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October 2023

Daymare: 1998

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Destructive Creations (EU), All in! Games (US)
Developer: Invader Studios
Release Date: April 28, 2020


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Daymare: 1998'

by Cody Medellin on July 16, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Daymare: 1998 is a hardcore survival horror experience inspired by the visual style and the atmosphere evoked by cult movies of the 1990s.

The story of Daymare: 1998's creation is starting to become familiar to more than a few indie developers. A few years ago, Invader Studios started to do a remake of Resident Evil 2 way before Capcom announced that it was doing such a thing. As expected, Invader received a cease and desist notice, but no hard feelings or threats of lawsuits were made. Fast-forward a few years later, and Invader decided to take what it had learned and pressed forward with its homage, minus the licensed material. We got a look at the latest build of the game and came away hopeful.

The story will be immediately familiar to survival-horror fans. In a seaside base lies a bunch of researchers trying to develop a new chemical weapon. Naturally, the weapon goes off accidentally and infects everyone it comes in contact with. As part of a private military squad named H.A.D.E.S., your job is to retrieve the chemical and all information related to it, but your training hasn't really prepared you for this sort of thing.

For a game heavily inspired by some of the survival-horror classics, the initial impression is that the game takes a big page out of Resident Evil 4, particularly from a camera perspective. Instead of running with tank-like controls, the game adopts the viewpoint and controls of a third-person shooter, with your character placed off-center so your aim is always over the shoulder. It also takes a page from titles like Dead Space, where going into your inventory menu, as represented by a tablet on your arm, doesn't pause the action, but you can still pause the game traditionally. Finally, even though it isn't regarded as highly as the other titles in the series, Resident Evil 6 has some influence over the title, as you can play with up to three different characters over the course of the game, but the preview build only unlocked one character.

That's where the similarities end, as the rest of the game takes on more classic traits. Ammo is severely limited, and loading your gun isn't automatic. Admittedly, having several different ways to reload your gun can be a bit silly, but the fast reload where you immediately dump your clip for a fresh one is new, since you can pick up your old clip later to scavenge bullets. The move gives you a better chance at not getting bit due to your faster reaction. Button-mashing is required to push zombies away from you, since you have no melee, and you need to manually use items to heal yourself. You also gain the ability to combine items for better healing benefits.

Daymare: 1998 is rife with puzzles. The preview build gave us a good taste of this, with one puzzle requiring the player to send power to the correct places to open doors, and another puzzle tasked players with figuring out how to trick the building's security system so you can leave a room while still holding on to the canister required by your mission. One puzzle requires you to decipher the Greek alphabet, and another wants you to mess with getting temperatures right in different cryogenic chambers in order to open a specific one. Opening some doors requires you to engage in a hacking game isn't difficult but challenging because you're doing it so often. If the build is anything to go by, expect the full game to emphasize your brain rather than your bullets.

The preview build was pretty short and only featured two environments, and while the basics look fine thus far, the zombies could use some improvement. In particular, the only way to know that you killed a zombie is if you score an exploding headshot. Regular headshots are good enough to knock down a zombie, but the animation is so slow that you might waste a bullet or two on enemies that are already falling. It gets worse when the enemies are on the ground, as shooting them in a prone state doesn't seem to do anything. Knock down an enemy again, and you have no indicator that they're truly dead. It'll make you appreciate the original Resident Evil titles, as pools of blood always meant that you can save your ammo and move on instead of wondering if the zombie is ready for a few more rounds.

On the sound front, the music is fine, but the voice acting will make you giggle or groan. The lines are hokey, and the emotional inflections are all over the place, so some serious lines can sound laughable. Graphically, the environments and lighting effects are gorgeous, and the character animations are fine unless you're running, which looks awkward. Meanwhile, the faces are outright terrible, and they look worse when they move their mouths.

With a nebulous "Summer 2019" date for the title, Daymare: 1998 is looking promising. It certainly nails the classic survival-horror requirements of being more puzzle-based and not providing players with enough resources to fight their way out of a situation. There's a bit of cheesiness to go along with the good presentation, while some of the more modern touches are welcome, like the lack of pausing when looking at your inventory and having a more modern control scheme. There's still time to fix things like the graphics and kill detection for monsters, and we can't wait to see how the game progresses once a firmer release date is determined.

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