Review – Daymare 1998

Survival horror is one of my favourite genres and it’s finally starting to make its grand return. The brilliant Resident Evil franchise turned itself around with Resident Evil 7 and the new Resident Evil 2 Remake. However, before the Remake a group of passionate fans were working on their own fan-made RE2 remake, I was saddened by its cancellation. Luckily the developers never gave up and moved all their focus into a brand new survival horror IP, Daymare 1998.

Daymare

Moments before being fooled again.

Set in 1998, you start the game as H.A.D.E.S (Hexacore Advanced Division for Extraction and Search) agent Liev, sent to a research lab to collect samples of the Pollux virus. From there things spiral out of control as the town of Keen Sight gets infected and the population gets turned into zombies. Throughout the game you will jump from different perspectives of members of H.A.D.E.S., who each have different motives and Sam, a regular guy who is looking to avenge the death of his wife.

What ensues is an uneven gameplay experience that occasionally shows promise behind its uninspired level design. Played from an over the shoulder perspective, Daymare 1998 is your standard third person survival shooter. You have got to manage your minimal space inventory with key items and your limited supply of ammo and health supplies. What’s different is you not only have to manage your ammo, but your magazines for your weapons as well. This means going into the menus to manually load each magazine with ammo. Good in theory, but the scrambling through the slow inventory system to load a magazine and then to load into your gun gets old fast.

The story in Daymare is laughably bad with a plot that jumps all over the place, only really progressing in the finale with some half interesting revelations. Sadly, even the delivery of these plot points are dreadful, thanks to the terrible dialogue and voice acting. “Sacred Heart Hospital, that’s where he’s going and then… that’s where he’ll be there”, had me chuckling for a couple of minutes, whilst other lines can be incredibly cringy or just as funny. It’s certainly memorable, not in the right ways of course, but it did give the game moments of levity. Maybe in that way it does harness what classic Resident Evil‘s were like.

Daymare

Keen Sight was moderately interesting.

Very rarely in my time in Daymare did I get the sense of dread or fear. The zombie designs are uninspired, repetitive, and are missing that scare factor. They just kind of stumble towards you to grab on and you spam space bar to shake them off. There’s also an over-reliance on putting zombies around every corner. Putting down zombies can be inconsistent; sometimes you kill them and sometimes they will revive a little later. You can destroy the head but it’s not a reliable method. Every now and then you will encounter a boss fight, but really they are just uninspired bullet sponges. The final boss in particular was simply a bullet sponge surrounded by tons of additional zombies. Truly nothing special and it just felt artificial.

Saying all this, Daymare isn’t all that bad and does have a few good ideas. Resources are scarce, but not so much that you are worried about wasting through ammo. The game does a good job in keeping you stocked up to deal with any upcoming threats. Sam’s hallucinations were played off pretty well whilst puzzles gave us a good break away from the messy main game. Every now and then, Daymare shows some promising design choices, but that makes the rougher sections seem even worse. The hospital section is brutally awful with too much running back and forth between points, whilst exploring the streets of Keen Sight town did provide some genuinely enjoyable and tense moments.

I also experienced a number of bugs in my time with the game. Nothing overly drastic, but some that are worth mentioning. First of all, I’ve seen zombies and mini-boss enemy types not react at all to my presence or simply get stuck on the environment. It took me out of the experience and impacted my playstyle. As someone who prioritizes zombie avoidance in these sort of games, having enemies block my paths led to some frustration. Then during one of the late game boss fights, I got grabbed by a random zombie during the cutscene. One that was nowhere near my character, but close to the camera itself. I’ve also had hit detection so bad that zombies didn’t stagger even after getting a shot to the head.

Daymare

Cutscenes can look horrible.

I was stumped with whether I like the look of this game on multiple occasions. It’s odd how this game can look good at times, but then look rather rough other times. One of the weirdest examples of this is during the cutscenes, which somehow look worse than the gameplay. At least for me. Animations are just as bad, with very unnatural movements that are awkwardly slow to the point it can have a negative impact on the gameplay. The reloading speed is stupidly slow (which is somewhat understandable for Sam) whilst there’s a delay from equipping your weapon to when you can actually aim and fire with them.

Sound design is just bad. I mentioned earlier that the dialogue was laughable, but it gets worse. Zombie sounds are dull and repetitive with the same few groans spread throughout the entire game length. Jump scares are usually accompanied with obnoxiously loud sounds and weapons don’t sound powerful at all. The only thing that I didn’t hate was the soundtrack which is at best, passable.

Daymare 1998 is one of the most disappointing games I’ve played in a while. Whilst some aspects occasionally shine through, it is quickly squandered by a dull gameplay experience I just wanted to end. I’m hopeful that if we do get a sequel, there will be a huge improvement. We need more survival horror.

 

Graphics: 5.5

UE4’s post processing effects do a decent job, but not good enough to hide the poor animations and horrible textures.

Gameplay: 4.5

A few good ideas and interesting gameplay segments can’t save this mess.

Sound: 1.5

Laughably bad dialogue and terrible sound design.

Fun Factor: 3.5

I wanted to like Daymare, but it just wasn’t fun.

Final Verdict: 4.0

Daymare 1998 is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Daymare: 1998 was provided by the publisher.

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