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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Avatar image for IMAHAPYHIPPO
IMAHAPYHIPPO

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Written by gaming journalist Jessica Chobot, this is proof that journalists don't make compelling creative writers. Stick to writing about other people's words, Jess, and leave the creative work to the real professionals. Smart ass salute!

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ChiefFreeman

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Edited By ChiefFreeman

She wasn't even a journalist. She was an air headed chick who got her job because she licked a psp.

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SJGSpook

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Edited By SJGSpook

@ChiefFreeman And because she is fit as fook.

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A8ADD0N

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@IMAHAPYHIPPO


That's nonsense. There are many great writers who once worked as journalists. Ever heard of Ernest Hemingway? How about The Wire, ever seen that?

9 • 
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IMAHAPYHIPPO

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Edited By IMAHAPYHIPPO

@A8ADD0N Creative writers can make great journalists, not the other way around. Some people are born to create, some people are born to latch on to the people who create.

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Duke_51

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Edited By Duke_51

@A8ADD0N @IMAHAPYHIPPO

Not to mention Stieg Larsson. But yeah, those guys weren't gaming journalists either.

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jimrhurst

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Kevin, I can't quite figure out why you chose to review this particular game, but I am sure glad you did. I saw a 3 score game and immediately brightened as I am a huge fan of bad game reviews. Then I clicked on it and saw your face at the top and _knew_ this was going to be a treat. There is some formula that combines the skill of the writer with the inverse of the awfulness of the product they are reviewing in an exponential explosion of entertainment. Thus this review ends up infinitely more enjoyable than the game you had to play to write it. Thanks for taking the time.

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NL_Skipper

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@jimrhurst Well that was awfully wordy but yea... I agree (I think I know what you said..?). Bad game reviews are sometimes a lot more fun than the good ones! To watch at least... probably can't say the same about writing them.

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freedom01

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freedom01  Moderator

I guess I will be skipping this game...such a shame, was actually looking forward to this game

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DIGN

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lmao, no wonder why Nvidia included this free with their overpriced GPUs. cheap bastards.

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Gelugon_baat

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@DIGN

Really? Proof, please?

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dustwhit

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Edited By dustwhit

@Gelugon_baat @DIGN my recent GTX 760 had it bundled, and I'm sitting on the download code now wondering if I should bother. Horror isn't my thing anyway....but it is free....so...

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klonoa53

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@Gelugon_baat @DIGN I recently purchased a GTX 660 Ti for my PC that I just built a few weeks ago. I got 3 free games, Daylight, F2P money bullshit, F2P money for Warframe.

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JimmeyBurrows

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@klonoa53 Company my brother works for buys them titans to put in whatever the hell it is they make... He brought one of the codes back with him, soon as I read Zombie studios I guessed it'd be bad... But yeah they're giving it away.

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NL_Skipper

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@Gelugon_baat @DIGN It was the promotion they had ongoing before they started the "Free Watchdogs" one. I think WD's is the better deal...

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larkin-54

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Edited By larkin-54

@Gelugon_baat @nl_skipper @DIGN why cant you just google it ?

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Gelugon_baat

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@nl_skipper @DIGN

Okaaay... I do wish that you can provide some links though.

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hi-buzz

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Outlast was pretty good ...and much scarier

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cratecruncher

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Edited By cratecruncher

@hi-buzz The trailers for that game creeped me out. I bet it would be insane in VR.

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hi-buzz

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@cratecruncher it would definitely be awesome in VR....with creepy sounds and atmosphere would make this a must buy for me..

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torrne667

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@hi-buzz @cratecruncher occulus, good headphones and outlast is the scariest thing i have ever played, will never do it again to be honest :/ nearly had a F###ing heart attack!!

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Hadwell

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Daylight was short, not scary, didn't have good graphics (considering it uses the UE4 engine), and was really hard to get running (had to use the 32 bit binary)

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eternaldragoonx

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@mekentosh @rocky_denace he does sound stupid but I as an owner myself his sentiments are indeed in the right place. I'm quite tired of this indie bullshit and want some real AAA exclusive games. Honestly I've been getting more use out my XB these days

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mekentosh

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@eternaldragoonx @mekentosh @rocky_denace Well, that can happen if you commit to becoming an early adapter of the new systems. I would never in my life buy a console that is younger than a year and a half, it just makes no sense. No exclusive games will be extremely good console sellers in the first year, everything else I can play on my PS3 (which I bought 2 years ago) and my PC which can play everything that isn't a console exclusive. After a year and a half, a slim version of the console will probably come out, ironing out all the kinks and shortcomings and having a price cut, and at that point there may be some games worth playing. imho of course.

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enoughofthis

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another crappy indie

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strothers101

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That's another game I won't be getting on the PS4. So far I have killzone and am buying infamous if watch_dogs flops (can't see that happening though).

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wEEman33

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Daylight come and me wanna' go home.

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postalsam

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Turn on V-Sync, the tearing was awful

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blangenakker

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Edited By blangenakker

Could tell this game wasn't going to do very good.

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sam628

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why is daylight set in a hospital???

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sam628

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did kevin review the correct game

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sam628

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isn\t daylight meant to be zombie game l'm confused about kevins review?

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RobDev

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@sam628 maybe it's because Zombie studios made it?

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Gelugon_baat

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@sam628
That is Deadlight.

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DinoBuster

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@sam628 I think you thinking of "Dying Light", the pseudo successor to the Dead Island games.

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PinchySkree

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Edited By PinchySkree

The text at 1:23 looks like printed font.

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jharring

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7 playthroughs? Kevin, you are a man of great constitution.

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Diego_Corleone

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LMAO.

Like i always say, if the game is good, they release it for Xbox One. If you want shitty indie games like that, you should buy a PC or PS4.

6 • 
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RobDev

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@diego_corleone Like the fighter within, am i right?

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FCT-Steve-O

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@diego_corleone Ryse was good? lmao ok, ps4 exclusives>xone exclusives...hell same goes with PC exclusives>Xone exclusives

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alenth

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@diego_corleone bad troll is bad.

21 • 
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Diego_Corleone

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@alenth @diego_corleone

I agree, you are terrible.

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phbz

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@diego_corleone @alenth Bad troll is sad.

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Hurvl

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The 1996 Stallone movie Daylight sounds much better AND scarier than this game.

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Daylight More Info

Follow
  • 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