From squealing pig heads to creepy dolls smeared in blood, tried-and-tested horror clichés are everywhere you turn in Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, and PlayStation VR makes it all feel like they’re all just an arm’s reach away. Knife-wielding clowns with terrifying grins lunge out of the darkness, yet you’re powerless to escape, while rotating circular chainsaws cause you to physically duck and dodge as you move along a rickety track on a rollercoaster ride from hell deep into the mountains.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is the stuff of nightmares. Loosely-based on the jump-scare-heavy Until Dawn, this latest PS4 exclusive title is another horror game from Supermassive Games designed to play on your fear and anxiety, only this time you’re strapped into a carriage with a one-way ticket into the depths of despair and you’re wearing a PSVR headset that displays the evil in 360 degrees all around you.
Elevated to a surreal degree by its scarily realistic VR visuals and haunting 3D audio, the on-rails action takes place across various tracks as you buckle up and prepare for a descent through and around the snow-capped mountains featured in the original game. As the story goes, the mountain wants feeding and you’re its prey with each track representing a new ride and fresh terrors to avoid and kill, as well as frequent references to Until Dawn, including an appearance by the ominous masked killer. As the carriage moves along the track, your aim is to rack up points by hitting targets, shooting collectible dolls, and destroying any horrific enemies that attack.
Look down and you’ll see that your carriage comes complete with a score counter, an ammo gauge, and two guns fastened to the hand-rail. The DualShock 4 thumbsticks or the PlayStation Move controllers act as your guns, and each weapon has a beam of light shooting from its barrel that pierces the darkness, allowing you to illuminate targets. A squeeze of the left or right triggers smashes vases, pops balloons and destroys crates marked with the star sign as the total on your score counter rises. The aim of the game is to get a high score and beat your friends and others in the PlayStation community by rising up the online leaderboards, which means there’s plenty of reason for repeated play sessions.
So, in terms of gameplay, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is rather typical of an on-rails shooter, with genre staples such as exploding crates and fire throwing enemies being par for the course. There are a few different ways to navigate the tracks by shooting signal signs, which also add some replay value, but by and large there’s little original about its concept. Despite that familiarity, it’s a totally new kind of experience that sucks you in, cranks up your anxiety levels, and makes you feel part of its twisted game world in a way that only VR can.
The various tracks feature some terrifying imagery, including scuttling spiders that invade your carriage, mannequins that come to life and attack with venom, and previous Until Dawn characters (including the Wendigos) twitching around before almost touching your nose and screaming in your face. Supermassive has done a good job at building up the tension, and what starts off as an immersive, yet not particularly scary first ride, soon begins to get a little hairy!
Through a clever blend of audio and familiar horror themes that feeling of paranoia kicks in from your very first ride, but it ramps up a notch in certain sections, particularly when your carriage stops. You might hear a groan to your left and immediately turn to check it out, but when you centre your head back to the middle something horrific might jump out on you! It got to the point where I spent most of my time on each ride anxiously surveying all around me so that I didn’t get caught out with a scare. I also found myself feeling a little breathless during end of stage boss battles as they’re far more intense than anything else in the game and require quick and accurate reflexes.
Mechanically, shooting works really well both with the DS4 and the Move controllers, though with the latter it really feels like you’re wielding your weapons, and I was soon able to intuitively shoot both guns in different directions with pin-point accuracy. You can also wield different guns in each hand by shooting certain crates to swap weapons; perhaps picking up a shotgun to blast enemies close up or an Uzi for a more sustained attack. Having to reload with a quick upwards flick on the controllers also feels natural and intuitive, while the feeling of movement that you get in the pit of your stomach when the track dips and drops makes you feel like you are on the ride.
It’s not all VR fun and games though. A couple of the boss battles are quite dull (the bosses just weren’t scary in the slightest or the process to beat the boss was far too obvious and unchallenging), as well as some of the sections where hordes of the same type of enemy just flood towards you. Sure, it switches up the pace but I’d like to have seen even more enemy-types, or the boundaries pushed even further to scare you out of your wits.
The Move controllers played up a few times too. When they work well it’s an absolute joy shooting down targets and enemies, but on occasions my guns would twitch and ruin the immersion. At one point the guns turned on me completely, my hands looked mangled, and I couldn’t get them to point forward. I ended up having to disconnect, reconnect and start the game again.
Rush of Blood is going to scare some people witless with its horror themes alone, while the surreal feeling of actually sitting in that carriage is well worth experiencing. Overall, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is a competent on-rails shooter elevated to a new level with VR that sets a decent, albeit unspectacular foundation for the genre without ‘wowing’ or leaving you with the lasting impression that you’ve witnessed the pinnacle of horror VR. Still, it’s a ride that will leave some quaking in their boots. Get your mum to play for extra fun!