Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | PC
Developer: Zombie Studios
Horror games have seen something of a resurgence in recent years on the PC platform, while the genre has slowly bled out on the consoles. But with the renewed indie focus on the PS4, perhaps the things that lie in the shadows and lurk under our beds are set to make a return.
Recent PS Plus freebie Outlast may have been a repetitive effort, but there was no denying that its first-person viewpoint, jumpy moments and sickeningly foreboding atmosphere were excellently put together. You’d certainly be forgiven for confusing it with today’s game, Daylight. Hell, until this arrived on my desk, I’d mentally absorbed it into the same game as Outlast. However, despite the hospital setting and first-person perspective, this is a very different game. And not in a good way.
You play as a woman that wakes up in an abandoned asylum with only a mobile phone and a lack of memory to go on with. The phone occasionally rattles out strange voicemails from who we presume is responsible for dumping her there. That’s about as much premise as you get.
So, with the only goal being to escape, you’re left to explore the asylum using the light from the phone’s screen. Glow sticks you find only seem to enhance the shadows and arguably make the game even darker. I’d advise whacking up the in-game brightness settings more than you might usually do to make life a bit easier.
Despite running on the new Unreal 4 Engine, the graphics are poor with grubby textures and a frame rate that makes your character turn and move forwards with all the grace of a drunken baby giraffe in high heels. The popup for some walls and doors is a real letdown and makes it difficult to immerse yourself in the atmosphere too.
Every level is procedurally generated, meaning each stage’s layout is unique to your playthrough, so there’s no using YouTube to cheat your way through. The theory being that you’ll be able to replay the game thanks to these random stages. Only, you’d have to have to be the most miserable of self-loathing creatures to play this more than once.
The scares are also randomly placed, meaning there’s no room for any decent scripting or tension building. You’ll frequently hear your character say things like “oh my god” or “what was that?” when absolutely nothing has happened. Furniture will move by itself, doors will slam shut behind you and you can almost constantly hear scuttling and whispers. These elements initially paint a reasonably creepy atmosphere, but they’re used so much that their desired effect soon fades and they become more of an annoyance and then a bit embarrassing.
By the time something scary did happen, I’d truly been bored into letting my guard down and I have to admit I almost jumped out of my skin when a creepy hollow-eyed witch appeared and sprinted right at me. Thoroughly unpleasant.
You can find a small supply of red flares to scare away these scuttling bastards of Satan, but you can’t use them when carrying a key, which can almost break the game when your route back to the door is blocked by these Ju-On/Grudge-like creatures.
The map appears on the phone’s screen, but is too small to read until you press the trackpad to bring it in for a closer look -a clunky process that rapidly becomes annoying as the map only shows corridors you’ve already explored. You may find the area where the exit key appears early on, but until you’ve found all that area’s ‘remnants’, it won’t appear. These remnants are usually diary pages or hospital records that pale in comparison to almost every abandoned hospital document you’ve ever read in a video game, which will be already be way too many if you’re a horror game regular.
Death by creepy flaming hellspawn is rewarded with you having to find all the remnants again and the map on your phone resetting despite the layout being the same. Every time you die, you’ll almost certainly contemplate turning the game off and just not bothering any more. I didn’t even pay for it and I felt like I was being locked away from all the things I enjoy in life and tortured with the sort of soulless repetition of rejection usually reserved for door-to-door insulation salesmen. At £12.49, I’d only recommend buying Daylight if you’ve paid to watch more than one Paranormal Activity film at the cinema. Then you deserve everything you get.
- Scared of hollow-eyed spectres? This will shit you right up
- Makes you appreciate Outlast more
- Nope, I’m out. Go find a copy of 2004’s The Suffering
- Technically shoddy
- Randomly generated levels are uninspired every time
- The random scares soon become boring due to overuse
The Short Version: The procedurally generated stages and piped horror-movie tropes just don’t work for Daylight even for one playthrough, never mind multiple visits. The frame-rate is choppy and the environments are dull rehashes of every haunted house gaming has dragged us through over the years. As a download, I can only delete it -I’d rather burn it.