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Review

Daylight Review

  • Game release: April 29, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PC
Robert Handlery on Google+

The Bogeyman has been banished.

by

When Daylight's ridiculous final image appeared on my screen and the credits then rolled, I stared into my screen, mouth agape. What. Was. That?

My incredulity wasn't a result of how scary this first-person survival horror game is, but how poor it is, how it makes no effort to escape rusty cliches, and how nonsensical its writing is. Granted, I jumped at a few scares, but you can see only so many drawers fly out of bureaus, and so many toppled wooden chairs right themselves, before you know when and where the "surprises" will occur. Daylight is procedurally generated, but it's no less predictable than a typical linear adventure. In fact, a carefully crafted game might have provided more unique opportunities to create stupefying shocks. Daylight instead recycles the same basic fright props in different places, turning the initial scares into tepid shrugs.

You could think of Daylight as a combination of Slender: The Arrival and Outlast. The Slender comparison comes from how you must escape each area without coming too close to ghostly stalkers, in this case spirits in blood-soaked dresses, their eyes and mouths glowing with bright light. The Outlast connection is the setting, which focuses on a now-defunct asylum where terrible events once occurred. You grasp a cell phone that functions as a light source as well as a GPS, mapping out new areas as you enter them. As you move through each major region--the hospital, the sewers, the dark adjacent forest--you come across memos, personal diaries, and other written remnants of the past. Collect enough of these remnants, and you may proceed to the next stage of your journey. There's a story to piece together here, a story partially driven by the insidious disembodied voice that accompanies you. But after a single playthrough, it's a jumble of random notes and vague dialogue that point nowhere in particular.

It takes several playthroughs for the game's story to come into better focus, though the payoff is hardly worth the tedium of getting there. The hazy opening, which has player-character Sarah waking in the middle of an abandoned mental hospital, is almost quaint in how it embraces age-old horror cliches. It's tempting to presume that Daylight is aiming for B-movie appeal, but the writing lacks the overt melodrama, and the presentation is too prosaic, for the the game to earn a "so bad, it's good" recommendation. The rapid flutter you hear when a witch approaches is an effective touch, and the discordant string noodlings that puncture the silence when you set your eyes on her are chilling. But the audio often communicates no more true horror than a discount sounds-of-Halloween CD. Random creaks and screams don't contribute much to the atmosphere because there doesn't seem to be any evidence of a force that should create them. They're just eerie noises collected from the eerie-noise repository.

Our hearts go out to all the jack-o-lanterns that will go glow-stickless this Halloween.

Some of the screams do have an obvious origin: Sarah herself often reacts to events as they occur. In fact, she often reacts to things that don't occur. "Oh God--I can't see anything," she complains, even though the phone and glow stick you carry do a fine job of illuminating her surroundings. "I know there's somebody here," she says, even when there's no obvious sign of another presence. She'll respond to silence with "What was that?" as if there's some paranormal phenomenon to analyze. Sarah displays no real character, so she comes across as though she's been possessed by an actress practicing her lines for an upcoming horror film.

Well, maybe Sarah is frightened by the silly writing, which piles on desultory truisms that have no apparent relevance to the muddled backstory. "Life is but a butterfly's dream," remarks your unseen guide, doing his best to make an arbitrary Chuang Tzu reference sound like a Deep Thought. Armchair philosopher Sarah opines out of the blue that you can't escape fate, proving that she's watched plenty of movies but adding nothing to the tale she's actually a part of. By the time a newspaper clipping raised the possibility that a construction project was occurring atop a Native American burial ground, I could only laugh. When it comes to appropriating horror ideas someone else used in superior ways, Daylight leaves no stone unturned.

The game's odd moments of inspiration provide proof that it didn't have to be this way. When a pursuer draws close, you can burn away her presence with a flare, and I reached for the flare button in a panic several times when a spirit closed in. The game's few puzzle elements were welcome, too, as was an inspired moment when a music box came to life and spun terrifyingly beautiful shadows across the walls and ceiling. Such beauty is uncommon in Daylight, a dated-looking horror game with the distinction of being the first game made with the Unreal 4 engine to be released. A cutting-edge engine deserved a more fitting introduction.

The writers of Daylight heard that infections were scary, so figured they should be included. Also scary, according to Daylight: lights that turn on and off, crows, asylum patients with evil powers, the number 13, notes that have words left out for some reason, biological experiments, boiler rooms, rain, archaeological relics, construction workers being pushed into cement, ferry accidents, the year 1666, and other elements yanked from the grab bag of scary things.

Daylight's most interesting facet is the way it allows you to connect the game to your Twitch.tv channel, where viewers can type keywords into the chat window and trigger in the game a few scares of their own. There's no official list of effective words: viewers simply try out commands and wait to see what happens. Hearing a panicked cry because someone in your channel typed "scream" is a curiosity, but only a curiosity. In fact, viewer-generated events simply confirm how disconnected the sound design and jump scares are from the setting and its themes. Who is it that's screaming, and what exactly is she afraid of? Daylight doesn't care. Screams are scary, and that's all that matters.

When it comes to appropriating horror ideas someone else used in superior ways, Daylight leaves no stone unturned.

Take Daylight's claims to procedural generation with a grain of salt; while the corridor mazes change somewhat from one playthrough to the next, layouts remain consistent enough that you can easily rush through them when making return visits. In fact, given the lukewarm nature of the game's scares, I took to rushing through the game at full speed on my second playthrough; you can sprint indefinitely, which isn't conducive to terror, but handy if you want to finish in 25 minutes or so. Daylight makes for an interesting experiment in audience participation, but no crowd of online viewers can make the poor writing any better or the themes any less hackneyed. In creating a game designed for return visits, Zombie Studios ironically forgot to make a game worth playing in the first place.

The Good
A few scary moments
The Bad
Terrible writing and storytelling
Loaded with cliches
Predictable scares
Sarah's reactions don't always make sense
3
Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Kevin VanOrd has loved scary games ever since he first visited the famous town of Silent Hill. He played Daylight seven times for the purposes of this review.

Discussion

441 comments
FolkIore
FolkIore

I actually liked it a bit, IMO its 5.

Raymache1
Raymache1

The game is bad.... True story.

chris1980s
chris1980s

More Indie crap. My big gripe with Gamespot is how inconsistent and whimsical the reviews are. They rate solely on impression rather than objectivity. I recall a game in this same genre, but far worse than this game, getting a 6/10.  This games only crime (besides being a useless indie game) is arriving 6 months too late after slender. I have no doubt this would get a 6 or 7/10 if it was released last year when Gamespot had more appetite for this sort of crap.


Wake up Gamespot, you are losing credibility through mental laziness.

gunsweet
gunsweet

I tried to love because I like to support indie games, especially on playstation but… I can't get into it. this reviews pretty accurate. Especially the "Sarah has no character" part.

madsnakehhh
madsnakehhh

I admire Kevin, i mean to be able to play this 7 times? the man deserves an award...in fact i like to think that Kevin played some Dark Souls 2 after he finished this game.

chris1980s
chris1980s

Not hipster enough for Kevin. If it was 2D it would get a 9.7/10.

ARO666666
ARO666666

Why would anybody wanna even play this? This game looks soooo boring, mabey even more boring and not scary as slenderman. How people get scared from playing games like this is beyond me

johnnyauau
johnnyauau

If only Sylvestor Stallone can save the day. What happen to Stallone anyway?

FroMcJoe
FroMcJoe

Bummer, looked like a clever concept

Prismet
Prismet

Bad story and no good scares... but is it fun to play? Dead nation was not scary, cut and paste story, yet fun to play.

vl4d_l3nin
vl4d_l3nin

So a woman who got her claim to fame in the gaming industry by licking a PSP wrote a shitty game?

You don't say..

mariokarthero
mariokarthero

Wow! Daylight was that bad?! I watched Pewdiepie play this, and it looked ok.

prats93
prats93

Note to self: procedural generation in horror games does not fucking work.

VegasAceVII
VegasAceVII

I went against his judgement and tried it; it's worse than it sounds here.  

will_no
will_no

I've never said "I want those x minutes of my life back" til now.

_Judas_
_Judas_

Hey, isn't this suppose to be one of the first games that use Unreal Engine 4? So how good are teh graphics for this game? Judging by the screenshots and the video; not too good...

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

When will they learn - jump scares are NOT horror.  Horror requires thought.  Jump scares merely manipulate human instincts we all have and are the cheapest easier way to "scare" someone.  Thing is, they're entirely forgettable.  

This game is entirely based around presenting people as being scared through Twitch and Youtube.  The liberal use of jump scares make it appear like you're scared, but 5 seconds later your composure returns after your brain catches up and realizes you've been tricked.


This game doesn't sound like it has anything else.

Renoo27
Renoo27

Damn, what a shame. I was pretty hyped for this game. 

Shadowdanc3r
Shadowdanc3r

"When it comes to appropriating horror ideas someone else used in superior ways, Daylight leaves no stone unturned."

Burn!

Shadowdanc3r
Shadowdanc3r

"Terrible writing and storytelling"

Poor Jessica Chobot.

Karlinel
Karlinel

Im sure the studio having 2 ex-IGN members didn't influence at all the lengths the reviewer goes to show them as incompetent writers and awful designers all around.

Game's pretty meh, but all these "oh you can't see shit so it's scary" games are...

Xyllix
Xyllix

Jessica Chobot/10

snaketus
snaketus

I knew this was going to be bad the first time I saw it and graphics was outdated back then and they surely are now.

futureops
futureops

THE BAD - " Loaded with cliches" or " Loaded with glitches"?

freedomzealot
freedomzealot

Most horror games are loaded with cliches, if you are going to start bashing games for cliches might as well give a low score to every zombie game, FPS, scifi etc...because they all have cliches. Not sure if you make it clear if the problem is with the themes themselves or the presentation and use of the themes and on one hand you say there is some scary moments then say it is predictable. Which one is it?

IvoryOwl
IvoryOwl

Before I decided to try this game by myself, I watched 2 different LPers playing the first 20 minutes. Needless to say that it picked my interest so I got my hands on it... and now I'm severely disappointed. Honest to god that this game did not scared me ONCE. I was literally unphased by its scares and "creep factor". And the ambiance that people seem to praise... well, let's just say that you can play this game as if you were taking a stroll in the park. But then maybe I just grew a "bark-skin" from all the horror games I've played throughout my life and all the horror movies I've watched since I was kid.

The "shadows" that pursue you are the easiest thing to avoid. You can literally just stand there forever and they won't hurt, so long as you don't make eye contact with them. This is a true case where if you don't acknowledge their existence, its like they were never there. Because of this, you don't need flares, except maybe if you're trying to do a speedrun. If by some chance you take a peek at one of them and get hurt, you can just stare at a wall / roof / floor for a few seconds and wait to heal up.

Glowsticks are also rather useless if you're thorough on your search. Just spam your key in whatever looks like a usable container (has all drawers, chest-boxes with no ropes or locks, cabinets, etc) and you will eventually find everything you need. Its not hard, in fact, I don't even know why they put the glowsticks in the game other than for holding the player's hand - because we're so dumb that we don't know where to search unless its shinning like a star in the night... *sigh*

As for moving forward in the story... the more mementos you find (letters with red symbols - sometimes located in small wall-cabinets or chest-boxes), the more the threat level rises and this will affect the spawn rate of shadows - if you don't find any mementos, you can easily explore the map at your own leisure (there's noises and flashes that resemble those of Shadows but they're just "poofers"). What I did was to first and foremost, find the location of the Sigil spawner and the Sigil door, find all the mementos and then run from point A to point B. That's it. Now tell me, how is this supposed to be a decent horror game? And I didn't had to read a freaking walkthrough to find this stuff...

The story left a lot of questions asked, the cliche it used was sky-high. Who's the voice that kept accompanying Sarah throughout the game? Dr.Mercer on the phone? Her subconscious? A ghost? The first option seems unlikely as I even recall him calling the phone a "machine", as if he wasn't from this time period to know what it is... As for the rest, I honestly found that reading about the place's history and those of worked there was more interesting than piecing together Sarah's history.

The only thing I liked were the graphics and my favorite part was the mini-forest, which has sadly been done to death by the plague-fest of Slender games, and as such, lost a bit of its charm... but it was still my favorite of the whole game.


Overall: Not worth it. Even if this game was free, there are by far much better horror games out there worth of our attention.

--2 out of 10--


ggregd
ggregd

@chris1980s  If you're trying to say they're fickle or capricious then whimsical is not the word you wanted.

insloanwetrust
insloanwetrust

@Thanatos2k  At least jump scares will scare you. Horror does not, It never has and it never will. Horror is to cliche in general that everything has been done. I've seen too many and have long became jaded. 

haze0986
haze0986

@Thanatos2k  one question, i love all horror movies....who are you to tell someone whats scary "to them?"

drumjod
drumjod

@Thanatos2k  I totally agree Thanatos. I've been complaining about "Scary Movies" that are just full of cheep surprises timed with a loud noise to make the audience jump. Glad to see I'm not the only one. I find that genuinely scary movies and games are pretty hard to come by.

Nissemean
Nissemean

@Thanatos2k  Ye. Thats why I dont understand why so many top 10 scariest games lists can have Dead Space in them. those games are 95% jump scares and the rest is stuff that is actually spooky.

Also being armed like a space marine doesnt help it to get any scarier.

_Judas_
_Judas_

@Thanatos2k Being an avid movie-fan, I believe the Horror genre eclipses both "true horror", the stuff some of us like to call psychological horror/thrillers, "gore" ; a sub-genre popular because of all the cans of fake blood and guts it uses, and finally, the "new" style of horror; jump-scare extravaganza. Many new movies utilize jump-scares because, whatever you and I say, they are effective! They work! They scare us, right? Well, atleast they "jump" us :p When young people today talk about scary movies, they usually head straight for the amount of jump-scares.

When I was younger there was this nasty trick floating around the internet. It was disguised as a car commercial. It showed a beautiful landscape near the ocean, and in the distance a car was driving along a road. The video consisted of teh car just driving along the road while some low ambient music was playing. This low music had most of us turn the audio up. Then, all of a sudden: the image of a grotesquely-looking face popped up on the screen and screamed at us. Scary, right? Well, it sure scared me... so I guess it is effective.

I am a fan of the psychological horrors, but sometimes I do enjoy a good jump-scare.

slayerSS-3
slayerSS-3

@Shadowdanc3r yeah...poor...she is making tons of money doing shit, she is famous because she licked a psp and have a great body while talented people don't have a chance out there...but yeah poor poor her

Leozaur
Leozaur

@freedomzealot
>
you say there is some scary moments then say it is predictable
Read the review before you ask questions, not just the bottom line. He wrote that although he had a few scares at first, they quickly became predictable and turned into indifferent shrugs.

Bumblebee1138
Bumblebee1138

@IvoryOwl  You should make a user review

But then again less people can see the user reviews compared to comments thanks to the new website design.

IvoryOwl
IvoryOwl

FORGOT TO MENTION ----

The "procedurally generated" content is actually not so random. Since prior to my gameplay I've seen two people playing the first minutes, I've noticed that our maps are actually similar. If the rooms and corridors actually change, I did not noticed it... or at least it did not leave such an impact, as everything looked and felt like the same. The only thing that seemed like it was random, were the letters - their location and content. And that's pretty much it...

drumjod
drumjod

@haze0986 @Thanatos2k  He's the lord of the dead so he has some authority on the subject :P 


What's considered scary varies from person to person. I agree with Thanatos though that a quick jump isn't the same as being genuinely scared.

arrowhead927
arrowhead927

@drumjod @Thanatos2kParanormal like films seem to be the craze lately

Cheap films with a few jump scares then advertised as the "most scary film"

Lpedraja2002
Lpedraja2002

@Nissemean I kind of agree with Dead Space not being that scary but the game had a fantastic story and the sci-fi setting is appealing to many people.  I actually finished that game without many problems, now F.E.A.R. is one game I could never finished, Cry Of Fear almost gave me a heart attack in the beginning and stopped playing it right after, DOOM 3 was just too stressful but Dead Space was a walk in the park compared to those.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@_Judas_ @Thanatos2kThing is, even if you loaded up that car video now, KNOWING the jump scare is coming - you still jump!  It's an unavoidable instinct.  It's not scary, it just tricks your brain into thinking it is, for a moment.

Daylight More Info

First Release on Apr 29, 2014
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
Daylight is a PC-based psychological horror game where you wake up in an abandoned hospital with only your cell phone for illumination, and you must explore the institution's dark criminal past as you attempt to escape.
3.7
Average User RatingOut of 34 User Ratings
Please Sign In to rate Daylight
Developed by:
Zombie Studios
Published by:
ATLUS
Genres:
Action, Adventure, 3D, Open-World
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms