There are many truly frightening games for consumers to choose from; games with the ability to get inside the player’s mind and terrify a person at their very core, but Daylight is not one of these games. Instead, Daylight is akin to the haunted house at a traveling carnival: a dull and ultimately pointless experience with a few minor “jump” scares that ceases being interesting long before the ride is over.
Daylight tells the story of a woman named Sarah as she awakens in a dark, abandoned hospital. At the behest of a mysterious voice, she grabs the cell phone at her feet, using it as a source of light and map through the hospital’s haunted corridors. In order to escape the creatures lurking in the shadows, Sarah must explore the maze-like building as she discovers newspaper clippings, memos, and diary entries – called Remnants – that detail the horrific events that have occurred in the hospital and its surrounding areas. However, the more Sarah learns about her “accommodations,” the more she comes to realize just how connected she is to the specters haunting the halls.
Sadly, the above story synopsis is more interesting than the story itself. Sarah’s true role is not fully realized until the very end of the game, and even then it is only vaguely hinted at. If a player misses one of the many Remnants strewn throughout the experience, it is very possible to miss the point entirely. Daylight’s story seems like a complete afterthought.
We understand Sarah’s motivation for escaping (survival), but what about the mysterious person speaking to her through her phone? His motivations and role in the “narrative” are never fully explained. Worst of all, Sarah never questions him about them. She blindly listens to his platitudes and vague statements about the situation without once questioning who he is or what he wants.
Sadly, Daylight’s graphics fare no better. While Zombie Studios proudly touts Daylight as the first commercially released title to use Unreal Engine 4, the visuals are early PlayStation 3 quality at best. The environments lack any sort of character and Sarah’s hands, which are almost always on the screen, lack any real detail. The ghosts seem like they were taken from some sort of horror art collection and had the file name “Generic-Ghost_2.” There is absolutely nothing unique or frightening about them. Plus, while nitpicky, can we talk about the cellphone for a minute? I understand the design has to be somewhat generic in order to avoid treading on copyrights, but couldn’t it have been given a little more personality? The motion detectors in the Alien movies of the 70s/80s were more detailed than this device.
The sound design is even worse. There is very little music used in Daylight, and when it is used it is generally to provide a loud swell during yet another “jump” scare. The moans and wails of the ghosts terrorizing Sarah are disappointing and fail to create any true tension throughout the game. Sound effects are much the same when they actually trigger. More than once, I saw large filing cabinets fall over without so much as a small thud. Lastly, the voice acting is leaves much to be desired. Sarah’s voice is somewhat annoying and the casting call for the mysterious voice guiding her would fall under evil, generic German scientist.
Rounding out this symphony of disappointment is the gameplay. Daylight is broken into sections of hunting mazes for Remnants in order to open doors to a safe area where the player is tasked with completing a rudimentary puzzle. Upon completing the puzzle, the cycle repeats as the player is ushered into another generated-on-the-fly maze where more Remnants must be found while avoiding ghosts. The repetition gets boring fast, and the tools provided do nothing but make a dull situation even more tedious. The light from the cellphone alternates between being the brightest flashlight known to man to being dimmer than a nightlight. The glow sticks and flares that can be found, used to uncover secrets and repel ghosts respectively, operate slightly better, but also lack consistency and must be conversed anyway in order to be available when the game calls for them.
Daylight’s control scheme fares just the same as the previously discussed gameplay. The camera is oversensitive and cannot be adjusted in the settings. This makes it somewhat difficult when a player is required to open a box or locker that only has one, small spot in which it can be interacted with. Sarah’s jerky movements (she appears to be waddling more than walking) make it all too easy to get caught on the smallest of objects in the environment. This is especially irritating when the only option is to run from a ghost rather than waste a precious flare (Sarah might actually need to see later), especially when you realize dying means having to restart the same tedious section all over again.
Players shouldn’t worry too much though: Sometimes the ghost will just walk right by as if they can’t see in the dark hallways either. If a player is able to run away, they shouldn’t have to run far as it seems chasing Sarah for more than a yard isn’t really worth the effort. Apparently these ghosts are dead tired (pardon the pun).
Admittedly, Daylight almost redeems itself at the end when Sarah is thrown in a wide open environment. This greatly increases the tension and the feeling that the next ghost could come from anywhere. If the entire game had played out in this manner (or if the first act had at least been shorter), Daylight may have been a much more enjoyable experience. Sadly, the chapter I speak of lasts a mere fifteen minutes or so in the two to three hour game.
Zombie Studios clearly designed Daylight for the “Let’s Play” and live streaming crowd, specifically those who wish to broadcast their live reactions as they turn to see an unexpected ghost pop up with the PlayStation Camera. There is a limited amount of entertainment to be garnered from Daylight in this regard… if you are the viewer rather than the player. Otherwise, it would be wise to steer clear of this offering. If a frightening experience is desired, there are far better options available on the PlayStation Store.