A Glimpse Into the Immersive VR Prequel of Until Dawn
With the huge success of Until Dawn, an interactive drama played on the PS4, Supermassive Games started developing many games in the similar horror vein. One of the spin offs based on Until Dawn was a roller coaster experience titled Until Dawn: Rush of Blood.
After experimenting with the possibilities of VR, the developer went on to make several new interactive stories. One of these is The Inpatient, released in 2018 as a VR exclusive for Playstation 4. Unlike their previous work, this game allows players to fully interact with the environments and change the flow of the story. It has been marketed as a VR version of Until Dawn and even takes place in one of the settings.
63 Years Before the Nightmare at the Cabin
The Inpatient is a prequel taking place 63 years before the events of Until Dawn. The main setting of the game is in the Blackwood Sanatorium, one of the key areas from the original game where the characters discover the origins and mysteries of the wendigo curse that affects the area.
The main character is a patient with amnesia in the sanatorium. Their name isn’t ever spoken but they interact with other cell mates that are in the same situation. Following the plot explained in Until Dawn, wendigos (humans possessed by malevolent spirits after resorting to cannibalism) break out and wreak havoc. The rest of the plot follows the patient and his associates trying to escape the mayhem.
What Makes VR Horror Work Well
VR is a relatively young technology in entertainment and gameplay. What makes this a fascinating frontier to explore is the immersive potential it has. With the VR headset, the player’s sense of sight, sound, and even touch are influenced by the game. This works incredibly for horror games, where fear is often what is seen or heard.
Pop up scares feel more personal as players have to actively interact and face off the threat or watch them move away in stealth periods. The full environment is explorable and ambient sounds echo in the headset to fulfill the illusion of immersion. Any sound will feel like it’s right there and it invokes dread and suspense whenever a creature appears or players are in areas of darkness.
The Difficulties of VR Gaming
VR is still relatively new and hard to perfectly emulate. As a result many “video games” are just simple walking simulators or short demos of the technology. Rush of Blood was an example of this and was the developer’s first experience with virtual reality. The Inpatient takes VR and turns it into a more controllable experience with independent movement and full motion possible.
Issues with VR include the price and the need for an entire living room worth of space for it to work functionally and safely. These practical issues are universal with many games released for Playstation VR and the PC Oculus Rift. Because of the technical limitations, many games made for VR are fairly short – less than three hours of gameplay minus replays for different scenarios.
Implementing the Story Elements of Until Dawn
The Inpatient continues the immersive story branches introduced in Until Dawn. The main function of the story is the butterfly effect, where the choices players make alter the outcome of the story. There are potentially five different ways for the story to conclude depending on who lives, dies, and gets affected by the wendigo curse.
This is very similar to how Until Dawn operates in its story. The relationships and the fates of the characters can change dramatically based on the actions in the playthrough. There are some changes that are subtle and others that can directly lead to their fates. The possible outcomes make multiple playthroughs a unique and enjoyable experience, which definitely makes up for the short playtime.
The Inpatient has been available for PlayStation 4 as a VR exclusive. PlayStation VR is also compatible with PlayStation 5 consoles, so going to the next console is painless. Because this game is pretty short, the $40 price mark is a bit much. The game also has flaws with performance and presentation, which is unavoidable due to the technology of the VR.
Still, the game offers effective scares and during the segments featuring the wendigos, players are forced to be as still as possible in a similar way to Until Dawn. Fans of Supermassive Games who enjoy Until Dawn as well as the Dark Anthology will enjoy this entry into their horror series.
The Inpatient (2018) Official PlayStation Trailer