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.
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DarkLight748

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Isn't this game UE4?

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Bumblebee1138

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@DarkLight748 yes

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IvoryOwl

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Edited By 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--


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Bumblebee1138

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@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.

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IvoryOwl

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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...

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DavidStorm

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That phone must have one hell of a battery...

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drodriguesaar

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Edited By drodriguesaar

@DavidStorm I want that battery for my phone.

5 • 
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ojmstr

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Why is it so many crappy games on pc? Is there no quality control on steam or can everyone just put their games up there?

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keech

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@ojmstr Steam is in huge need of serious quality control. It's been a big issue ever since the Green Light and Early Access programs were introduced. Which is ironically why Green Light is getting axed.

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snaketus

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@ojmstr Too bad there aren't any on Steam anymore. So PC gamers, watch out what you are going to buy, there's plenty of smelly shit on the Steam front page all time these days.

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Delta5931

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@ojmstr It seems like there is almost none. Its annoying, but you can bypass it easily by doing heavy research into what you're going to buy.

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poster012

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@delta5931 @ojmstr Heavy research? It's pretty easy to pick out the gems. Sure, there may be a few that slip through the cracks, but it takes hardly any effort at all to avoid the garbage.

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RaveNRolla

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If i wouldn't have heard Kevin and didn't see the score i would totally get this. I love Horror games, especially the ones without guns.

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youre_a_sheep

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The scariest thing in that video is the level of screen tearing.

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Dieofnv

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Edited By Dieofnv

who cares about the score , as long as the game is 1080p this game is all GUD in the neighborhood !!!!

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torrne667

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@Dieofnv guess you have a ps4 lol

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hitomo

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this is Dave

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Karmazyn

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finally a game which is worse than Resident Evil 4

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annabiabrum

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Edited By annabiabrum

@Karmazyn saying RE4 is bad game is almost blasphemy

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QuadDamage85

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@Karmazyn 4 wasn't bad, 5 on the other hand....

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Xmus942

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Edited By Xmus942

@QuadDamage85 @Karmazyn

5 wasn't bad either per se. As a Resident Evil game it failed to evoke any sense of terror or dread that past titles have been known for. However, as a co-op game, and as a game in general, it succeeded in being fun. It also reviewed well, so I'm not quite understanding why people say it is a bad game. It's not, and people should stop saying it is.

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gantarat

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@QuadDamage85 @Karmazyn 5,6wasn't bad, ORC on the other hand....

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drodriguesaar

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Edited By drodriguesaar

@QuadDamage85 @Karmazyn 6 too...

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apres_moi

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@ascendedmaster Going to assume you're trolling. Otherwise, look up the word 'cliche'.

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RighteousNixon

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Edited By RighteousNixon

Zombie Studios.....

Nothing like locking yourself into a particular kind of game with your companies name. Let me guess, your next game is going to be about......wait for it.......ZOMBIES. How original.

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SweetPandaLove

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Edited By SweetPandaLove

@RighteousNixon 1/10, not much effort given.

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RenegadeSteve

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Edited By RenegadeSteve

IGN gave this game an 5.8 and said it was medicore

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DuskStrider

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Edited By DuskStrider

@renegadesteve IGN scoring system:

0 to 6.0 = terrible
7.0 = average
8.0 = above average
9.0 = good
10 = great/fantastic/amazing/groundbreaking/best game ever

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Thanatos2k

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@DuskStrider @renegadesteve That's not just IGN, but the entire video game review industry. Coincidentally it matches up with this:


0 to 6.0 = F

6.0 to 7.0 = D

7.0 to 8.0 = C

8.0 to 9.0 = B

9.0+ = A


And now you understand the 4 point scale.

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BabblingSage

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Edited By BabblingSage

@DuskStrider @renegadesteve

Id give this game minus points, its the worst piece of utter garage I have ever installed game wise on my pc. lucky enough I didn't pay for this, I got it as freebie code for my graphics card.

Needless to day its been uninstalled off my steam account, I just wished I could remove it completely from my steam library.

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youre_a_sheep

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@renegadesteve I'm not sure they've ever given a score below 5.0

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shenmuethree

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Hm, I think this game should have got a 4 instead of a 3, gamespot was obviously paid off by m$

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d33pak001

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Edited By d33pak001

These are the worst years for horror game fans. Like horror movies even the games are going to shit. The last great games in the genre would be Amnesia and RE Revelations. After that all the games have traded off their atmospheres for dumb jump scares.

Hats off to Kevin for this amazing review, as always!

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RaveNRolla

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@d33pak001 What do People fancy so much about Revelations? I'm a big fan of the RE series, but the scares in Revelations were no less predictable than in re5 or 6 and Revelations is definitely a worse shooter than those 2. Reticule? And all guns Sound and feel like they're made of plastic. The Setting was nice, but i only wanted to Play as Jill. With all the other characters it felt more like: ok, let's get through this quickly.

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youre_a_sheep

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@d33pak001 I've seen lots of Amnesia gameplay but never once seen anything scary, just lots of wandering around and players acting panicked for no real reason.

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matea88

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@d33pak001 Have you ever heard of Outlast?

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sam628

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'why is this dAYLIGHT GAME SET IN A HOSPITAL L DON'T UNDERSTAND

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sam628

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isnt day light zombie game?

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gantarat

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@sam628 that dying light

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Gamer_4_Fun

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Well, Kevin is my favorite reviewer out there, I trust him a lot so gonna pass this game.

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matea88

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@Gamer_4_Fun Yea trust what random persons from the internet tells you. Now go jump into the Grand Canyon with no parachute, its fun, trust me.

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RenegadeSteve

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@matea88 @Gamer_4_Fun No no no I ain't falling for that one again

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Darkljolly

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Edited By Darkljolly

wow

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Tomhill23

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Sick, i had a feeling it wouldn't be as good as OutLast but 3 jesus.

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VR_Verdugo

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Life is but a butterfly's dream, Kevin. Thanks for the review, I was amused.

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noah364

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Seems like a lot of nighttime settings for a game entitled Daylight...

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bbq_R0ADK1LL

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Looks like another arms getting tired simulator.

Seriously, you try stretching your arms out with your hands in front of your face for the length of that video, let alone the whole game.

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RobDev

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Jeez, how did it even get 3?


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ringringabel

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i think the randomly generated environments was a bad idea...takes too much control out of the dev's hands as to what they are having the player experience

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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):
    Adventure, Survival, 3D, Action
    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