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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Weygan

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Finally something scoring less than resident evil 6. Resident Evil 6 deserved so much higher though.

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VegasAceVII

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Edited By VegasAceVII

@weygan He was pretty foul on Resident Evil 6; however, that game was pretty lame when comparing it to the others.

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sohail5566

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Edited By sohail5566

@weygan just let it go resident evil got 4.5 there nothing u can do about it

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Weygan

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@sohail5566 Played with a friend, it was very enjoyable. Esspecially Leons part. It had three decent lengthy campaigns to play through, and served as a great horror/shooter (not survival, that was lost with Resident Evil 4). I do hope Resident Evil will return to its right franchise again in some way, and give the feeling back of RE1,2 and 3. We can only cross our fingers and hope. But RE6 still deserved more than 4.5, definitly not justified.

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sohail5566

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@gantarat @sohail5566 i didnt play any resident evil only played 6

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gantarat

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@sohail5566 J'avo not zombie they are infected human like ganados/majini

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sohail5566

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@weygan @sohail5566 for me it was not a horror game it was more action i played only chris campaign didnt like it what pisses me off in the game was quick time events also zombie with rocket launcher thats stupid

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LittleMac19

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@weygan Nah, the score was just right.

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Weygan

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Edited By Weygan

@LittleMac19 @weygan No it wasn't.

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LittleMac19

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@weygan @LittleMac19 *assume

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Weygan

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@LittleMac19 @weygan you're not that smart. I asume you're just a troll.. moving along.

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LittleMac19

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@weygan You're right, it deserved a 3

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ryancyc

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Edited By ryancyc

3 out of 3, right? Guys?

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sohail5566

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was gonna buy it but after seeing the review i think i will wait for the forest and evil within

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nigelholden

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That's pretty harsh. I was hoping the video review would go beyond the story and more into gameplay and performance. That said, these kind of games depend so much on their narrative elements, that I can't fault Mr. VanOrd for the way he presented the review.

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naryanrobinson

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well the game can't be more entertaining than the review.

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Wistful_Gamer

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I was looking forward to this game :(

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Snowx1

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Edited By Snowx1

@Wistful_Gamer Same here=/. I was ready to drop $10.00 sale price today for it =/. Got me interested when it claimed to be procedural generation and was using the unreal 4 engine. Damn =/. Guess I will pick up Child of Light instead tomorrow being an rpg fan as well.

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bdiddytampa

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@ladies_man_xxx Well hey, most people on this site could care less about your opinion either, so I guess the playing field is even...

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amar1234

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"the irony is its not even worth playing once"


OUCH.

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angry_cowtipper

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@kennythomas26 @angry_cowtipper @rocky_denace @Whiskey3romeo Well that's nice, but your reason is a non-reason. It's not as if the One isn't being sold where it's crucial that it be sold. The 360 did better than PS3 largely thanks to the North American market. Not because of Europe, Japan, South America, or anything else. The One doesn't have NA's vote this time. That is the difference. It doesn't matter if the One is not on sale in Peru, it won't help it.

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kennythomas26

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@lunar1122 @prodigy_69 Yeah some times he his and other times he is not.

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kennythomas26

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@rocky_denace @Whiskey3romeo The PS4 here in Canada is no longer 100 dollars cheaper, it is now 449 up here in Canada and I believe Sony has raised the price to their system in a bunch more other countries as well.

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Rambolike

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@lunar1122 @prodigy_69 They're not always spot on. Don't be fanboy. He generally has good reviews, but at times he gives in to the hype.

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drysprocket

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@Rambolike @lunar1122 @prodigy_69 No one is perfect, but he's the best reviewer in the business, at least in my book.

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Rambolike

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Meh, it's 10 bucks. I'll give it a go

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VegasAceVII

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@Rambolike Exactly my thoughts; I spent more than that on food today. **** it, let's give it a go. If anything, it's worth a laugh.

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Gamerno66666

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@jake198624 @rocky_denace Its on both pc and ps4.

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kennythomas26

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@angry_cowtipper @kennythomas26 @rocky_denace @Whiskey3romeo That's cool but was just stating that is one of the reasons it is not selling well at the moment and on top of these new systems are not flying off store shelves right now as it is slowing down right now.

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Gamerno66666

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Edited By Gamerno66666

Hey Anthony, you should go back to IGN and keep on overrating games. Making a game is clearly not for you.

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mekentosh

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@rocky_denace @mekentosh You just keep one-upping yourself.

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kennythomas26

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@angry_cowtipper @rocky_denace @Whiskey3romeo I don't where you can play Ryse: Sons of Rome and Forza 5. Oh and your argument on the indie game thing those are not for everyone.

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angry_cowtipper

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Edited By angry_cowtipper

@kennythomas26 @rocky_denace @Whiskey3romeo None of which are tremendous contributors to the overall sales number. The Xbox One is not going to rally ahead once it starts selling in Japan, Serbia, Honduras, Nepal, or whatever else it is you're thinking. It can't even pull off a lead in the US when Titanfall is released with it free. So, sorry, that excuse holds little water.

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kennythomas26

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@rocky_denace @Whiskey3romeo You also realize that the PS4 was released in more countries at launch than the Xbox 1 13 countries.

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kennythomas26

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I knew from all the previews of this game leading up to it's releas it looked bad.

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angry_cowtipper

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@rocky_denace @Whiskey3romeo I think you should take a look at exclusive lists and reevaluate your position. The only game Xbox One has that I cannot currently play elsewhere, that's a big game, is Dead Rising 3, a middling 6-8 game depending on which review you've read. It doesn't actually have the best version of Titanfall either.


The truth is, there are more games, big and small, on PS4 that I cannot play on One. And you can poo-poo indie games all you want, but they sell, and they sell big, and it's where all the innovation happens and the risks are taken. That's also why a game like Hotline Miami can get a 9 while bigger games are getting to be considered repetitive and boring.


Good day.

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prodigy_69

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I think giving this 3 out of 10 is a bit harsh

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lunar1122

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@prodigy_69 i disagree, Kevins reviews are always spot on. Bad game is bad

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Whiskey3romeo

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@rocky_denace @Whiskey3romeo Yeah...I'm sure the inferior hardware has nothing to do with it.


/rolls eyes

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angry_cowtipper

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Edited By angry_cowtipper

@ladies_man_xxx @wallacom I'm not sure what your stake is in this, but all footage of this game looks incredibly bland. And it's not hard to believe that it isn't well written, given it was written by someone who has never creatively written.

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daviz88

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Edited By daviz88

00:11 - Sméagol?

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finalfantasy94

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eh when its dirt cheap ill give it a go still.

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Chupacabra3332

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Jessica Chobot must be mad with this review ;)

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ohad_kabri

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look, i believe you. this game probably suck.

I do think however that in reviews you should support you critics with "proof". maybe when you say sarah's comments don't make sense show it to us... thats why you're making a video review isn't is?

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FLEEBS

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Edited By FLEEBS

Shoot, now I want to know what the final image is, but I'll never play this game.

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mkdms14

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Come on Gamespot don't hold back next time you see a "bad" game give it a 1/10

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ESPM400

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Edited By ESPM400

@mkdms14 Apparently you missed 'Ride to Hell: Retribution..."

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yeah_28

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Hmm I can easily believe this game is a 3, i mean, the gameplay is barely more than a way to get you to scary stuff, but then the scary stuff gets old and unexciting, and all you're left with is the story, which apparently isn't good, so...

In addition to this review, i saw Erick playing it the other day, and it was pretty terrible.

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ThePowerOfHAT

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I'm noticing an annoying trend in a lot of games lately that I think developers need to grow out of really quickly: having the player character react to something in an attempt to invoke a similar reaction in the player rather than letting the player react themselves. If you want to scare people, let them scare themselves. If you're trying to tell them when they're supposed to be scared, I guarantee that they won't be.

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RexPowerColt

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Edited By RexPowerColt

Go play Outlast. MUCH, MUCH better and freakier all around. I screamed several times playing it on my PS4 in the dark.

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wallacom

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So my greatness still awaits (for the exception of infamous which lasted 3 weeks).

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cavs25

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@wallacom I know right. This is the first time new consoles haven't had mountains of amazing AAA games months within launch, Jeez it almost makes you think games take years to make.

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wallacom

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@ladies_man_xxx So why are you here?

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Whiskey3romeo

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Edited By Whiskey3romeo

@rocky_denace Then why is PS4 curb stomping Xblows in sales?

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spacecadet25

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Edited By spacecadet25

Is this all Chobot's fault though, maybe she was a writer, but it sounds like level design is seriously flawed in this game as well.

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Brokendemise

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Shame, game looked pretty scary when PewDiePie was playing it, but then again he's a huge scaredie cat. But I get when he says cliched, the game looks extremely simple in terms of design, and the whole "creature" appearing when you turn your back has been hacked to death. I think if they let people mod it like Amnesia, we'll start getting some better storylines.

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Grenadehh

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Edited By Grenadehh

While Kevin's opinion is the only one here I respect, when I see any GS staff give any game a number lower than 6, I know it's bullshit without even reading it. GameSpot doesn't follow their own grading rubric - which they conveniently erased from the web server with the switch to the new format - and that is why a 3 is bullshit.


Case in point - the review mentions no technical problems. The game works perfectly fine as far as he's told us. So, that's an automatic 5 at the lowest. Cliched writing? Alright. A 4 or lower is meant for games that are completely broken and unplayable, not to mention awful on top of it. It seems to me if he beat the game7 times, it was plenty functional. At least give it a 4 or a 5.

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mekentosh

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@rocky_denace Do you even realize how immature, fanboyish and just outright childish and moronic you sound?

11 • 
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mekentosh

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Jessica Chobot destined for the stars!

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LpcWarrior

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This game was doomed when Chris Waters called it "Deadlight" when talking to the devs. Super awkward.

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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
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    Developed by:
    Zombie Studios
    Published by:
    ATLUS, Arc System Works
    Genre(s):
    3D, Action, Adventure, Survival
    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