A strong contender for worst game of the year, Daylight is a survival-horror yarn without a pulse. Graphically hideous and barely playable, it strives to replicate the less-is-more fear-factor formula of titles like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slender, but forgoes any sort of ingenuity or elegance (frankly, it should have looked to Gone Home for inspiration on that front) in favor of a dull-as-nails, randomly generated maze procedural. Flagrantly misapplying the PlayStation 4’s freshly unveiled Unreal Engine 4, it looks like it was slapped together overnight, with a plethora of buggy annoyances from rough edges to muddy surface textures and glitchy lighting effects. If developer Zombie Studios intended for this to be a center-stage showcase for the power of the UE4, they’ve failed outright, only succeeding in revealing just how much more fine-tuning has to be done before moving on to projects with substantially larger budgets.
The game’s story is as dim as its dreary environments, casting players in the role of a woman named Sarah who awakes in a vacant, mysterious hospital with, of course, no memory of how she came to arrive there. Eerie voices instruct her to comb the surrounding premises for answers, and, equipped with nothing but a cellphone-generated compass/map (and occasionally flares and glowsticks), Sarah delves deep into the occult history of the facility and adjacent prison. There’s a feeble attempt at intrigue with some witchcraft allegory and a fractured mother-daughter relationship, but the core gameplay is so vastly underdeveloped that Daylight’s triteness is difficult to entertain for more than a 45-minute session—and that’s probably pushing it. Traveling through blandly conveyed shadow-soaked corridors in search of bygone remnants and potentially paranormal sigils that lead to new areas is a lethargic routine, which is a surprise given that every zone regenerates its layout upon entering. If executed correctly, this could have been a source of many a well-measured fright, but Daylight’s aesthetics are exceedingly low-rent and outclassed by the myriad of last-gen games it seeks to imitate.
There’s not a shred of innovation or much of a concerted effort to evoke terror in players throughout the entirety of Daylight. Not even the sound design, a down-market mix of creaky floorboards, rattling metallics, and the ethereal shuffling of the game’s crepuscular enemies who chase you when key items are obtained, is up to snuff (glyphs that appear on Sarah’s arms are like catnip for evil spirits, apparently). Most egregiously of all, these preternatural foes are so easily thrown off-course that they hardly count as threats. Whether you choose to discompose them with a handy shot of chemiluminescence or simply turn tail and flee, Sarah’s tenebrous pursuers are akin to a platoon of untrained infantrymen deployed in battle. Sporadically, Daylight strives to elicit panic and sudden shocks, but what it ultimately ends up doing is horrifying by way of its defectively nightmarish presentation.