempt to add to its forebear’s lore and, aside from some familiar imagery is a completely different beast altogether, there’s fun and scares to be had. It’s not packed with the same palpable dread as Until Dawn; rather Rush Of Blood’s atmosphere is a mixture of screwball comedy and jarring horror, which is complimented by its garish environments beautifully.
Players can use either the Dual-Shock or the Move controllers to play the game. The latter offers free movement when aiming, which takes a little getting used to, while the traditional controller centres the crosshairs of both guns. That’s really the only notable difference and the game isn’t made any more difficult or easy if the player chooses one control system over another.
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood Review – Two-gun train ride
As players trundle through the game’s seven levels (which, barring deaths and respawns, last about 15 minutes a piece) they’ll see their arsenal expand to include sawn off shotguns and machine pistols. They pick these up by shooting a coloured box with the weapon-type emblazoned on it. If they’re using the Move, the weapon replaces whichever gun they shot the box with.
This allows players to mix things up a bit; it’s possible to hang onto a pistol or machinegun in one hand and switch out the second weapon with a shotgun, for example. Once they run out of ammo for their new weapon, it’s replaced with one of the pistols the player started with.
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood Review – Alone in the dark
For the most part players spend their time blasting at enemies that either lope towards the camera or hide behind cover lobbing projectiles at them. The only other activity they need to worry about is occasionally dodging obstacles that invade their personal space, like tree-branches or whirling circular saw blades, as the train cart whizzes along the tracks.
Yes, it’s about as repetitive as it sounds. There’s a score multiplier they’re urged to keep running by hitting non-living targets and some collectible to pick up, but that’s really about it. The real selling point for Rush Of Blood is the horribly creepy set of environments it contains and the way the VR experience makes players feel like danger could hit them from any direction at any moment.
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood Review – I wanna go home
Unlike most horror games in which the sound and visuals aimed at traumatising players emanate from TV speakers in front of them (well, unless you have a decent home cinema sound system), the PS VR makes player feel beset on all sides. It’s not just the jump scares – and to be frank, Rush Of Blood overuses the tactic of having some beastie leap in from the player’s periphery – but noises caused by creatures off screen that unsettle the player.
This is all aided by some pretty disturbing scenery; a shelf of disembodied pigs heads coming to life and screaming, the cart suddenly lurching sickeningly in the direction of some jagged tree branches and eyeless mannequins filming the player are just three jarring examples. Oh, and if you’re arachnophobic you might want to skip this game completely.
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood Review – Verdict
Like many of the PS VR launch titles, Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood is thin on gameplay and it’s all over too soon. But as a showcase of the horror genre’s potential in VR, it’s pretty damn effective. Taken on its own turns it’s thrilling, frightening and really quite fun. There are probably better and more terrifying horror games than this ahead of PS VR owners, but this’ll do for now.