Daylight? More like Darklight. Because it's so fu*king dark in here and I can't god damn see and there are fu*king ghosts everywhere god damn it Hamza why did you make me preview this game.
This is what I remembered a few minutes into Zombie Studios' Daylight: “Horror games scare me. Why am I playing this, oh my god, why am I playing this?”
Daylight aims to address the issue of scares in games being one and done. With procedurally generated levels, which can scale depending on difficulty (more floors, dead ends, and so on at higher difficulties), and a variety of scare tactics, it could be successful at consistently providing different experiences, encouraging multiple playthroughs and experience sharing.
I only played through a small portion of the game, so I don’t know how it will hold up over an entire playthrough, let alone multiple. What I do know is that the bit I played had my heart racing faster than any game I can remember playing.
Daylight (PC [previewed], PS4)
Developer: Zombie Studios
Release: Early 2014
Daylight, coming from a small-ish team at Zombie (Blacklight), might be the first Unreal Engine 4 game to market. The power of the engine, coupled with the highly improved workflow, has allowed the team to work quickly on the procedurally generated horror game. It's why the team managed to get the game running with the Oculus Rift in such a short period of time. It's the technology that's going to help make Daylight terrifying many times over.
Coming from a team whose members have worked on games like FEAR, Condemned, and The Suffering, Daylight knows how to scare. It's also had the benefit of wisdom and creative control. This is not an action shooter with scary elements. Tension is the most important part of a good scare. It's what drives people more and more on edge. It's what got to me and almost made me just give and say, "thanks for the demo, I refuse to play anymore."
I'm promised a number of scare tactics during the course of the game, but the one that most affected me was the strange ghost that decided to pop up and harass me every once in a while, seemingly unprompted.
I began in some sort of decrepit hospital. Yes, horror 101, but I'm told there will be more locations to explore in the full game. The light that the game's lead holds up to dimly dull the darkness had a compass on it in early screens. That's been replaced by a mini map. However, it wasn't visible in my playthrough, making navigating Daylight's maze even more stressful. "No mini-map" may become a challenge mode or part of higher difficulties, I'm told.
As I walked through dirty, abandoned corridors, getting spooked at every noise, I became slowly more unnerved. There was no reason for my fear. Nothing had happened yet. This is how tension works. It's the expectation that gnaws at you. A bookshelf rumbled a bit as I walked by and suddenly I found myself pausing before walking past any inanimate object. A seed had been planted.
Eventually I found my way to the door that would let me leave and end this nightmare. Unfortunately, it appeared locked by some arcane magic. I would have to find a talisman that allowed me to open it -- a terrifying porcelain doll with obsidian eyes and a shark's grin.But first I got lost some more.
As I wandered around, looking for the creepy doll, I accidentally took a turn into a room I had already been inside. It was a small, barren room containing nothing of interest. As I nonchalantly went to turn around, I was ambushed by a harrowing spirit. I briefly freaked out, somehow fumbling with a mouse as if I was dropping it through it sat on flat ground. Eventually I got my wits about me and booked it away, for a long while, not stopping to look back.
I had made it out okay. Except I was still stuck in a creepy hospital looking for a creepy doll while being accosted by a creepy ghost, so things were not okay. Chance encounters with the haunt left me increasingly fraught and stressed out, swearing constantly, partially directed at the two men who I knew were in the room but couldn't even steal a glance at lest I turn back to the computer and some ghoul be up in my grill.
In its simplest form, Daylight works well. There's still a lot Zombie isn't showing. A lot of semi-optional narrative bits, with note collecting, that is still under wraps. Other light sources, like flares and glows ticks will be available. There are other scare tactics, from the innocuous to the aggressive. There are other locations.Hopefully all of that translates into Daylight reaching its aims: holding up as impressively replayable and consistently scary. We'll find out next year. Well, you will. I may be a scared baby and not play it.