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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fmj77

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This is why I pirate.


4 • 
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Mhernandez_4

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It's not even worth stealing.

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sebbysebbseb

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@fmj77 You shouldn't pirate.

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NTM23

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@fmj77 So, you make two bad decisions. One, you pirate, and two, you pirate to play THIS game.

5 • 
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fmj77

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@NTM23 @fmj77

Get off your high horse. I pirate and play it some. If I like it, I buy it. If it sucks, I delete it. Simple.

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klorglork1

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Edited By klorglork1

@fmj77 @NTM23 gheylord

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fmj77

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Edited By fmj77

@RobDev @fmj77@NTM23

I admit I haven't bought every single game I've pirated. Only in the last couple of years have I pirated in order to try a game out first. I don't get the chance to try every demo and many games don't even have demos. I guarantee I'm not the only one on this site who does this.
Regarding Daylight, I'll probably just wait till it's on sale for less than $5. Too many negative reviews for this game.

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deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

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@RobDev @fmj77 @NTM23 what if i haven't pirated a game for 5 years? only bought them. oh right, you don't believe me. got it.

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RobDev

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Edited By RobDev

@fmj77 @NTM23 Sure, you have bought EVERY single game you pirated and liked, i believe you.

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Gelugon_baat

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@fmj77

Oh, I suppose that being honestly selfish lets you call out others for being on high horses. ;)

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TalSet_11

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Edited By TalSet_11

@fmj77 Wow you're so cool.

14 • 
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fmj77

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@TalSet_11 @fmj77

Wow! Thanks for noticing!

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Jd1680a

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A lot of negative sides to this game with a minor plus. Doesn't appear this game is not even worth the time and energy.

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demondogx

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Edited By demondogx

That is a shame... ah well i guess its waiting for the Outlast DLC then

Good thing i never pre order saved myself 10$, enough good games for that price around

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deactivated-58a78a043e9d4

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They previewed this at Nvidia's PAX event. The Nvidia guys were so bored they started handing out prizes.

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OneStrong2

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Edited By OneStrong2

Further proof, a female protagonist isn't the Midas touch.

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columbosoftserv

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@OneStrong2 huurrdurrrr i h8s da womenz in ma gamez

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RobDev

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@OneStrong2 What? what does that have to do with anything? this game would be better somehow if she was a he?

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OneStrong2

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Edited By OneStrong2

@RobDev

Much ado, fire and brimstone, mainly from he rainbow coalition at EA, over the gender of the protagonist. See they think ol king Midas, is really cross dressing. The issue is that people buy great games, and often times games that aren't so great, they don't buy them for political correctness.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@OneStrong2

You take any opportunity to denounce the use of female characters as protagonists, do you?

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OneStrong2

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@Gelugon_baat

Females or gender feminism? Never been against Lara croft, or Samus Aran, neither of which are from bioware.

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Gelugon_baat

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@OneStrong2

Why are you even mentioning BioWare?

I am getting the impression of a disconnect between your statement of "female protagonist isn't the Midas touch" and your purported "never been against Lara Croft or Samus Aran".

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Zarkhaine

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FFS TURN ON V-SYNC!

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TalSet_11

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@Zarkhaine In-game and .ini v-sync doesn't work. You have to force it in drivers, and even then it's slipshod. Not a well-implemented engine.

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deactivated-5b797108c254e

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Well, that was disappointing...

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Ailurusf

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This kind of reviews always make me a little sad. True, the game might be horrible, but it must be pretty awful as a developer to see that your efforts were so poor that your final product gets trashed by someone like Kevin. A review like this pretty much dooms a game.

10 • 
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RobDev

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@Ailurusf you think the developers don't already know it's awful?

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noah364

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@RobDev @Ailurusf Usually games are bad because the developers didn't try or didn't care. But it looks like they both tried and did care for this, even if they failed horribly. I do feel kinda bad for the poor devs.

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bfa1509

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Looks shit.

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Console_Caesar

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Lol and PC nerds were hyping this to the heavens, another flop for the MASTER disgRACE.

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Gamerno66666

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@console_caesar Shouldn't you be on the system wars forum or something and feeling good about your insecurities?

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RobDev

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Edited By RobDev

@console_caesar the fact that it's an awful game has nothing to do with it's platform.

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PJthePlayer2

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@console_caesar Why do you feel the need to make shit up to insult PC gamers? Just because we can afford better gaming equipment than you? Maybe if you spent more time bettering yourself and less time talking trash to others you might have a higher paying job where you could afford nice things like a gaming PC. Jealousy is an ugly emotion.

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thermalmotion

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@console_caesar I'm on PC and only heard about this title 2 days ago, thought it looked terrible.

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SphinxDemon

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Lmao guy this i one game i haven't even heard of. Go somewhere with your ugly titanfall

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llong187

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@console_caesar


Console only players are so threatened by the PC these days, it's actually amusing. Some of these comments are pure comedy.

Anyway, I don't think the elitist PC gamers were hyping this game. I don't know where you pulled that from.

2 • 
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sirchick

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@console_caesar i don't recall daylight being hyped in the PC community. None of my friends ever heard of it when i mentioned it in teamspeak.

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Guyute71

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@console_caesar You can talk in the unlikely event that Star Citizen fails.

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k41m

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@console_caesar Good one. I don't know what it's like to be biased. I get paid enough to afford a gaming PC and all the consoles I want. Maybe you should step your game up so your not frustrated?

4 • 
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Snowx1

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@console_caesar It was looking good. Too bad they couldn't bring it together cohesively into something better.

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Tyralyon

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10/10 for that final punchline Kevin, haha. Actually made me laugh out loud.

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Edited By Sevenizz

In an unrelated matter (but kinda related), I'm really getting excited about the new Alien game. I DLd the original movie on my XB1 last night and I watched the game trailer again, along with a staff impression video on IGN. The game nails what it must be like to be on the ship.

Definitely on my list.

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VegasAceVII

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@lunar1122 @prodigy_69 You're blind as fuckin' ****.

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Edited By VegasAceVII

This sounds abysmal; can't wait to play it for myself. Might make for a fun night of live streaming and laughing at how bad it is.

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Would of been more impressed if the game got a 1

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@LittleMac19 Would have* ;)

2 • 

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