REVIEW: DAYLIGHT / DEVELOPER: ZOMBIE STUDIOS / PUBLISHER: ZOMBIE STUDIOS / PLATFORM: PC, PS4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
As Zombie Studios' first foray into the horror genre since the Saw games, Daylight had a lot to prove. You see the world through the eyes of Sarah. Awakening in an abandoned hospital with no memory of how you arrived, you are forced to hunt through the darkness for a way out. Yet even as you do, things long-dead stalk your every step.
Daylight will immediately feel familiar to fans of horror games. You stalk through abandoned hospitals and haunted areas, scrabbling for scraps of information as the monsters hunt for you. Some give you indicators of what happened to the people there, others unlock the mysterious sigils which block your path.
So yes, it’s Slender with Outlast’s setting but there are a few things which make it stand out.
Its foremost strength is the unique light source system whose function extends well beyond illuminating the decaying environments. Glow sticks will unveil hidden items and points of interest, while flares actually allow you to fight back. The latter especially helps the game dodge the issue of Amnesia, where fleeing and hiding from monsters devolves into tedium long before the end. However, as both are in extremely short supply and the spirits are procedurally generated, you cannot simply rush through on a violent exorcism spree.
The other much-touted mechanic is Daylight’s randomly generated level designs. Each small area you encounter is randomly constructed and helps Daylight have some degree of replayability, an extreme rarity in the survival horror genre. Unfortunately for this step forwards, the game immediately takes three back. Along with causing incredibly repetitive objectives of “find object X to escape the level”, it means Daylight needs to include all mechanics from the beginning. Consequently there is no progression or real sense of escalation as you have access to everything at once, and no time is given over to building up the ghouls hunting you as a threat before you find a way of setting them on fire.
These failings would be fine were it not for the atmosphere. While many effective and creepy elements are present, from the stick men to the tree of dead children, they are constantly undercut by Sarah and her mysterious guide. Speaking at every turn and never allowing a moment’s silence, they rarely give you a moment to experience a true sense of isolation or dread.
The sad truth is that Daylight is a combination of many ideas which almost worked, with several ingenious concepts unfortunately undercutting one another. This could have been something revolutionary, but instead it’s just an entertaining release with a few truly outstanding moments.