The worst carnival ever...in a good way.
I pass through the tall double doors. My arrival seems to cut all power — it's dark, the cart I'm in is hardly moving, and I can hear something dragging a foot toward me. The lights flicker and my gaze is drawn to the right; nothing there but a little clown head. I turn my gaze to the front of the car and nearly soil myself thanks to what's waiting there. Is this the most affecting game I've played in VR so far? You're damn right it is.
The jump scares and the good scares
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood definitely relies on jump scares to get your heart pumping. You can't leave the roller coaster cart you're strapped into, so the developers took advantage of your planned trajectory. Many times you will be distracted by a sound to the right, and, while your first instinct is to shut your eyes and curl into the fetal position, when you turn back around there will be something nasty waiting for you. This doesn't happen all the time, and the pacing seems to be good enough that I forget what kind of ride I'm on and get fooled all over again. My gasps were not feigned.
Developer Supermassive Games knows that a product full of jump scares and nothing else will soon be forgotten. True horror games need to have a feeling that gets under the player's skin and stays there for years after. The environment they created here does that.
I don't have any predisposed fear of clowns or carnivals, but I might be cultivating something now that I've played through this game. It starts out pleasant-ish with a friendly guide traveling in the car in front of you; you use a pea-shooter to knock down painted clowns and bowling pins and other carnival doo-dads, but things soon take a turn.
One of the first levels you ride through on your own is inhabited by giant pigs that have been half-slaughtered by enormous circular saws. The squealing is endless, and some pigs are slaughtered right there as you pass. Compound this with saws also trying to decapitate your head, and I was feeling a bit queasy from the whole thing — not VR sickness, just horror sickness.
Time to play the game
Your objective on this nasty ride is to rack up as many points — tallied at the front of your car — by shooting pretty much everything that doesn't look nailed down. You get more points for hitting painted bulls-eyes, and there are special bowling pins hidden throughout the level that you must shoot for extra points.
There are some boxes scattered about the levels that hold other weapons like 6-shooter magnums and sawed-off shotguns, but these have limited ammo supplies and you'll soon find yourself back with your regular pistols.
As you ride the roller coaster, you'll notice boarded-off sections that you must shoot to enter, and you'll also be ducking and weaving constantly to avoid low-hanging trees, saws, and other cautions. It is all pretty simple gameplay, but the different sections are spaced out in what seems like an ascending order — by the end of the level, I'm usually ready for a brief comedown to catch my breath and make sure no one is sneaking up on me in the real world outside my HMD.
Shooting mechanics and overall immersion
I absolutely love the PlayStation VR's display. The only time I noticed any screen-door effect was when I really focused on it. If you just play the game without thinking about the fact you have a headset on, the immersion level is really up there. The music is, as you would expect, is the same type you'd hear at a carnival, and the sound effects are on the money — just wait until the slaughterhouse level.
The only complaint I have about the PSVR is the controller motion tracking. The arms attached to the guns were all over the place, and the guns seemed to want to tilt inward. I had to reset my position with the DS4 controller a few times, and eventually things seemed to settle down. By the second or third level, I was shooting comfortably. Most of the action in Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is focused at the front of the car, which is good because the motion controllers lose tracking as soon as you turn to the side.
Although you're moving constantly in your coaster car, there's no sign of motion sickness thanks to a prominent dashboard in front of you that displays your score, ammunition, and equipped gun. Even when I was hurtling around corners, ducking and weaving, I didn't think once about my stomach.
Horror fans with a PlayStation VR really shouldn't miss this game, especially because it only costs about $20. Once you've run through the seven levels, you can go back to try a different difficulty and make a run for the global leaderboards.
Yes, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood does have jump-scares, but it also gets under your skin — I couldn't stop thinking about the pig slaughterhouse, and it will definitely be the first level I show to friends who come try out PSVR. There are some other parts of the game that made me go really stop and think, but I won't spoil them here.
While the Move controllers' erratic behavior can break immersion at times, the fact that they settled down after a few orientation resets is a good sign. This is nothing we haven't seen at times from the other VR platforms.
Bottom line? If you like to torture your psyche with a good horror game, grab Until Dawn: Rush of Blood — it's worth the money.
- Level design contributes to overall horror
- Music and sound are creepy on their own
- Affecting gameplay
- Motion controllers have trouble tracking