Monday, May 5, 2014

Daylight (PS4)

I love horror. Cinematic blood, guts, gore, and scares is all I need in order to be properly entertained. Nothing more, and nothing less. In fact while growing up I've spent most of my teenage, and adult life watching scary movies, and scary television shows for the sole purpose of the thrill it provides. Whether it's a movies about ghostly hauntings, sick individuals, or creatures that nightmares are made from I always find myself returning to them for the scares that they offer. Nothing quite gives you the proper jump start to the heart like a Hollywood horror flick. When it comes to scary video games the same thing could be said. Very rarely does a proper scary video come to fruition though, so you'll understand my anxiousness when I heard that Zombie Studios, and ATLUS were going to release a gaming horror experience that was ever changing.

Being the horror enthusiast that I am I was totally psyched for ATLUS's upcoming randomly generated horror game. Not only do I have a mad love for ATLUS releases, but the thought of them publishing such a game had me anticipating the potential gaming greatness incorporated. The hype was built up from the moment the game was announced, and even I helped build that hype on my blog as well as through various social media outlets. I'm sure some of you even took note of this hype. Building up hype can be a dangerous thing business-wise though. If you build it up too high everyone will expect an "AAA" title, and will not give it mercy when they experience if for themselves. Such is the case of "Daylight".

The premise of "Daylight" is a mysterious one that deals with a female protagonist named Sarah, who for some reason awoke dazed, and confused inside a dark, and long abandoned psychiatric institute for the criminally insane. This Mid Island institute in which she found herself initially held little clues as to her origins, and only through a provided cellphone with limited battery power left was she able to make even the slightest sense out of her situation. Guided my a mad doctor's ramblings Sarah stumbled about in the darkness of the institution, it's underground maintenance tunnels, and even onto the outer island itself picking up marked envelopes along the way that held clues to the Island's, and it's inhabitant's mysterious past. As Sarah tries her best to make sense of her predicament the doctor's ramblings become more like riddles, and taunts providing her little peace of mind as she runs through the darkness from a malevolent presence that is intent on ending her life. This is of course what the story entails, and what you'll be facing as you try to connect past events, and come out of the present-day ordeal alive.

While the game has it's jump scares, ghosts, and ghostly goings on it also deals with a supernatural lore similar to many tales of horror from the world of entertainment. In the randomly generated mazes of Kipling Island, and the Mid Island Penitentiary you will take on the role of Sarah as she continues to listen to the ramblings of the man on the smartphone, and collects the necessary remnants (clue carrying envelopes & letters) that must be gathered in order to gain access to the sigil item which is located somewhere amidst the dark mazes. Each area of Kipling Island has a set of marked envelopes, and remnant articles that must be obtained from lockers, desks, and lock boxes. After gathering all of the necessary remnant documents you must make your way to the glowing cult-like marker, and pick up a sigil item (Teddy Bear, Scissors ...) that must be carried to a locked door/gate with a similar glowing symbol in order to unlock it, and move on to the next area.

While these are your straightforward objectives you will also have to avoid the game's sole hazard. This hazard comes in the form of a malevolent female spirit who is chasing you throughout your nightmarish journey of discovery. Your only warning to this spirit's approach is static interference on your smartphone, and some visual effects that tie in with the unusual markings that were branded upon your arm at the beginning of the game. There's even the signature moans, groans, and screams associated with the spectral apparition as she gets closer to where you are. As one might expect you are not entirely helpless against the threat of this otherworldly inhabitant though. The good guys at Zombie Studios have included a couple of things to aid you as you run for your life throughout the labyrinthine mazes of Kipling Island. These assist items come in the form of glow sticks, and flares which can be held, carried, or dropped with applied button presses.

The glowsticks which are more plentiful than any other item in the game are only helpful in the sense that they allow you to see hidden remnants/items, and movable objects that are highlighted with the same pattern that was branded upon your arm. The glow produced will also help you to see the footprints left behind by Sarah in a forensic manner making your trek through the multiple pathways an easier one. These green glowing sticks which shine brighter than your smartphone screen ever will even allow for a better view in the all encompassing darkness. Keep in mind that the glow coming from these sticks, and the red flares will only last for so long though. When it comes to the flares that you'll sometimes collect by searching lock boxes they happen to be your only line of defense for when the spectral nemesis gets a little too close for comfort. By striking a flare you can burn the spectral apparition to ashes before it reaches you. Both flares, and glowsticks are obtainable few, and far between so you must use them sparingly if you hope to survive for the long haul.

Aside from your two saving graces (glowsticks & flares) you'll also find comfort in knowing that once you get through the final gate of an area your progress will be saved, and can be reloaded afterwards. Keep in mind though that if you die before getting to a save point you must start over with zero remnants/envelopes obtained, and must face the maze again, but in a different build. As I mentioned earlier this game is never the same twice. The maze-like areas that make up the game's playing field are randomly generated as are the location of the remnants that you must collect. This makes the playthroughs more challenging, and definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to fully complete the game's story. If I could offer any worthwhile hint at all it would be to run through, or past the ghostly apparition when you are out of flares. There's no sense in standing still, and accepting an untimely fate.

About the graphics & sound ...

From what I understand "Daylight" is the first game to utilize the Unreal Engine 4 on the PS4. This in itself  is a huge step into the future for console gaming, especially for a niche gaming studio such as ATLUS, and Zombie Studios. After personally playing the game myself, and seeing what it had to offer visually I could definitely see the next-gen quality that I've been longing to see. While the graphics are impressive in their own right the developer did make an odd choice by making Sarah's hands, and arms look less than human though. Sarah's visible anatomy (she's in the first-person perspective, arms only), and certain other in-game details have a near cell-shaded look that make the scary atmosphere of the game a little less scary. Even the female ghost that pops up randomly doesn't look all that realistic in the sense that she doesn't seem as if she's in the room with you. I get that ghosts aren't supposed to be real in appearance, but the ghost does not appear as if it's really there in the room/s with Sarah.

Aside from visual details, and offerings "Daylight" offers one heck of an ambient soundtrack that sets the mood for the adventure before you. Sound effects tied in with Sarah's movement throughout her environments make her presence in the various locales of Kipling Island all the more realistic. Even her environmental interactions carry with them their own real life sound effects. As far as music scores go the developer has included the proper atmospheric music that hints at the danger when the threat of a close encounter is just around the corner, or behind you. As such the experience harkens back to many of the modern-day horror flicks offered up by Hollywood directors. As a total package the short lived tale of Sarah is not all that bad graphics, and sound-wise. In fact in some respects it's downright impressive.

Something I forgot to mention ...

One of Daylight's huge selling points was it's in-game chat function. Gamers other than yourself can type in/speak keywords that were put into place by ATLUS which will trigger specific effects during your playthrough. This adds additional scares, and keeps you on your toes as you try to collect all the remnants, and the key that is necessary for progression. While I'm not certain what words will do what you'll likely find some sources online that will clue you into the chat commands that will trigger the additional scares. It should also be noted that I'm unsure as to whether this feature goes along with the PC version, or the PS4 version. While doing my own playthrough on the PS4 I noticed no such feature, but could have overlooked it.

Now for the verdict ...

At the end of the day (pun intended) "Daylight" is a short lived experience with some proper horror elements put into place. As impressive as it is though the game falls short of being as grand as it was hyped to be. With generic/cliche features ripped from the "Slender" games, and a short lived story that relies heavily on the reading of obtained letters, and clippings this game ends up not being as great as it could've been. Even so I have personally found it to be not that bad either. If you are into the horror genre, and don't mind a short creepy journey into dark locales this game might just impress you enough for one playthrough, or for a Youtube walkthrough. There are a handful of puzzles to solve, plenty of spooky eye candy, and even some jump scares thrown in for good measure. The fact that the locales, and obtainable items are randomly generated will give players a proper challenge, and not make the playthrough so straightforward.

Before I close I should also mention that the game graphically stutters at certain points causing for a frustrating struggle to continue to your desired objectives. This glitch happens ever so often, and mostly in between cinematic sequences, and your movements/actions afterwards. Hopefully this bug can be fixed through a patch though.

Verdict: Play a Friend's copy!!!

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