Daylight is a randomly generated first-person horror game.
I chose to lead my review with that sentence because it does the most adequate job of describing what Daylight is and what it brings to the table. Also first-person horror games, Outlast (also on PS4) and Amnesia: The Dark Descent are extremely well-regarded experiences carefully crafted to provide a relatively brief adventure and a lasting impact. Daylight is much shorter than these games and makes less room for such craft in its randomized approach, so one would hope it has something to prove it can hang with the modern horror big dogs.
In Daylight, you explore an abandoned hospital and surrounding outdoors to discover why Sarah, our protagonist, is in this place to begin with. Mostly, this consists of you finding notes and items to gather story clues piece by piece. Some of this collection is required to progress, which makes it all the more frustrating that the game decides to generate a new map layout every single time you start a new game.
This should build replayability in theory, but what this really does is guarantee backtracking through boring corridors and rooms that frequently repeat and have no intuitive rhyme or reason. Additionally, the fact that the camera insists on shaking at Sarah’s every step gave me a mild headache after about 30 minutes of play, making this backtracking that much more frustrating. The rest of the gameplay consists of simple box pushing puzzles once in a while and fending enemies off with flares. Neither is particularly difficult to deal with, and the combat becomes so effortless after a few times that it’s hard not to get bored by the time you hear another scream.
These criticisms void the game of most of its personality and fun, but Daylight isn’t a complete dud. Its dead quiet approach to sound design does an effective job of making impactful initial tension and a spooky first few jump scares, and this is further assisted by effective lighting and highly detailed textures. Unfortunately, this tension really only pays off in simple jump scares, so while the game does a great job at the beginning of building tension and giving me a racing heartbeat, the un-fun gameplay, repetitive scenery, and lack of a compelling hook makes it stumble to the finish line. If you’re still interested in getting the game after this, it comes with Twitch integration that allows users to type in chat commands to set scares off in-game. It’s a neat gimmick that works, but it proved negligible to the overall experience.
Daylight hangs around briefly enough that I don’t grow to hate it, and it starts with enough spooky promise that I wonder what could have been had its initial tension not completely collapsed an hour in. Regardless of what could have been, few of its parts work, and even worse, it does nothing to separate itself in a positive way from better games that already exist on Sony’s new console.
PS4 review code provided by Atlus. Daylight is now available on PlayStation 4 and PC.