Over the last few years or so, the horror genre had a resurgence with titles that have since become classics, like Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It was only a matter of time though before it started wearing thin as the genre started getting oversaturated, and games like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (highly rated here in CheatMasters for its atmosphere, but actually wasn’t that scary) would come out with light scares. Now in 2014, Daylight is proving that trend to be true.
Daylight (not the Sylvester Stallone movie) is a survival horror game developed by Zombie Studios and published by Guy Studios for the PC and Atlus for the PS4. The story was written by a team that includes Jessica Chobot, known for hosting shows on IGN and a cameo appearance in Mass Effect 3. Zombie Studios is known for a lot of other games like the Spec Ops franchise (excluding Spec Ops: The Line) and Blacklight: Retribution. As far as their competence with horror games is concerned, it’s alright for starters.
You play as Sarah, who wakes up in an abandoned hospital in the middle of an island with no recollection of what happened beforehand. She then hears a mysterious voice that tells her to find out whatever is going on in that hospital and uncover its secrets. The only thing she has to aid her in that task is her cellphone, which serves as both her map and her light source. She must now explore the place, which grows eerie by the second, and it doesn’t help that it’s right next to a prison. It sounds almost like the backstory of Outlast, but with less psychotics and more ghosts.
Being a next-gen title, it does look pretty good at first. The sound design also makes for eerie ambience that will surely make you feel not at home. As for the basic gameplay, it’s a lot like most other recent horror titles, wherein you explore and pick up objects such as newspaper clippings, photos, and notes that serve as clues to whatever happened in the hospital, like picking up pages in Slender. While you’re at it, you’re looking at your cellphone to see where you’re going, and you may encounter something completely undesirable along the way.
As a survival horror title, the enemies are fairly weak and don’t do enough to compel fear and a sense of urgency that the genre is all about. But it’s not to say that there is no challenge at all with this game, since it does throw quite a bit at the player right from the start. The foreboding atmosphere makes for gameplay that few can be prepared for and sets up the scares well enough. If you are a survival horror veteran though, it may feel run-in-the-mill though, so the flaws in this game are more obvious to the experienced rather than just being plain bad.
At this point, any horror game that takes from its predecessors and other influences would seem like cliches, and Daylight suffers from just that. While there are some genuinely scary moments here, they come few and far between, and most of what you may encounter are kind of predictable at best. The level designs are quite monotonous at best as hallways look mostly the same, which takes a lot away from the atmosphere and makes the game feel more repetitive. Sarah’s reactions to various situations are also rather questionable, almost like it’s Resident Evil 1 without the campiness.
There is a similar game that makes use of a cellphone camera like a poor man’s version of the Camera Obscura from Fatal Frame. It’s an upcoming indie title from Indonesia called DreadOut, and beta versions had been shown just how scary it can get. The difference between Daylight and DreadOut is that the latter has more carefully crafted scares than Daylight, and it hasn’t even been fully released yet. Obviously, DreadOut developers Digital Happiness are taking their time in making that game, while Daylight may not have had as much time to be refined.
Despite the disappointments, Daylight is still a fairly good horror title to get started with if you’re trying to get into the genre or just don’t play horror titles too often. While somehow repetitive, the difficulty is still present to go up against most players. If you’re a longtime survival horror game fan though, it may not take it as far as you want it to. If you’re looking to pick this up, perhaps wait until the price drops (maybe around the Halloween season).
Tested in PC. Final Score: 6.5/10