Until Dawn: Rush of Blood on PSVR

Virtual scares, actual body fluids

If there’s one sensation in gaming that’ll never, ever get old, it’s using two sawed-off shotguns to simultaneously decapitate two baddies. And I’m not talking a pair of unfortunate gits running in at you, shoulder to shoulder. I mean holding two Move controllers at 7 and 2 o’clock, John Woo style, tracking your victims on the absolute periphery of your PSVR headset. Expect that to feel amazing, and to be the one shining moment of power you’ll feel in this, the game designed to make the bravest among you cower in fear.

Anybody who played 2015’s Until Dawn will know how well Supermassive Games gets its scare on. The studio is obviously housed by some true aficionados of the horror genre, and its sadistic team members have previously delivered some of gaming’s most memorable jump scares. While Until Dawn: Rush of Blood repurposes a lot of the cast and creatures from that source material, returning fans need to gone in expecting a very different type of experience. Rush of Blood is (quite literally) an on-rails shooter meets a rollercoaster attraction. Sony marketing could have also named it “Rush of Urine”.

A quick bit of background: this verdict comes from a guy who has been largely desensitised by decades of video game violence and survival horror. I’ve shrugged off Resident Evils, coasted through Dead Spaces, and the P.T. Demo was seen as a nice holiday. Likewise, not even the new PSVR-based scares of Resident Evil VII: Kitchen, nor the shark attack in PlayStation VR Worlds, had what it takes to make me flinch.

Until Dawn: Rush of Blood physically startled me in its second level, and then managed to keep on doing that at least once in each of its remaining five levels. Mark me impressed.

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You’ll first get to grips with all the shooting in a tutorial called Haunted Lodge. The overarching theme of the game is a freaky-ass carnival that’s being run by a possibly deranged MC in a straw boater. He tags along in a separate mine cart for a while as you air-rifle away in an extremely target rich environment filled with shitty old ducks and balloons. As you trundle along on your own personal Polar Express, you’ll learn such skills as shifting your head to avoid low obstacles, and there’s also the importance of timing your gun reloads. (Do them one at a time, because the flashlights attached to them inexplicably go dull when you’re doing it).

In short order, the creepy circus fair escalates into using real guns to blow limbs off of psychotic carnies. They’re the least of your worries, too, as over the course of the game Supermassive proceeds to do a Cabin in the Woods by throwing every conceivable horror nasty at your face. It’s thematically weird, but also a very effective shotgun blast that ensures at least one creepy thing will get under your skin. Most likely several.

As the threats increase, so too does the strength of your arsenal. You’ll always have unlimited ammo 9mm handguns as your fallback crutch, but there are shootable coloured boxes out there that will swap in a shotgun, magnum, uzi, or flare gun. And yes, the later is more of a rocket launcher than a means to signal passing helicopters. The gunplay is frequently intense, and goes off without a hitch, although it has to be said that Supermassive’s idea to render virtual arms, instead of disembodied gloves, makes for some goofy-looking contortionist moments.

I’d also like to point out that playing with a DualShock 4 is possible, but it’s quite a large step down. Awkwardly shimmying one control pad about to line up the aiming of two guns is vastly inferior to two Move controllers tracking the 1:1 motions of two hands. There were moments when the DualShock control scheme pissed me off; in particular, the lightbar isn’t tracked well when you have to turn to your immediate left or right. In one boss fight, that was the angle where boxes of replenishing flare guns were rolling in. Cue: needless deaths and swear words.

Though each of the seven levels will take a mere ten minutes to get through, multiple replays are definitley worth it. At minimum, each level includes three shootable switches to zip you off into secret areas where fresh jack-in-the-box moments await you. Completionists will also be well occupied by a Where’s Wally hunt for collectible targets, and anybody with the trophy for finishing the one-life Psychotic difficulty is deserved of your respect.

When the smoke clears and the last horror falls, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood stands tall as one of the strongest launch titles PSVR has, providing you play it as intended (Move x2). It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor are all of its control schemes honed to a razor’s edge, but it’s supremely immersive, fun, and it managed to give this grizzled old veteran a heart palpitation or two.

8/10

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