Until Dawn might be the first big surprise of the 2015 'holiday' season.
It's weird. It's clunky. In a lot of ways you could even say that it's objectively bad. But it's also amazing and it's one of my favourite games of 2015 so far.
Here's what I love about it: this is a story driven video game. In that past story driven video games focused on choice had that aspiration to 'high art', whatever that means. They had an air of pretence about. Until Dawn doesn't have that. Here is a story driven, choice-focused game that is fully aware of itself as a homage to 'bad' art. This is a slasher movie, this is 'I Know What You Did Last Summer'. This is 'Dawson's Creek'.
I just love that video games (and the audience) have grown to the point where a game like this is not only viable, but celebrated. Perhaps my favourite thing about Until Dawn is that something so weird exists, and has managed to cater to such a wide audience. Not because it's good, not because it's a step forward for gaming as a medium, but because it's... kinda campy and b-grade. Like self-aware b-grade. How cool is that?
And not only does Until Dawn pay homage to teen slasher movies and bad teen TV, it also pays homage to the video games of the past — like Resident Evil. There is a sense that games like Resident Evil are not separate from that tradition, but part of it, which makes things even better. To me a game like Until Dawn is a sign that games have 'made it'. As silly as it sounds. Turns out gaming didn't need its Citizen Kane, it just needed its Friday the 13th Part VII.