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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Prats93

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Oh PC gaming.

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SJGSpook

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@prats93 So bad games don't exist on console?

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Cloud_imperium

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@prats93 It is on PS4 as well , he just reviewed it on PC .

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dani3po

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Edited By dani3po

@prats93 Daylight is on PS4 too. You are a very misinformed hater ...

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GregoryBastards

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@prats93 Another game for PC Master-bation race.

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EducatingU_PCMR

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@prats93 What's worse is that you don't even know the game is also on PS4.

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Thuaxiz

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@prats93 It's on PS4 too...

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Prats93

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It just says PC in the thing.

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Stebsis

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@prats93 Not sure if trolling or blind

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NTM23

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Edited By NTM23

@prats93 ... You're stupid.

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Vinnvn

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@prats93

The Master Race

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PinchySkree

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@Vinnvn @prats93 Has nothing to do with one shit game.

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fluffy_puppy666

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@prats93 Are you really going to pretend that lococycle and knack do not exist?

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Prats93

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#Payingforunfinishedgames

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Warlord_Irochi

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@digishah Those you mention + Infamoust, Dead Nation. Tales of series, Reshogun, Yakuza series and... pretty much the possibility of playing every game in existence without giving a crap about system restriction. something single system gamers won't be able to experience


#SystemWarsArePuerile

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jecomans

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@digishah Lifeless Planet, also. But Antichamber? I played it... So long... What the... Hmmmm?

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NTM23

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Edited By NTM23

@digishah


Eh, none of those I particularly want to play myself. That being said, you could have either mentioned other games, or simply mentioned titles on all systems, and it still would have been a good argument since the majority of PC versions are better (like Crysis).

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digishah

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Edited By digishah

@prats93 Like DayZ, Rust, Planetary Annihilation, Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2 and many other that console gamers won't be able to experience...

#Sourgrapes

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Prats93

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At least those games are finished.

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fluffy_puppy666

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@prats93 What are you implying? That PC has a monopoly on bad games because PC developers have more freedom? Console gaming always had catastrophic unfinished games like bubsy 3D, Charlie's Angels, or even Plumbers Don't Wear Ties. Even with the huge amout of bureaucracy and regulations publishers manage to **** up.

The bureaucracy and regulations that console companies shove down the publishers throats only make it harder to see new fantastic games as publishers need to play safe on consoles. If it wasn't for the freedom of developing games for PC, we wouldn't see great games like Antichamber, Gone Home, or The Stanley Parable.

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alien-hell

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great review...I knew it would be terrible.this game doesn't have a real challenge.just wanted to be another OUTLAST

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Frexerik

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wow thanks kevin, i almost bought this yesterday, but i guess i really dodged a bullet by waiting for a review!

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Darkreaper_1

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@Frexerik Ditto. I added it to my wishlist (now removed) to keep on eye on it for when it was on sale. I wasn't expecting anything ground breaking but i was at least expecting a half scary/atmospheric game.

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lilmcnessy

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Can I get a refund on my steam preorder?

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GregoryBastards

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@lilmcnessy You get like one refund on Steam for lifetime.... if im not mistaken.

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Stebsis

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@GregoryBastards @lilmcnessy Yes, but that's for a game you have already gotten, it's always possible to cancel a preorder how many times you want because you haven't gotten the game yet

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lilmcnessy

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Edited By lilmcnessy

@Stebsis @GregoryBastards @lilmcnessy Yay, thanks got my money back.

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GregoryBastards

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Edited By GregoryBastards

@Stebsis @GregoryBastards @lilmcnessy Oh good to know.

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NTM23

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@lilmcnessy One reason I never preorder. Actually, I just don't preorder because I don't care about that, but still, you show why it's a good reason not to.

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fluffy_puppy666

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@lilmcnessy Why would you ever preorder a game? You can never know when a game is going to suck, after sim city 4 and diablo 3 i got extremly skeptical about the quality of every game to be released, i dimply didn't expect those games to have such flaws.

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lilmcnessy

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@fluffy_puppy666 @lilmcnessy I don't normally preorder games but i guess it's because it was cheap.

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CyberLips

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Jeez is it really that bad?

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Behardy24

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Oh snap.

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Thuaxiz

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This game should never have seen the light of day...

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Edited By NTM23

@Thuaxiz Were you on IGN?

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ffspyda

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@Thuaxiz -_- (points to the door)

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@ffspyda @Thuaxiz http://i.imgur.com/KBNcZ.gif

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Freeze-dried

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I love reading through bad reviews.

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Xenro4

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"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." Sorry you had to suffer through that.

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Mitch0712

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Guys, disable Steam notifications when you record footage for publication.

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hoyholyhoy

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@Mitch0712 why

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Edited By NTM23

Shit... I bought two PSN cards today for 40 bucks because I thought I wanted this... I guess I should have thought about it more. Oh well, there'll be things to get at some point, maybe Child of Light.

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MasterTheHero

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This is definitely NOT going to be an HOH game. I was watching GS stream this game and man. It is bad, really bad, boringly bad. So bad, that even Jessica Chobot rage quit from her own game.

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madjack1812

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@MasterTheHero Some of the best games on HoH were bloody awful...

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@MasterTheHero LMFAO did she really quit her own game? IF so,thats pretty funny and sad.

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@MasterTheHero

Really? I mean, we've played bad games on HoH before. They can still bring some value.

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IgnitingIcarus

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Oh, the Jessica Chobot game that looked like crap is actually crap, color me surprised. Fingers crossed they don't bring this to the PS+ collection.

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@ignitingicarus Yeah...I mean the best thing she ever did was lick a PSP.

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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):
    Survival, 3D, Action, Adventure
    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