It was rumoured that Supermassive Games was working with the PlayStation VR head-mounted display long before the reveal of the studio’s first tech demo, Jurassic Encounter, and believed that Until Dawn may have had some kind of connection. Indeed, these rumours have since been proven true, though perhaps not in the way expected.
Until Dawn is a story driven horror videogame, with the player’s in-game decisions having a direct influence on the outcome for each of the characters involved. A convoluted journey through an unwelcoming world. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is a far more straight forward affair. It’s a shooting gallery, pure and simple, but when played in virtual reality (VR) it’s far more appealing than could it could ever sound on paper.
The player is situated in a minecart moving continuously along tracks. In each hand a PlayStation Move controller represents the gun they hold; beginning with basic pistols, shotguns and eventually submachine guns (disposed of once ammunition is depeleted) are accessible via shooting crates along the path. The targets at this beginning point are ignorable; often tucked away at the side of the track and only offering a benefit to your score, while the true enemy is the fallen trees that block your path, demanding that the player duck and lean to avoid impact.
A fairly long build was presented to VRFocus, beginning in a wood and eventually moving through an interior location. Once inside, moving targets become a threat. Fairly stand-offish to begin with, these painted dummies can be dismembered with a few clear shots. However, later in the preview such aggression would not deter them so easily, with enemies still approaching even after losing a head.
As the player takes damage the screen becomes increasingly reddened. There is no direct health indicator on the screen, though the minecart does offer information as to which type of gun is in each hand and your current score. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is most certainly aiming to become a high score challenge videogame, quite conversely to it’s sister title.
The final section of the preview build offers a boss encounter in which bandages can be collected from fallen enemies to boost your health. A back door opens to reveal a giant beating heart from which skeletal birds flock towards the player, while a ghostly girl who had been stalking you throughout the level summons more of the mannequin-esque beasts that charge towards you. The player must identify and eliminate the most dangerous targets first, ensuring they take minimal damage while still landing shots on the heart when possible.
The visual design of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood has some clever ideas, though clearly still needs a lot of work. Each of the guns has a torch attached to it, resulting in the player scanning the area with one gun whilst shooting at an already detected target with another. This works surprisingly well, though many of the environments the player is scanning look decidedly rough around the edges. It also seems that interactive items – such as though which cause explosions – simply don’t function in certain areas. If an object is for display purposes only it really shouldn’t have the same visual identity as an item that can help or hinder your progress.
Exactly how Until Dawn: Rush of Blood ties into the Until Dawn franchise is not currently known. A number of crossover enemies are seen in Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, but there is currently little else to tie the two together. VRFocus will of course endeavour to uncover more details of the connection.
Supermassive Games have been granted an enviable path into VR, with a close relationship to Sony Computer Entertainment allowing them early access and a great deal of freedom. Whether or not we’ll ever see Jurassic Encounter again remains to be seen, but for now Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is enticing enough an experience to understand why Supermassive Games moved into a more action-based VR design so early on in the lifespan of PlayStation VR.