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Until Dawn: Rush of Blood VR made me squeal like a little child

Tom Morgan
28 Oct 2015
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Jump scares and virtual reality are a potent combination if - like me - you've never donned a VR headset before

On second thought, making Until Dawn: Rush of Blood one of my first PlayStation VR gameplay experiences wasn't the best idea. I don't particularly like horror films, and I struggle to keep my mouth shut at the best of times - just ask anyone that has to share an office with me. That's probably why I got a few funny looks from the room filled with journalists, PRs and game developers after I pulled off the PlayStation VR headset. It turns out shrieking in terror with alarming regularity throughout the seven minute demo had the place in stitches.

An on-rails shooter packed with jump scares might not be everyone's definition of trouser-ruining horror, but developer Supermassive Games has managed to make it work. Cheap frights and disgusting creatures can be terrifying at the best of times when they are contained to the TV screen, but with a PlayStation Move controller in each hand, having a means to defend yourself somehow makes it all the more scary. Being able to see "your" body, arms and legs as you look around the scene only adds to the immersion, and the fact that you can't get up adds to the fear factor.

With the player sat in a roller coaster carriage, alone but armed with a Berretta pistol in either hand, the demo starts off slowly, easing you in as you shoot targets on either side of the track and duck out of the way of fallen trees and wooden beams. Your weapons have underslung torches, which illuminate the darkness wherever you aim, but only in a small cone - leaving the rest of the scene totally black. The PlayStation Move controllers are very sensitive to hand movements, which translates to trembling flashlight beams onscreen - reminding you that yes, this is actually quite unsettling. Usually giving the player a gun or two eliminates the element of fear, but I can attest is absolutely doesn't do that here.

Supermagic has done a brilliant job with sound cues and audio direction, tricking you into taking your eyes off of one part of the screen as you search for what just made a noise. When you inevitably can't find it and face forward again, there's an ungodly monstrosity right in your face. Typical jump scares weren't where I would expect them to be, and there were several unsettling moments where the ride stops altogether, with sounds and small movements happening all around you for almost 30 seconds before the inevitable happens and you have to put your trigger fingers to good use.

The actual roller coaster segment that starts off the demo didn't really do anything for me. Sat in a chair, with my feet planted firmly on the floor, the action wasn't moving fast enough and the scene was a little too dark to convince my brain I was actually moving anywhere. This is something that developers will get better at with experience, and with plenty of theme park demos on Oculus Rift doing a fantastic job at fooling wearers into practically falling off their chairs, I'm hopeful Supermassive will be able to follow suit before the game arrives.

There doesn't feel like there's any real connection with this new game and the original Until Dawn, either, making it difficult to shake the feeling the developer is riding on the back of the name, but the project is of course still at the very early stages and that could change before launch.

Quite when that will be remains unclear - we'll just have to wait for Sony to confirm a release date for the hardware, and hope the games follow suit. Based on the other PlayStation VR demos I've seen so far, Rush of Blood is easily one of the highlights, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed the two will arrive together.

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