Daymare: 1998 has a neat origin story, with it starting life as a Resident Evil 2 remake before Capcom announced that they were making an official one of their own. Tough luck, huh? Well, the team at Invader Studios decided that they’d take what they worked on and adapt it into a unique survival horror experience of their own, albeit one that shared plenty of similarities with Capcom’s critically acclaimed series.
However, whilst Capcom went on to revolutionise the survival horror genre with the Resident Evil 2 Remake, Daymare: 1998 just feels very underwhelming and dated in design.
Daymare: 1998’s tale may feel a little familiar to most: a shady organisation has been toying around with deadly viruses and an outbreak has seen people turn into vicious zombies. These zombies are a little different though, since they don’t bite you but instead throw up on you… weird. You take on the role of three different characters in varying circumstances during this outbreak as they look to find out what’s going on and, ultimately, survive.
I don’t know whether it’s trying to act as a homage to the original Resident Evil, but the script and voice acting is pretty bleak. The dialogue is corny and there are clichés aplenty in both the characters and the overall narrative. I’ll admit, I didn’t hate Daymare: 1998’s tale and a lot of the cheesiness was forgivable (and almost endearing at times), but it still left me cringing in places.
I could go into a lot of depth about what exactly Daymare: 1998 offers as a horror title, but it’d be easier to just say that it plays a LOT like a Resident Evil game. This means you can expect to explore zombie-filled locales, do a bit of puzzle solving, and take down some monstrous enemies that get increasingly nastier the further you progress through the game. Whilst the game is inspired by the original Resident Evil 2, it adopts the series’ over-the-shoulder viewpoint from the later games, so it does feel more modern in design. You won’t have to deal with tank controls either, which is ALWAYS a plus.
That’s not to say that there isn’t clunkiness to be found in Daymare: 1998’s controls though, especially when it comes to combat. The mechanics themselves are simple enough, with the player using the left trigger to aim and the right trigger to shoot – you can also use the right trigger to hit a melee attack if you’re not aiming, which will prove especially useful when you are running a little short on ammo. There are multiple aiming options in place too, with the player able to go for a manual, assisted, or auto-aiming option depending on their preference.
If you do opt for manual, you’re going to be in for a bit of a rough time. Whilst you are able to adjust the sensitivity of aiming, I couldn’t help but to find that it rarely offered consistency and it just felt a bit janky to line up shots. Sure, it probably doesn’t help that enemies are staggering towards you and not making themselves an easy target, but it just never felt that smooth in general – especially when compared to similar titles in the genre. The assisted and auto-aim options do make life easier, but even they could be a bit erratic as to what enemy they would actually target.
One other small issue I had with the combat was that it could be difficult to tell if zombies were actually dying or not, with their awkward animations seeing them staggering a bit before falling to their death. Whilst this sort of thing has been present in other survival horror games (including Resident Evil), the delayed nature of their demise saw me wasting plenty of ammo before I knew they really were falling to their death. Again, I have to reiterate that it’s a small issue, but it was something that frustrated me a little during my opening hour with the game.
Whilst I wasn’t a big fan of the combat mechanics, the puzzles of Daymare: 1998 were all pretty fun to solve. Much like the other aspects of the game, they’ll be familiar to anyone who has played a Resident Evil game before, with the player expected to find certain items or scour the environment for clues as they tackle each enigma.
One early puzzle sees you having to activate power switches, but the only way to work out which ones are required is by checking a nearby computer terminal and cross-referencing the abbreviations noted on it. It’s simple, but effective. Other puzzles do become a bit more elaborate though, including one which sees the player having to solve riddles by looking at nearby paintings for the answers. There’s a catch though: you have to input the answers to these riddles on a PC that uses a keyboard with Greek characters on it. What are the chances, right? Fortunately, there’s a typewriter nearby that has the correct keys for you to cross-reference the Greek keyboard with (or you can use your own knowledge of a QWERTY keyboard), meaning the solution is always nearby. Sure, it’s a drawn-out process that’s a little dated in design, but as a fan of the old-school Resident Evil games, I found this sort of thing easy to appreciate.
Whilst Daymare: 1998 does wear its inspirations like a big badge of honour, it does introduce some of its own unique ideas that can work quite well. For one, there’s a reload system in place that sees each of your magazines have a set bullet count – if you reload before it’s empty, you can keep the magazine and use it again later. There are two types of reloads though: a quick one which sees you drop the magazine and any unused bullets, and a normal reload that puts the magazine back in your inventory. It has always broken the realism in games when you reload early but still sustain the bullets that were in your previous magazine, so this adds an extra degree of immersion to Daymare: 1998 that lives up to the survival horror hallmark that supplies are limited and you have to be careful with their use. It’ll certainly make you think-twice when doing simple tasks such as reloading your weapon, whilst the fact that you can actually put bullets back into previously used magazines means that they are vital to keep.
Another neat idea comes with the playable character Samuel, who sees hallucinations because of a medical condition – it’s not ideal when you’re already surrounded by zombies, right? It’s up to you to determine which enemies are real and which are hallucinations, which means you can find yourself wasting ammo trying to kill something that isn’t even there. Again, it’s not ideal for a survival horror game where supplies are limited, but it adds to the tension of the experience and shows that Daymare: 1998 isn’t afraid to do its own thing.
Visually, Daymare: 1998 looks pretty good – it features all of the hallmarks of the Unreal Engine 4 with its shiny surfaces and slick lighting effects, but they lend themselves well to a survival horror experience. There are a decent variety of location to uncover too, and whilst derelict towns and lab facilities aren’t exactly unique to the genre, they do at least feel good to explore. The character models are a little less impressive mind, especially when you see them talking and realise the lip syncing is all over the place. Fortunately, the enemies are grotesquely designed and some look pretty horrifying in-game (in a good way), so at least Daymare: 1998 delivers where it’s important.
I have to give props to the game’s sound design too, which helped instil a real sense of unease as I worked through Daymare: 1998’s world. You’ll hear all of the typical noises that go bump in the night as you wander corridors, whilst enemies make their presence known thanks to their screeching moans – you’ll always be worrying about what might be lurking around the corner, and yeah, nine times out of ten there would be something vicious waiting for you. At least they gave you some warning, I suppose…
Whilst the visuals are pretty good, Daymare: 1998’s performance left a lot to be desired. Not only were there plenty of frame rate stutters and sketchy textures that didn’t seem to load in properly, but I also noticed that enemies would get stuck in the environment or would glitch out of an attacking animation.
One of the biggest bugs that annoyed me came with my first attempt at playing the game. I put a good thirty minutes in before I realised that the game wasn’t loading text from the documents I found – I don’t think I was missing anything vital to gameplay, but it did mean I couldn’t pick up on details of the story. I tried resetting the game and deleting my save but it didn’t fix it, so I had to uninstall the game and download it again to get it working. It’s a really weird glitch and I’m sure it’s something the developer can fix quickly, but it definitely gave me a sour start to my time playing.
Daymare: 1998 is made by a small studio on a small budget, so it is easy to be more forgiving towards some of its problems. However, when you consider that it’s competing against both the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes for survival horror supremacy on modern consoles, it’s also easy to see how short it falls of the mark in comparative quality.
With its clunky controls, poor narrative, and performance issues, it’s just a little difficult to really recommend Daymare: 1998. In fairness, it never felt awful or unplayable whilst the unnerving atmosphere and neat old-school puzzles were highlights of the experience, but overall Daymare: 1998 just felt a little underwhelming – especially when there are much better survival horror titles available on the PlayStation 4 that you can get for much cheaper these days.
Developer: Invader Studios
Publisher: Destructive Creations
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC