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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

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Daymare: 1998'

by Joseph Doyle on July 1, 2020 @ 1:30 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 power of large-scale governments is largely looming and overwhelming. While their presence can streamline many government processes, the consolidation of that much power is worrying. Daymare: 1998 investigates the potential horrors that money can buy and science can produce to explore how much can be won and lost in the world of human bio-engineering. Invader Studios has created a third-person shooter, zombie-horror game that's incredibly similar to many others, but it prides itself on the small details and manages to grab and keep the player's attention.

To say that Daymare: 1998 is a carbon copy of the recent Resident Evil 2 remake would almost be an understatement. You play as Liev, a member of the paramilitary unit H.A.D.E.S. tasked with investigating and clearing out a science lab at sea (a la Big Shell from Metal Gear Solid 2) after a biological incident. Arriving on the scene, what else do we find but — you guessed it — zombies! Not to give away too much, but we learn that this facility was in cahoots with the United States government to create a bioweapon that would essentially create super soldiers.

The characters, setting, and tone are pretty similar to Resident Evil. The biggest difference between the two games is that there's only one main character, and the one in Daymare is insufferable: a loyal dog to his unit but a sarcastic blowhard to everyone he encounters. This shows that the Resident Evil series politely side-steps the realistic ramifications of these experiments gone wrong. Within the first 10 minutes of Daymare, you encounter someone in the lab who's still alive and gives you information about what's going on, similar to Marvin from both versions of RE2. In this retelling, you're tasked with killing this character outright, whereas Marvin and other ancillary characters conveniently die so their protagonists can still be seen as unblemished, good people. This sort of realism is refreshing, since the government wouldn't care about your life if you were a liability to its military secrets.

The gameplay is likewise incredibly and uncannily similar to the RE2 remake. The third-person perspective develops into a close, tight angle, preventing the player from looking around and disorienting them. The controls are heavy; moving is a slow, hefty process that emulates someone who's clad head to toe in heavy military gear. You take out zombies as you progress, sometimes dealing with the same one twice, leaving the player to remember Columbus' Rule #2 from "Zombieland": double tap. The movements of the zombies are eerily similar to the Resident Evil games, with the same erratic shambling and jerking around of the head. This leads to a lot of stray bullets, but it's a welcome challenge.

Overall, there isn't much to assess in Daymare that's different from its inspiration. As you progress, you encounter puzzles that require a few logical steps, have you collect different specimens, inspect paintings, click buttons at the right time, and more. Likewise, you'll find lengthy dossiers that outline the development of the bioweapons and their inspiration, all they're all pretty well-written. You also have a percentage-based health system that uses injections that can be combined to heal you. There's a block-based inventory where you can combine things. The most notable difference is the reloading system, which requires the player to combine bullets with a clip in the inventory menu, and then perform a "long" reload, which lets the player keep the clip that's currently in the gun, as opposed to simply letting it fall to the floor if you only tap the button. Perhaps Invader Studios was trying to channel the realism invoked by the plot, but it ends up feeling tedious. This aspect sticks out like a sore thumb because all the other gameplay elements work pretty well together; other companies have had years of trial and error to work out the kinks and perfect the form.

The dark and mysterious plot is coupled with a realist aesthetic that's mired in a dark color palette, but all of it is executed rather well and easily invokes the discomfort that the game is clearly trying to instill. Darkness coats most scenes, grays and blacks are cut only by the fluorescents of the errant exit sign or office light. Visual assets gleam from the glossy rain and stylistic choices. The grunginess of rotting human flesh plays well off the impersonal metallic sheen of the science lab setting, spilling into the game's UI and inventory. While the choices in artistic direction are clear and appropriate, there are a few distracting visual glitches, such as button prompts that stay on the screen far too long (even through load zones, which is genuinely impressive) and bodies that quake endlessly on the ground, leaving some players to shoot a lot of bullets they won't get back.

Like the zombies of the game, the music in Daymare is foreboding and ever-present, lurking in the shadows, waiting to pop out at you at the right time. Alessandro Galdieri's soundtrack in Daymare is appropriately and expertly ominous and overwhelming. The soundtrack sows discord and tumult into every track. The dulcetly mixed piano and guitars clash with the grittiness of sawtooth synthesizers while strings clang in the background. You can be rushed from smooth chords to full-on orchestral crashes in mere heartbeats. The clarity of the horns and violins smash into the muffled, distorted crunches of drums and keyboards. Traditional elements of horror music are still woven into the music — squealing violins, off-beat pizzicato strings, reversed audio, etc. — to bring balance to an otherwise combative musical sequence.

Daymare: 1998 is a well-honed zombie experience that lacks originality but scratches the itch of those interested in the modern zombie game. It provides an alternate take on the traditional Resident Evil story, one that deals more harshly with the real-world consequences of investigating government science. Everything has a level of varnish, from environmental details to the documents that you read. Some of this must be counterbalanced with the fact that the game is a doppelganger. The well-crafted aesthetics also resemble the Resident Evil remakes, the Evil Within franchise, and countless others. Re-creation is many times easier than synthesis, allowing more time for attention to polish.

Score: 7.5/10

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