Review

Daylight Review

  • First Released Apr 29, 2014
    released
  • PC

The Bogeyman has been banished.

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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.
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.
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.

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Now Playing: Daylight - Video Review

Back To Top
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

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.
431 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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REmporio

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The only noticeable difference is the slightly longer load time when entering a new area, but it's barely significant enough to mention....yet, I'm going to mention it...


<a href="http://gamestar-addict.com/">pc games</a>

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REmporio

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The only noticeable difference is the slightly longer load time when entering a new area, but it's barely significant enough to mention....yet, I'm going to mention it...


<a href="http://gamestar-addict.com/">pc games</a>

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pedram007

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The game tries to "Make silly nonsense sound like a deep thought" VanOrd <3

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vadagar1

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amnesia still rules

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FolkIore

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I actually liked it a bit, IMO its 5.

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Lpedraja2002

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@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.

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Battle_Pants

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Edited By Battle_Pants

I think Kevin is a good rewiever.

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Raymache1

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The game is bad.... True story.

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chris1980s

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Edited By 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.

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ggregd

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

2 • 
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chris1980s

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@naryanrobinson With your talent for insight you have a long career ahead of you. Apply to Gamespot.

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naryanrobinson

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@chris1980s I know right?

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gunsweet

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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.

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madsnakehhh

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Edited By 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.

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chris1980s

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Edited By chris1980s

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

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naryanrobinson

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@chris1980s You're stupid on so many levels.

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ARO666666

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Edited By 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

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johnnyauau

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

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cablemodemx2

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@johnnyauau Busy making Expendables movies, it seems.

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FroMcJoe

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Bummer, looked like a clever concept

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Prismet

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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.

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vl4d_l3nin

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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..

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deactivated-581dd8ca87cd8

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

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numbes

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@mariokarthero lol

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Edited By gunsweet

@numbes @mariokarthero lol

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Prats93

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

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TJsimulation

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It does when you do it right. Look at the indie game Vanish. That's pretty terrifying to watch someone play so I can only imagine how terrifying it is to actually play with headphones and the sound up.

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TJsimulation

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Edited By TJsimulation

((Accidental double post))

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ps3gamer1234

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Good review..

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VegasAceVII

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

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Will_No

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

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_Judas_

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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...

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Thanatos2k

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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.

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insloanwetrust

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@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.

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deactivated-5887c3545bd6c

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

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Edited By 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.

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drumjod

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@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.

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arrowhead927

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@drumjod @Thanatos2k Paranormal like films seem to be the craze lately

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

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Edited By 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.

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_Judas_

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Edited By _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.

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Thanatos2k

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@_Judas_ @Thanatos2k Thing 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.

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Edited By 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.

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Renoo27

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

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

Burn!

4 • 
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Shadowdanc3r

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"Terrible writing and storytelling"

Poor Jessica Chobot.

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slayerSS-3

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@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

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Edited By 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...

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Xyllix

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Jessica Chobot/10

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snaketus

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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.

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futureops

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

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Daylight More Info

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  • First Released Apr 29, 2014
    released
    • 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.
    4
    Average Rating50 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Daylight
    Developed by:
    Zombie Studios
    Published by:
    ATLUS, Arc System Works
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure, Survival, 3D
    Theme(s):
    Horror
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Strong Language, Violence