Rush of Blood sees you strapped into the world’s most horrifying rollercoaster on a twisted dive into madness. In between stomach lurching drops and atmospheric scares, you get to come to a stop and blast away at the worst our nightmare descent has to offer.
The camp thrills of Supermassive Games’ interactive horror Until Dawn elevated it to a status that few expected; the deliciously dumb drama out-Quantic Dreamed the real Quantic Dream, and the silly scare-fest still very much sits among the very best experiences that the PlayStation 4 has to offer. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, a virtual reality spin-off from the same Guildford-based team, is perhaps not the follow-up that many wanted – but is it the nightmare that some anticipate?
Well, much like the main game, it’s nowhere near as rubbish as you may be predicting. This is a rails-shooter in the literal sense, as it sees you strapped in to a rollercoaster carriage and escorted through a variety of locales, some of which will be familiar to fans of the original outing, while others are brand new. In truth, outside of a handful of characters and tips of the hat, it doesn’t share a whole lot in common with the primary fiction; there’s a reason that ‘Rush of Blood’ employs a larger font size in the title’s logo.
This isn’t really a problem unless you’re itching for more plot, because frankly you’re not going to get that here. The developer’s penchant for cheap but effective jump scares remains very much intact, however – and they’re only heightened in virtual reality. Occasionally, the studio will opt to “switch off the lights” so to speak, and even though you know the inevitable’s coming, it’s hard not to recoil when a massive spider suddenly leaps directly into your line of sight.
The gameplay’s not going to win any originality awards, of course. Armed with two PlayStation Move controllers, you’re tasked with shooting all manner of targets – from hidden “collectible” dolls through to overly-aggressive clowns with real attitude problems. You can use the DualShock 4 if you don’t have any wands handy, but you lose the ability to aim each firearm independently, and frankly, it’s just nowhere near as fun playing this way.
While more traditional rails-shooters find you aiming at the screen, the inherent depth that virtual reality enables means that targeting feels more natural. The aiming can be a little twitchier than we’d like it to be, but when you perfectly execute a headshot from some distance, it feels incredible. The franticness of the gunplay in later levels only accentuates this satisfaction, as your cart gets swarmed by foes all out to rip off your legs.
Admittedly, long stretches of the three or so hour campaign amount to slow slogs through relatively uninteresting terrain, but the standout moments will stick with you. Without wanting to delve into spoilers, one section sees the lift that you’re in assaulted by spindly wendigos; another set piece revolves around a corridor being attacked by a gigantic masked murderer – the scale of the adversary taken to extreme levels due to the power of PlayStation VR. And as for the final boss – we’ll let you experience that silliness for yourself.
It’s all good fun while it lasts, but it is let down by a handful of flaws. For starters, the hit response on some enemies isn’t quite as good as we’d like, so it can feel like you’re pumping lead into an extra absorbent sponge at times. Moreover, the weapon changing system – which sees you shooting coloured crates to arm yourself with new armaments – is a bit fiddly in the heat of the moment, and it’s easy to forget which hand you’ve got which weapon in. This may not sound like a big deal, but because certain shooters need to be reloaded faster than others, it can be an unnecessary headache.
Finally, the dark colours employed in most of the levels means that the screen-door effect that’s perceptible on the PlayStation VR headset can be more pronounced than in more vibrant games. And this leads to a little more blurriness in the overall image than is normal. It’s not the end of the world by any stretch, and it still manages to capture that all-important sense of presence that’s so essential to the tech, but it’s worth mentioning all the same.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood does nothing to sully Supermassive Games’ fledgling series, and in fact it delivers an enjoyable rails-shooter that overcomes its lack of originality thanks in part to the novelty that virtual reality provides. It’s not a long game, but there are different routes to explore, and multiple difficulty settings with online leaderboards to entice you back. As with the main game, though, it’s the jump scares that are the real stars here – and they help this likeable launch title live up to its name.