|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment|
|Release Date||October 13, 2016|
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is a first-person, on-rails horror shooter that sits you down in your own personal rollercoaster ride from hell. It’s a descent into madness that arms you with a pair of guns and has you face off against scores of nightmarish creatures through a variety of different locales. It also might be my favourite VR game yet.
Rush of Blood is a game that somehow manages to simultaneously empower you whilst making you feel utterly helpless. Sitting in the rollercoaster car that you’ll call home for the majority of the game renders you unable to move. Worse still, you’re not even able to control the direction or speed of your movement, save for being able to choose alternate paths through a level every now and again.
There will be plenty of ocassions when you’ll want to get away as fast as possible, only for your car to slow to a crawl. Similarly, when you want to slow down and reorient yourself will generally be when you the game sends you speeding through a horror show of monsters and traps. Being sat down and glued to the spot also leaves you at the mercy of the untold monstrosities that await you, monstrosities that will regularly invade your personal space to say hi.
But man, when you’ve got a sawn-off shotgun in each hand and you’re blasting monsters as they charge you, it can be a hell of a rush. There are a few different weapons that you can arm yourself with in Rush of Blood, from the basic starter pistols to shotguns, uzis, flare guns and more that you can find and pickup for a limited amount of time. You’re also able to equip each hand independantly of the other, so with a little bit of forward thinking in the way you collect them, you can mix and match your loadout to personal preference.
Combat is as simple as point and shoot thanks to Rush of Blood’s use of the move controllers. It is possible to play the game with a standard controller, controlling each hand with an analogue stick, but it’s not recommended. Forget what you know about the lacklustre attempts to fuse motion gaming to rail shooters of the past, the combination of motion controllers and virtual reality is a literal game changer. Where previous attempts at this sort of game using subpar, motion-based hardware was woefully lacking, here it works incredibly well.
Controlling Rush of Blood is intuitive because everything it asks you to do comes naturally. Control the camera by looking around, point guns by pointing controllers and shoot the bad guys by pulling triggers. Rush of Blood literally sits you in the place of its protagonist, then removes as many barriers between you and the game as possible, immersing you in its macabre carnival so thoroughly you’ll think its enemies are right in front of you.
Yes, there are jump scares. Many jump scares. Rush of Blood doesn’t hide the fact that it’s trying to make you jump with fright rather than go for the slow burning, psychological approach. While its varied levels are certainly spooky, the games tension comes from the monsters, psychos, ghosts and more who will routinely appear unexpectedly, seemingly doing their utmost to get you to launch your controllers, fall off your chair and pee your pants.
The jump scares work because they’re a core part of the experience, rather than a cheap ploy employed by a developer who can’t think to scare you any other way. While VR certainly increases their effectiveness (you try holding your nerve when a psycho clown monster emerges from the darkness to grab the front of your rollercoaster for a quick makeout session), the jump scares in Rush of Blood work because they’re legitimately terrifying in their own right. VR just makes them better. Or worse, depending on your point of view. I’m not arachnaphobic, but being suddenly covered in dog-sized spiders will go down as one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life.
Even setting aside the effectiveness of the horror, the scares and the levels, Rush of Blood is a fantastic rail shooter. Aside from a boring final chapter, each of the games levels has been fantastically well designed. Combat areas are diverse, with excellent encounters and massive amounts of variety and creativity at work. The boss fights that punctuate each level are equally inventive, forcing you to play the game in new and unexpected ways. Even moving from point A to point B is a lot of fun, with Rush of Blood speeding you through levels and making great use of PSVR’s head tracking to force you to dodge obstacles or duck into cramped tunnels.
Rush of Blood is helped enormously by the variety of its levels. There are only 7 chapters, but each one is massively distinct from the others, with their own enemies, environments, hazards, jump scares and challenges to overcome. The game also comes with a decent amount of replayability – with four difficulty settings (which you’ll need to master to see the true ending), a score-based grading system and multiple paths through each level. Rush of Blood is most certainly a complete package.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is a huge success for Playstation VR. A fantastic game that nails just about everything it was trying to accomplish, this is definitely the game to beat in VR right now. What could have been a game memorable only for its VR-powered jump scares is actually a fantastically designed rail shooter, with impeccable level design and hugely inventive and satisfying combat encounters.
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