Halloween Gaming: Until Dawn: Rush of Blood

Until Dawn Rush of Blood TMU Header.png

This past week, I tried something a little different for my Halloween Gaming series.  I was able to try VR for the first time on the new Playstation VR headset from Sony.  When I say “for the first time”, I’m not including the old Nintendo Virtual Boy, which I played a ton after I was able to snag one for cheap when it was discontinued.  You want to know something weird?  The first time I put on the PSVR headset, I immediately recognized that it smelled like my old Virtual Boy did.  I think it’s the foam around the eyepieces (the part that makes contact with the player’s face) that gives the two such similar odors.

Anyway, weird Virtual Boy sense memories aside, one of the PSVR games that I’ve been most eager to try is the spinoff to last year’s excellent PS4 horror title, Until Dawn.  Until Dawn was one of the highlights of 2015 for me, and I had a great time writing about it for last year’s Halloween Gaming series.  While I’ve been really hoping to see the game get a proper sequel, the announcement of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, an arcade-action spinoff of the original Until Dawn’s story, naturally had my interests piqued.

I don’t know if I can think of two games more different than the original Until Dawn and its spin-off, Rush of Blood.  Rush of Blood replaces the somber tone, slow pacing, and nuanced character development of its progenitor with a bombastic on-rails action experience.  The story of Rush of Blood is somewhat abstract and obtuse, but from what I can gather, the game is essentially a nightmare sequence being had by one of the original story’s cast members.  It’s never said specifically which character, but those who have seen Until Dawn all the way through should be able to figure out which one.

Rush of Blood 1.jpg

The game starts with the player character entering an eerily destitute amusement park where a carnival barker implores him to take a ride on a rollercoaster that was once the site’s star attraction. This is one of those rides where the attendees are given toy guns to shoot at targets that line the sides of the tracks, and so it serves as an interesting tutorial for what’s to come.  As the ride nears its conclusion, the psychopath from Until Dawn suddenly appears and switches the rails so that the player is separated from the barker and enters the park’s abandoned haunted house, where the psychopath leads a gang of clowns in an ambush.  From then on out, the player is facing live targets whose ranks are largely composed of standard nightmare fuel such as clowns, mannequins, spiders, and a particular gang of beasties that Until Dawn fans will immediately recognize.  Since the game takes place in a nightmare or a hallucination or whatever it is, the ride becomes increasingly surreal and dangerous as it begins to wind through locations that are clearly beyond the limits of the park, such as a slaughterhouse, a haunted hotel, and an abandoned mine.  

Until Dawn™_ Rush of Blood_20161019201309.jpg

Rush of Blood is pretty much a standard House of the Dead-style light gun shooter, outside of the VR hook.  The player has two guns which can be aimed independently with two different Playstation Move controllers.  The standard DualShock 4 gamepad can also be used as a motion controller in lieu of the Move wands, but in this mode of play, the two guns are always pointed at the same target (since there is only one controller being used).  The action side of the gameplay is reasonably competent, although aiming and reloading two guns simultaneously can get a bit hairy sometimes.  There were times when I was being rushed by large groups of enemies that I had trouble keeping track of which gun needed to be reloaded, and it resulted in a lot of spastic frustration as the monsters just overwhelmed me.  I suppose you could chalk these moments up to my poor skill.  The game definitely wants you to replay each of its seven chapters to the point of mastering them.  True to the game’s arcade roots, there’s a secondary focus on maximizing score through playing at an expert level, and each chapter features numerous branching paths which encourage replay.

Until Dawn™_ Rush of Blood_20161022115243.jpg

Since the advantage that VR brings to gaming is a greatly increased level of immersion, horror games are something that could hypothetically benefit enormously from the technology.  Rush of Blood is half horror game/half arcade-action, so it’s a bit of an unusual sample for what this new hardware can do for the horror genre.  Regardless, I think the VR aspect of the game did manage to enhance the title’s atmosphere and immersion.  I think it’s the head tracking that really does it.  There were several moments when I turned my head to the left or right or maybe upwards and caught a glimpse of something spooky that I wasn’t aware was there before.  When you move your real-life head and realize that something was lurking just right outside of your own eyes’ field of view, it’s actually quite creepy and unsettling.  

Outside of atmosphere and the creep-factor, Rush of Blood uses a lot of jump scares.  Cheap jump scares at that.  And they’re usually telegraphed in the most obvious ways.  Like, the lights will go off and you just know that something’s going to be standing right in front of you making loud noises when they flip back on.  In general, a lot of stuff yells in your face in this game.  The first time it happened, I found I was actually kind of fascinated by it, because I reflexively leaned away in my chair, since it was standing right next to me.  I would never actually move my body away from something on a TV screen.  I was impressed by how the immersion of VR was able to provoke such a “realistic” reaction out of me.

Until Dawn™_ Rush of Blood_20161019202556.jpg

Unfortunately, after the initial excitement, the jump scares wore thin pretty quickly.  Like I said, there’s a fair few things in this game which just pop up and scream right into your face, and it’s really unpleasant after the initial novelty.  To mitigate the obnoxiousness of it all, I actually decided to unplug the earbuds from the VR headset and just listen to the game audio off the TV, so the jump scares wouldn’t be so overwhelming.  Jump scares are one of the simplest and oldest methods that horror games have used to startle the player and create tension.  Some would argue that they are a really lazy way of creating cheap scares, but I would specifically argue they have no place in VR, especially to the extent that Rush of Blood likes to use them, simply because they’re just so aggravatingly unpleasant.

Ultimately, I thought Rush of Blood was a fun time.  I definitely do have some frustrations with it, such as the aforementioned issue with jump scares.  In addition, the game has seven chapters, but will only take about two hours to beat, and the finale is unfortunately rather anti-climactic.  But to be fair, the game is only $20 (not including the steep cost of the VR headset, of course), which helps me forgive many of its stumbling points.  Beyond those issues I have with it, it is suitably kooky and spooky for a game that is essentially a launch title for a whole new type of gaming experience.  And most importantly, it impresses me enough to leave me excited to see how future VR horror games will take advantage of the technology.

Advertisements

Posted on October 27, 2016, in Essays, Halloween Gaming, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Of the current available PSVR lineup, this is the one game I really, really want to play. I loved rail shooters and lightgun games growing up, especially those in the arcades, and that’s the feeling I get with this. Brings me back to Carnevil and Area 52, or those gigantic arcade machines that sit you inside of a box. VR is interesting, but it’s odd that a rail shooter is what’s exiting me the most.

    Like

    • It definitely is just basically an old light-gun shooter. I have a feeling the genre could see a bump with VR. The way controllers are now, with VR you have to choose between either using a standard controller or motion controllers, and I suspect a lot of the games that use motion controllers will be on-rails since there’s no good way of controlling movement with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have not played this game. It seems like a demonstration game to how VR games can be played due to the simple gameplay and the jump scares seem designed to prove how immersive the game can be (shown by your reaction to them). It seems strange that the game story has such a tangential relationship to the previous game (set inside a dream of one of the original characters) and I wonder why a standalone game was not released. I enjoyed some of descriptions of how VR improves the game.
    How is the game played? Does the player control the character’s movements though the VR goggles? Or though the controller? Does it get hard to watch through VR, while using an unseen controller to control the player? How does removing the headset afterwards affect the player?

    Like

    • The entire game takes place on a roller coaster that winds along different nightmare scenarios, and you never leave the roller coaster car, so player movement is not really a thing. You basically only control aim with the motion controllers, so it’s kind of like old arcade games like House of the Dead or Area 51. The camera is of course controlled by the player’s own head movements. You can actually see the motion controllers in game as two guns your holding in your hand, so you always know where your aiming, but a few times I lost track of where the buttons were on the controllers. Mostly, I didn’t have much of an issue with disorientation or motion sickness when taking the headset off, but I hear this is something that can vary a lot from person to person.

      Like

  3. How do you feel this fits in with the Until Dawn franchise? I know franchises can dip into different genres and styles and still make something good out of it, but this really felt more like something with the brand slapped on in order to sell more units when I heard about it. Then again, I haven’t looked into it past my first impression, so what do I know?

    Like

    • I honestly have no idea why the game really exists, to be honest. Since Until Dawn was originally meant to be a PS3 game that used Move controllers, I have a wild theory that there may have originally been on-rails shooting segments in that game that were taken out for the final version we got on the PS4. Honestly, I hope Until Dawn gets a proper sequel and this was just a diversion for Supermassive Games to beef up the PSVR lineup.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Horror and VR go together like motion controls and dance games. Good thing that I am too poor to buy a headset because I am a real coward when it comes to jump scares.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I just got myself a PS4 and i’m toying with getting this game. I’ve been told it’s really good but I have a love/hate relationship with horror games. Is there a stupid amount of jump/cheap scares? Or is it bearable?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The original Until Dawn isn’t too bad with the jump scares. They are definitely there, but I’ve played games with way worse. It’s a good game I think for people who like more story-driven stuff like what Telltale does.

      UD: Rush of Blood, on the other hand, is really bad with the jump scares. It’s worsened by the fact that it’s a VR only game, which makes it especially unpleasant.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I’ve heard the story is worth it and I really do enjoy TT, especially the Game of Thrones one. Games are becoming more decision based and consequential now, it’s interesting but not sure how long it’ll last. The idea of mixing VR with it sounds horrific

        Like

  6. Great blog! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am taking your feeds also.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: