Review: Daylight (PS4)

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Title: Daylight
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.8 GB)
Release Date: April 28, 2014
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A., Inc.
Developer: Zombie Studios
Original MSRP: $11.99
ESRB Rating: M
Daylight is also available on Steam.
The PlayStation 4 version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay:
My heart was beginning to beat faster and faster and my face began to get red as I tried to collect myself from the horrors within the first 30 minutes of Daylight. Unfortunately as the game progressed that rush of fear and anxiety dwindled as Daylight began to show its cards more and more and their house of horrors began to look like a cheesy carnival’s haunted house.

Daylight drops you into the game with little story set-up as you, a woman named Sarah, awaken in an abandoned hospital with nothing more than a phone. There’s a mysterious voice on the other end lightly directing you to trudge forward to find answers to the mysteries of the situation you have found yourself in.

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Quickly you find a bag of glow sticks and flares to help you with your exploration of this abandoned and creepy hospital. As you journey through the building you use your cell phone as a small light source and your glow sticks to reveal hidden objectives or points of interest. As the area is explored you begin to find notes that dish out the story and background of your environment.

These pieces of information vary from creepy stories adding to the atmosphere of the game, to poor ways of introducing future game mechanics. One example of this would be a story of employees stacking boxes so they could stand on them to look out for supervisors when they smoked on the job. This was basically the game’s way of telling the player that they can move boxes for the most basic of puzzle design.

This mechanic of storytelling has become a troupe in the horror game genre and while other games have tried this, it really needs strong writing. Unfortunately for Daylight this mechanic is hit or miss as the writing is uneven, so as the game progresses, interest level fades. There are tons of notes to collect and each level requires six specific ones called remnants which are marked with a red glow. When these six remnants are collected a key will spawn in a marked room which you retrieve and take to a marked door to complete the level,

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As you collect the remnants to complete the level, the game will do a modest job to scare you. The sound design and little tricks of throwing objects around can startle you at first, but you become used to these little events over time. The game is at its scariest when the Witch appears to kill you. The Witch can appear out of nowhere and when she does, your vision weakens and it becomes harder to see until you get hit with a death screen.

The only way to deal with her is to light a flare or run away. The more remnants you collect, the more intense she will be and more frequently will she appear. I have to say the first couple times you deal with her the game is absolutely frightening and I jumped and shouted at the TV, but just like the game’s other scare tactics this after awhile she has little effect. You realize that the monster is not so scary when you have a good supply of flares and running through the levels is actually a efficient way to get through the game.

The game breaks down to four sections, the hospital, prison, sewers, and forest. The first three levels feel identical in terms of creativity because they are nothing more than bland rooms and hallways, tons and tons of hallways. This sadly makes the game boring and repetitive after thirty or so minutes. The game does feature procedurally generated levels, which means the levels never have the same layout and therefore the collectibles will not be in the same spot. This means that if you die, you start from the beginning of that level and have to reopen up the map and find the collectibles needed to get through the level all over again. This is a neat idea, but the level design ends up feeling generic and makes the idea of just running through the level ignoring the details all the more appealing which in turn makes the game less scary.

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Visuals:
Daylight is bland even for a game that takes place in uniform buildings like hospitals and prisons. Each level (save for the last one) looks uninteresting and walking through them over and over again looking for remnants reveal their blandness more and more. The game does have a wonderful lighting system with three sources of light which are a cellphone, glow sticks and flares. But with nothing too interesting to shine them on, it makes their tech feels underused.

Also I should point out that the game did suffer from framerate issues when the gameplay would get intense or at the beginning of a section when the game would possibly be in the process of loading the procedurally generated levels. Daylight is one of the first Unreal Engine 4 games, but sadly does not appear to show anything to make the new engine feel special.

Audio:
For horror games sound design is key to making intense scares and giving the player a feeling of dread and anxiety and luckily the environment sound design for Daylight is excellent. The game uses a combination of eerie sounds that do their best to make a lifeless level feel alive. Whispers, objects moving around and the intensity of the evils around you all make for good listening experience.

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In terms of voice acting, there are two main actors: the player controlled Sarah and the voice on the other end of the phone. Sarah does not have much to say other than scared one liners and those are well acted and fine. The mysterious person on the phone on the other hand is trying their best to pull off a Vincent Price voice, but accompanied with downright silly dialogue, it falls flat. Occasionally the combination of the acting and dialogue lead to laugh out loud moments as the character attempted to sound menacing and mysterious.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is a single player only.

Conclusion:
Daylight is a game that feels like it has potential, but over the course of the two to three hour experience, the game relies too much on the same tricks to keep the scares without ever elevating itself to match the player’s eventual tolerance to them.

With nothing changing much in terms of gameplay or level variety as the game progresses it is easy to figure out what scare is next. With little story presented from the outright, the game relies on a cheesy narrator to keep you moving forward and a large amount of notes (remnants) to fill in the gaps to what, at times, seems like it could have been far more interesting.

The procedurally generated levels are a nice tool to help add some replayability as the level layouts will never be the same and adds to the mystery of not knowing where to go. But in the end there isn’t much reason to replay through the game other than to get a couple jump scares or to give the controller to another person and watch them react. Then when they ask where stuff is located, you tell them you cannot help because there is an all new layout.

Daylight is not necessarily a bad game, it’s just a very mediocre game that, despite a strong start and potential, can’t elevate itself past a lackluster gameplay design despite occasionally having some interesting and creepy elements.

Score:
5.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • When I saw someone streaming this game, it looked and played so much like Outlast. Except Daylight had no scare factor to it at all. It was cheap scares, like a door opening behind you etc.