Does Until Dawn Push PS4 Technology To The Next Level?

Supermassive’s long-awaited horror epic surpasses expectations.

Posted By | On 27th, Aug. 2015 Under Article, Graphics Analysis

I will be honest – I didn’t have a lot of expectations from Supermassive’s Until Dawn, both in the visuals department and in terms of gameplay. Announced at Gamescom in 2012, the horror title was first introduced as a mix of PS Move functionality and Heavy Rain-style QTE reaction-play. There was also a fear that the developer wasn’t really paying homage to teenage slasher horror flicks as much as exploiting a kitschy storyline for all its worth.

Of course, as time went on, it became apparent that there was a bit more to Until Dawn that just that. The atmosphere and story played its horror tropes seriously but still found ways to have fun with it all, especially thanks to the Butterfly Effect. Now that Until Dawn is finally available, that too without its motion-based controls, I’m happy to say that many of my concerns were for naught. The biggest surprise, however, is just how beautiful the game looks. There aren’t a lot of adventure games – if Until Dawn needs a genre type – that boast of this level of realistic visuals while also standing out from the crowd with their own unique identities. But Until Dawn achieves this and much more.

Amazingly enough, Until Dawn uses a modified version of the Killzone Shadowfall engine which was first introduced to the world in 2013. The game at the time was known for not fully utilizing the PS4’s full 8 GB GDDR5 RAM but still featuring numerous particle systems and real-time reflections. The lighting system was also known for its implementation of numerous technologies to achieve a sense of realism while maintaining a strong performance. Until Dawn at heart isn’t a full-fledged action game like Shadowfall but it still uses a good amount of the console’s processing power and the rendering capabilities of the engine to create its compelling atmosphere.

Until Dawn’s fascinating mo-cap technology tries its hardest to to recreate human expressions and emotions, with subtle joint animations.

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Until Dawn runs at native 1920×1080 resolution and 30 frames per second. While 60 frames per second is the often sought after standard these days, the locked 30 FPS here is fully acceptable. Plus, it helps add to the cinematic presentation in many ways. In terms of anti-aliasing, it seems the game is using temporal super-sampling anti-aliasing or TSAA. This is similar to FXAA (fast approximate anti-aliasing) but produces better quality when smoothening edges.

What benefits does running on the Killzone Shadowfall engine provide for Until Dawn? It’s worth noting that we see the return of the procedural animation system which not only delivers realistic movement for skeletal joints but for clothes as well. The motion capture has also been executed very well – both the characters’ emotions and expressions feel more realistic. The animations are also very convincingly real but come across as stiff at times, taking away some of the suspension of disbelief.

As discussed earlier, the Killzone Shadowfall engine uses a combination of different lighting technologies. In Until Dawn, global illumination and physical based rendering combine together for some truly awesome looking scenes and represents excellent work done by the developer. Real-time dynamic lighting is also in effect, with every on-screen pixel using its own light maps, and reflections tend to react differently when it comes to different objects. PBR properties from light falling through snowfall look different for example. All of this results in an authentic and atmospheric experience even if the ambient occlusion – which is a custom SSAO solution here – isn’t always very good at producing soft shadows at certain times.

Until Dawn uses a custom Global Illumination solution, a massive shift in the direction that we saw in Killzone Shadowfall .

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Another noteworthy feature of Until Dawn is its use of volumetric effects. Needless to say, the various dust, mist, snow and other effects look beautiful. Even better, they’re dynamic elements which react realistically to light sources around them. This only reinforces the game’s overall beauty but for a horror aficionado, it also helps Until Dawn achieve that creepy aesthetic of slashers very nicely. It comes across as authentic and cinematic at the same time.

Supermassive did a very good job with the texture quality of objects and surroundings which are usually very high. You’ll run into the odd bland texture here and there during close-ups but these instances are few and far between. Anisotropic filtering is in play here and makes the textures look crisp and sharp whether you’re viewing them from an angle or from a distance. Other noteworthy elements include a large amount of on-screen geometry and object-based motion blur.

It’s really hard to look at Until Dawn and not notice the charm and subtle sense of quality it exudes. Image quality on a whole comes off as incredibly smooth while still standing out on its own. Though Supermassive could have stuck to realistic textures and high quality animations, it put a good amount of effort into the game’s volumetric effects and nuanced lighting to produce a unique experience. From a technical stand-point, the full native frame-buffer of 1080p, SSAO and such are major highlights of the game.

Physical Based Rendering solution allows materials like clothes to react dynamically to light sources. Snow is undoubtedly Until Dawn’s biggest feature and the use of PBR develops an engrossing atmosphere.

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Until Dawn is an intriguing game, even for those who may not be big fans of horror, due in part to the overall visuals. The subject matter which can vary between B-movie cheesy and downright creepy but it’s aided so well by the cutting-edge yet balanced presentation and visual quality on display. Who knew that the Killzone Shadowfall engine would eventually re-emerge in such a grand fashion?

While the stiffness of some animations and rare bland textures can take away from the experience at times, Until Dawn is definitely one of the best looking games this generation. Even if you won’t be replaying it for the best possible ending, its spiraling world of cinematic horror and technical prowess deserve to be witnessed more than once.

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  • Fisterbottom

    Until Yawn runs at a silky smooth 20fps.

    • DarthDiggler


      What an appropriate name sounds like its a remark on your intelligence.

    • 2econd gpu unlocking


  • 2econd gpu unlocking

    Quantum Break blows it away technically.

    • DarthDiggler

      @2econd gpu unlocking:disqus

      LOL a game that isn’t even out yet and likely carries a larger budget?

      You think that is a fair comparison?

    • 2econd gpu unlocking

      Well the title said it pushes the PS4 too next level?

      And We didn’t ask for full DX12 to be used either on Quantum Break.

    • KingKellogg The Waffle Haggler

      How about we wait till QB is actually out before making statements :/

      I want the game, but I want to see it in my hands before saying ridiculous things like that.

    • andy

      Really? Remedy Games out does a much smaller lesser talent team? Who would have think it?

    • Ucouldntbemorewrong

      While I can’t wait to play Quantum Break, Uncharted 4 will smoke QB technically.

    • AndrewLB

      Uncharted 4 is basically a linear interactive cinematic where almost everything is a scripted event (see: downhill car chase gameplay video) and while i’m sure it will be a good game, it wont have crap for replay value.

      Btw… whatever happened to Uncharted 4 being 60fps? They shouldn’t have even mentioned 60fps unless they were 100% the PS4 would be powerful enough. It’s never a good idea to set the bar higher than you know you can reach.

    • 2econd gpu unlocking

      Quantum break has seen upgrades.
      Uncharted 4 has only had downgrades from the first e3 reveal.

    • Ucouldntbemorewrong

      ya ok?

    • Nick

      Really, have you played it? Get a life!

  • spideynut71

    No…it’s just more smoke-n-mirrors from Sony. They know the hopeless Sony drones always fall for the up-close “realistic” character models (while ignoring how bland everything else looks). Throw in some actual gameplay, and what happens? You only need to see the dramatic graphical dropoff from Drake’s character model from the initial “reveal” over a year ago, to the E3 gameplay demo to find out ; they replaced the detail in Drake with “realistic mud”.

    • DarthDiggler


      It’s a shame your dad didn’t pull out.

    • bardock5151

      It’s a shame you didn’t end up in a sock.

  • Starman


  • *Also On PC

    Just another example of the PS4 doing things the worthless, last – gen Poverty Box can only dream of in the graphics department.

    The PS4 gets real games like Until Dawn which gets universal praise from the critics and everyone with respect for gaming. Meanwhile the Xbox scumrats get worthless, broken, shovelware trash games like the Gears Of Bore: Ultimate FAILURE edition which gets picked apart by the critics for its trash graphics, trash gameplay, trash controls, trash online and trash storytelling. Gears Of Bore is nothing but cheap, last – gen, low – quality garbage for moron peasants and review scores prove that, it’s only the uneducated, delusional Xbox – humping brand slaves that are stil trying to defend that pathetic waste of a game.

    PS4 gets real games that are actually worth playing while the Poverty – Box feeds its delusional paupers nothing but lies, overhype, underdeliver, empty promises and trash shovelare games that flop on Metacritic just like their worthless, last – gen peasant console flops in the sales charts. :^)

    • 2econd gpu unlocking

      Change your CPU water cooling fluid
      & Keep playing 3dmark!

  • ariessiren

    I second that. Until dawn is gorgeous. The facial animation is beyond good.

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  • crazysapertonight

    But performance in this game is really bad

  • andy

    Next level? Probably not so much. This is one of the more B Teams of a Sony studio, like you said, they even used a modded version of the Guerrilla Games engine.

    But not a bad effort and they still easily achieved 1080p too. Think of what PS4 exclusive games will look like when they need to eventually start targeting 900p resolutions to achieve higher graphical effects and techniques.

    • AndrewLB

      nah. They’ll just add additional Vaseline to the background rendering in order to hide the further dumbing down of graphics. There isn’t much additional potential to squeeze out of these consoles like previous generations because they are both built on an architecure that’s been around for decades. The API’s are also based on the industry standards, Direct3D and OpenGL.

  • AndrewLB

    “While 60 frames per second is the often sought after standard these days, the locked 30 FPS here is fully acceptable.Plus, it helps add to the cinematic presentation in many ways. ”

    ^^^ I stopped reading the article as soon as I encountered this sentence.

  • Nick

    One of the best looking games I have ever played! But PC people told me a PS4 cant have great graphics, could they have been wrong!!?!!

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