Resident Evil plays host to some of the worst dialogue in history, some of the worst voice acting. But also, the best.
“Is this CHRIS’S BLOOD?”
The strange thing, in hindsight, is how little it mattered. Resident Evil is still an iconic video game franchise. My Mum knows what Resident Evil is.
But Resident Evil was pretty bad. It was also good. So bad it was good. It walks that line. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the line is. I don't really know where I'm going with this...
Point being: I just played an hour of Until Dawn and I have no idea whether it’s going to be brilliant or completely terrible.
Why not both?
Until Dawn is the latest work in progress for UK studio Supermassive Games, the studio most famous for handling LittleBigPlanet duties on the PlayStation Vita. Until Dawn is about as far removed from LittleBigPlanet as you could possibly imagine.
How would I describe it? Well, take the worst episode of Buffy you’ve ever seen. Add a dash Friday the 13th – one of the bad sequels, not the original. Combine it all with sprinkes of Telltale Games moral choices; choices that impact the trajectory of the story.
The end result: Until Dawn, a video game with dialogue so bad I can’t tell whether the whole thing is a joke I should be in on.
I suspect that it is.
Until Dawn tells the story of a group of teenagers returning to a creepy holiday home after the death of two friends precisely one year earlier. A matrix of high school crushes and vendettas colours a spooky slasher-style cinematic experience -- and it all sort of hangs together on the premise that it’s completely okay to be objectively bad. Because at its core, Until Dawn is a homage to objectively bad things.
Like cheap-scare horror movies.
Like teenage dramas ala Dawson’s Creek or The O.C..
Like the original Resident Evil.
Okay, rewind it back. Resident Evil was never a bad video game. It wasn’t. But it’s certainly an experience that’s aged poorly. The controls aren’t great, the dialogue is corny, the performances are… flat out bizarre – but what intrigues me so much about Until Dawn, and what makes it so goddamn interesting, is the fact that it literally seems to imitate some of the worst aspects of games like Resident Evil.
And it actually works to the game’s benefit!
Until Dawn has a relatively modernised version of Resident Evil’s tank controls. It makes usable objects gleam much like Resident Evil did. Until Dawn has a fixed camera. It uses that fixed camera to create tension, to set up some of its best scares. Until Dawn has dialogue moments so bad they have to be deliberate. Moments I can definitely see showing up in GIFs and YouTube videos in years to come.
These bad things somehow congeal into an experience that elicits all the correct reactions. It’s schlock horror. It makes you laugh at the wrong time and squeal in terror at the right time. My time with Until Dawn was this confusing experience where I was squirming at how terrible the writing was, but felt right at home, awash with this nostalgic glow for all the terrible things I enjoyed 15 or so years ago – like Resident Evil, like Dawson’s Creek.
Until Dawn reminds me of terrible things, and that’s good. The controls are sluggish and weird. The camera is fixed and restrictive. The writing feels like a random collection of TV tropes squished into a garbage compactor. It simply does not matter.
Because bugger it. Like me, you’re almost certainly going to enjoy this objectively bad thing.