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Daylight (PS4) Review

 
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daylight header
daylight header

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PS4, PC
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
3.5
3.5/ 10


User Rating
1 total rating

 

We Liked?


    LI>Mobile phone is a neat tool and works well in context
  • Some well crafted back story in notes

Not So Much?


  • Poor implementation of horror genre
  • Mediocre graphics and bad voice work
  • Brings nothing new despite trying hard in places
  • Slowdown, pointless mazes and glitches


Final Fiendish Findings?

Daylight tries to add an air of random replayability but manages to not make a game worth you playing through multiple times. In the few places it tries to push the genre along it manages to push it a step back making the whole affair messy, frustrating and ill conceived.

0
Posted May 6, 2014 by

 
Final Fiendish Findings?
 
 

Daylight comes to us from one of the few long running studios to weather the recent closures and turmoil. Zombie Studios have brought us a long line of solid, if not particularly spectacular, games over the years.

So what can the studio that’s previous works include Zork: Nemesis, various Spec Ops expansions, both Blacklight games as well as both Saw games offer here?

So Daylight, the first commercially released title to use Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, puts you in the confused shoes of Sarah. Sarah awakens in a mysterious hospital, all alone in the pitch black apart from the frequent buzzes and calls from her phone from a mystery male caller. Her only source of light being the small LED camera light on the rear of her phone.

Rather than doing the sensible thing and running for the hills whilst speed dialling the malicious calls people, Sarah digs deeper into the mystery of the forgotten hospital and the previous events that brought her there.

Gameplay wise the whole thing hinges around a treasure hunt. The maze like levels each house 6 notes that must be found to reveal a key, which unlocks a portal to the next level. The levels all form small maze like structures that, thanks to some nifty algorithmic coding, are auto generated each time you start a level. Key events, like flashbacks, are evident every time but the layout varies offering you a “new” experience every time you play – or so the salesman would have you believe.

daylight 1

You are weaponless during this hunt for these 6 randomly scattered letters. The only tools at your disposal are your trusty mobile phone, upto four glow sticks and four flares – each of these scavenged from the environment. The phone offers some light and provides your location map as well. The glow sticks make looking through the gloom that much easier as well as revealing certain items more clearly. Finally the flare is used as a deterrent when the “shadows” attack you. No sadly this is not the sadistic reprisal of the 60’s band (ask your grandparents!) but instead ghastly looking witch like creatures lifted almost wholesale from titles like Left4Dead.

The real issues with Daylight don’t lay in the poorly constructed narrative. Nor do they sit with the lacklustre visuals and mediocre lighting effects. No, the real issue is what Zombie Studios think of as a horror game. For the most part horror is not about the scare. Not about the gruesome splatter of blood or gnarled body parts. No, it’s about building great amounts of tension. Cranking up the pressure cooker to the point where it can stand no more and then offering sweet, sweet release. This just doesn’t happen effectively in Daylight, and you have to lay the blame almost exclusively at the procedural generation for this.

Sure, an algorithm can add your shadow creatures, it can stitch together the predefined room structures and it can splatter about boxes and letters throughout that maze. It simply can’t effectively build the tension that a handcrafted experience could though. Look at Outlast for example, the game Daylight will be compared to most frequently (or Slender for that matter!). The concept is no better. The graphics probably worse and nowhere near the production values on the environmental soundscape. Yet they managed to catch the essence of “horror” far, far better thanks to handcrafted set pieces and crafted tension. Other bugs like getting a level that didn’t have one of the 6 letters in was almost the point I just walked away and didn’t come back. 1 hour of walking around a small maze examining the walls, floor and ceiling over and over… it just unbelievably frustrating!

daylight 2

Visually, as mentioned in passing previously, the game is drab and lifeless. It runs the full gambit of clichés when producing the game environments and adds nothing to the genre. The Unreal Engine 4 can’t even have broken a sweat looking to reproduce these visuals which makes the sometime clunky frame rate drops and stuttering even the more annoying. Sure, later levels start to show real promise but it comes far, far too late to redeem the rest of the game.

Audio work is solid enough, with plenty of environmental sounds, wailing, screams, things being knocked over, metal against metal etc. All tropes of the genre I grant you, but they’re troupe because they work! Voice acting is poor, but that’s no big surprise as the scripted dialogue is lacking any real connection between the player and Sarah. The random phrases Sarah utters as well can sometime be laughably inaccurate – “I just can’t see a thing!” she pants whilst we’re stood in a fully lit area…

Final Thoughts

Daylight tries to add an air of random replayability but manages to not make a game worth you playing through multiple times. In the few places it tries to push the genre along it manages to push it a step back making the whole affair messy, frustrating and ill conceived.

The small number of jump scares which are, to give credit, very effective, soon become just another tedious element of a hide and seek maze game that was already bordering on tedious after 20 minutes of play. The small number of puzzles only serve to elongate something that, in truth, you could maybe muscle through in under an hour if you just ran and got lucky.

For the money the game is just about OK for genre fans and maybe you’ll enjoy the 2 to 3 hours of play it serves up more than I. For most though they will struggle to even make it through the full game before becoming frustrated with the experience.


Zeth

 
Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.