Daylight is an Unreal Engine 4 powered survival horror game created by developer Zombie Studios that puts you into the shoes of a woman known only as Sarah. You’ve been abandoned in a hospital with no recollection of how you got there or how you are supposed get out. You’re prompted by a voice to use your cellphone that acts as a combined GPS and flashlight to find all of the memories within the hospital which come in the form of scraps of paper, notes, and pictures. With the assistance of tools like glow sticks that highlight items of importance like boxes that contain items, valves, and switches; and flares that ward off enemies you make your way aimlessly through the rooms and corridors of this abandoned hospital.
First off I must address the elephant in the room. Daylight by Zombie Studios and Outlast by Red Barrels are indeed similar games and I expect comparisons will be drawn between the two. And as someone who has played through both; I’ll be internally comparing them and this will show within this review.
Anyways, what sets Daylight apart from other games within the genre is the way it handles environments, enemies, content, and encounters. Daylight features a procedurally generated world and is touted to be the same experience twice. The layout of the hospital and prison, spawning of enemies, items you need to obtain and even how you complete these objectives are set to be different for every playthrough. Although some parts remain the same, specifically rooms with switches and the storage / break room, the rest of the environments are random. During my second playthrough I found myself trying to remember where I had gone the first time and this caused me to use up the most precious resource, flares. Speaking of flares, these items are the only things that can ward off enemies so it’s important to use them sparingly especially when the game scares you into using them when you didn’t truly need to. This leads directly into sound design and my oh my did Zombie Studios do a fantastic job with that. Daylight executes perfectly in balancing your fear level. Much like a good horror film you reach moments of tension that put you on the edge of your seat, and soon after are lulled into a false sense of safety before once again being put on edge. As you make your way through the halls of the hospital and prison you hear the telltale sound of an enemy approaching from behind you and this happens at random. But what happens is when you hear the sound of an enemy coming up from behind you; the enemy might not be there. This caused me to erroneously use my flares and left me without defenses when the enemies did come.
The phrase silent protagonist does not apply here as you are constantly updated with the thoughts and feelings of Sarah, you can hear her breathe heavily as the tension rises and even gasps out and yells when trouble is near. As you collect these memories you will occasionally hear the guiding voice which has just the right amount of creepy to leave you with that unsettling feeling. As enemies approach your cellphone, which acts as a mini-map that displays key locations and all the areas you’ve explored begins to glitch and the map becomes difficult to see. Because the mini-map is in your hands there is a degree of difficulty in seeing it when you’re running which can cause you to walk into dead ends. Now normally this would be an issue in game like Outlast, but in Daylight if you end up cornering yourself you can run through the enemies. This broke the illusion for me, either Sarah is an Olympic distance runner with incredible stamina or the running is a little broken because this entire game can be run through including through and away from the enemies. While this certainly helped in my second playthrough, it completely killed the tension that is integral to what makes Daylight a survival horror game. This made the entire outside area a complete joke. Let it be noted that you can “die” in this game. Once I discovered I could just run away from the enemies I thought that it meant that nothing would happen if I stood still to let the enemies “get me”. Of my two playthroughs I only died once and it was only to see if it could actually happen.
The entirety of my first playthrough lasted roughly two and a half hours, much of this time was spent reading every piece of paper and discovering all the memories that I could. But my second playthrough was completed after just 38 minutes. The game stops you from running through by forcing you to collect a certain amount of remnants that are scattered out throughout the level, once those remnants are collected you must then retrieve the “sigil”, an item of important like a bible, or a teddy bear and bring that to the locked spooky gate. This is repeated four or five times and then the experience is over. It becomes a pattern that can be solved rather quickly and frankly it gets a little boring. The thing that would slow me down would be the layout of the hospital and prison solely because it is randomly generated.
On my first playthrough I ran into difficulties playing the game after reaching a waterfall area, if I was to look at the waterfall room directly my computer would completely lock up with the only solution being a hard reset. I got past this issue by looking at the ground and walking aimlessly until I found my way through that part. This was an odd issue that could only be replicated on my computer whose hardware was just a tiny bit better than the “minimum” specifications required. However, on my second playthrough I used a computer that had exceeded the “recommended” specifications and only noticed a slight performance drop during this waterfall area. The biggest issue here is that it if you crash or stop playing at this waterfall junction; you are returned to the beginning of that section which takes a good 10-15 minutes to get back to. I am not deducting any points here for this, but it was something I had experienced in my review experience. This review was using a beta version of Daylight so this must also be taken into consideration.
Daylight is a great example of what a small dedicated team can do. Daylight will leave you feeling uneasy and wanting more. With excellent sound design and great looking environments thanks to Unreal Engine 4, Daylight should be a game that you’ll want to play over and over, but because of the whole “find X number of items and proceed to the gate” mechanic you’ll only want to play it once. On a second playthrough the game becomes a chore and what was creepy and scary in your first playthrough become a joke. Although you won’t get too much replayability I would still recommend anyone who enjoys the survival horror genre should give it a try. Daylight releases on April 29th for both PC and PlayStation 4 for just $15.00.
This review was completed with a Steam (PC) review code provided by ATLUS PR.