Survival horror games have been a staple of video gaming for as long as I can remember. In the 1990s, games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill and the Parasite Eve series set the bar for the genre, drawing in millions of people who have loved on these series with the fury of demon dogs. In an attempt to pay homage to the genre back in the 1990s, developer Invader Studios and publishers Destructive Creations and All In! Games has released Daymare: 1998, a survival horror adventure in the vein of RE that is set to scare the pants right off of you. Set in the mysterious town of Keen Sight, you must take on the roles of three unique protagonists whose lives inextricably intertwine in order to uncover the final truth of what happened in Northwestern America in the year 1998 that lead to a massive zombie infestation.
Listen, if you have played any of the survival horror games that came out during the 1990s then you will know what you are in for with Daymare: 1998. Gameplay is accomplished by allowing you, dear gamer, to choose the method by which you would like to experience the game. You can use the old-style tank controls that the early games in this genre are known for or you can change it to a more modern control scheme that plays more like modern survival horror third-person games. I hated the tank controls back in the day, so I played mainly with the more modern controls, which are only moderately better but makes control a little easier. If you are looking for a more authentic experience, then the old tank controls will be how you want to play.
Once you get used to the controls of the game, it’s time to dig in to how all of the elements of the design of the game fit together. Gameplay happens in an over the shoulder, third-person perspective. You have the use of a flashlight, a pistol, a rifle and an additional item which you can assign to the four separate directions of the D-pad for quick access. In addition, by pressing on the touchpad on the PS4/PS5, you have access to the D.I.D., or the Data Interchange Device. This is basically your pause screen which gives you access to everything you will need to progress in the game from your characters stats, skills upgrade information, area map, and weapons and items, to name a few.
While Daymare: 1998 does some things well, there is one aspect of the gameplay that I would be remiss not to mention in this review. Like many games from this time, the Zombies are essentially bullet sponges. They really only have one attack which is simply to shamble towards you until they get a few feet away and then lunge at you. Ammo, as you would expect, is in short supply so defending from the zombies comes down to dispatching them with as little use of your available ammo as possible. This simply comes down to head shots for all, which became uninteresting pretty quickly. A little variation in how the zombies could be defeated would have gone a long way.
Visuals in the game are actually pretty good considering this is a throwback to games that are coming up on being thirty years old. The design of the environments are excellent with proper reflections, dark areas punctuated by lights from overhead or from a computer monitor as well as the designs of the characters. The uniforms of the rapid response team that you are a member of as well as the bloody and decrepit clothes of those who became casualties of the unfortunate consequences of the outbreak are immaculate and actually very impressive. Where the character design falls flat is in just about every facial design of these same characters. It seems as though head designs were farmed out to a whole different studio as they don’t really look like real people and seem very noticeably unfinished.
The sound design is on point and helps to set the stage for a game filled with scares. Most of the game takes place at night, of course, in the dark alleys and streets of Keen Sight as well as in the dark hallways and corridors of the different facilities that you will be tasked with entering into for one mission or another. The voice acting is a little cheesy but it is par for the course for games released back then and the cast does a great job of getting that part very right. Sometimes the dialogue is cringe-worthy but I think that that is the point. The musical score is very fitting and helps to immerse you in a situation that at times feels hopeless and at others triumphant.
All-in-all, I feel that Daymare: 1998 is a game that will only appeal to a small audience that opines for the golden days of survival horror. I played the game on both my launch PS4 and my new PS5 and it handled well on both. My issues with this game aren’t based solely on how the game stands as a finished project today, but with the fact that I never really liked how many of those early games played back in the day. Those tank controls were awful and made playing the game unnecessarily difficult because you had to fight the controls in order to even play. If you remember, in Resident Evil 4, you couldn’t walk and shoot at the same time, and that game was released in 2005. That issue was remedied in a later re-release of the game, but those types of controls just will not work in a modern gaming environment, even in a game that is just paying homage to the past.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.
A shambling, flesh-hanging, blood-stained blast from the past!
Take a trip to survival horrors scary beginnings.
+ Decent story and theme
+ Visuals aren’t bad at all and helps to set the tone
+ Music is spot on and very well done
– Environmental puzzles were uninspired and dull
– Facial designs are awful
– Controls feel very dated and “still” suck
– Main character is very unlikeable