Daylight is an upcoming survival-horror game for the PlayStation 4 and PC. Zombie Studios is developing the horror title using Unreal Engine 4 with Atlus publishing the game in early 2014. Orginally, Zombie Studios announced Daylight earlier this year in February as a horror title utilizing the latest Unreal Engine. After that the game made showings at PAX East and GDC, then in June, Atlus announced it would be publishing Daylight. The Daylight announcement came from Atlus on GT.TV’s pre-E3 episode. Before the episode, it was clear that the announcement would be Daylight with Jared Gerritzen, studio director at Zombie Studios, welcoming the partnership on his twitter.
The game takes place in an abandoned hospital with a sketchy past. Players take control of a young woman who wakes up with no memory of how she arrived at this inhospitable location. The young woman has no access to weapons, she cannot fight back and the only tool she has at her disposal is her cellphone. The cellphone acts as the woman’s lifeline. It is her sole light source, but it serves another purpose as a compass, which will be invaluable when navigating the game. It is a little thing, but having the protagonist use a smartphone as her main means of progress is an extremely smart move. It adds a sense of modernity without becoming Scream 4 with distracting iPhone everywhere like a weird slasher Apple commercial parody. While the story, to its own benefit, uses horror tropes to create a recognizable scenario for players, much like other horror games recently, Daylight smartly takes a no combat approach to blunt the opportunities to border on well worn territory by creating an uneasy atmosphere.
Where most horror games have lost their edge due to everyone in them becoming walking killing machines replete with an attache case that can hold RPGs and chainsaws, the current idea to preserve the horror genre is to take combat away. It is the right move because it creates stakes for the player the story. Many recent horror games have taken the no combat approach, but Daylight adds another element to make things more unsettling and potentially terrifying by using procedural generated levels. The procedural generated element gives the game a greater sense of uncertainty because all players will be able to count on is that they have a cellphone and their wits to get through the game.
Recently, at Indiecade 2013, Zombie Studios showed off Daylight’s Oculus Rift support. Playing through a level using the Rift is an interesting experience. With the Oculus Rift, there is a feeling of immersion and sensory deprivation that heightens everything when playing a game. The Rift creates a sense of being in a way that a controller alone cannot. When playing Daylight with the Rift, players will feel a more immediate connection between the young woman carrying a cellphone staggering through a disconcertingly abandoned hospital.
Daylight uses lighting extremely well, so when the various janky light sources illuminate furniture they create dramatic shadows. That coupled with the great sound design create moments of anxiety and tension as the player explores dark hallways and stairwells armed only with a cellphone. The combination of these two elements make the task of moving through a hospital hallway and stairwell seem incredibly daunting. What is really a cause for concern and what is the lighting and sound playing tricks on the mind?
While the sounds may seem like obvious misdirects, the game gives the player a reason as to why it may not. The way to move through a locked door is to find a key somewhere in the level. This involves traversing the level hoping that something scary in the dark does not lunge out at the player, but toughing it out, the player eventually finds a room with the key. Except the room is off it is covered in weird runic symbols that glow blue with a scary doll floating ominously in the middle of the room. This is where the Oculus Rift support work extremely well, the runes appeared to be floating in a three dimensional space giving an amazing effect as they glowed dully in the dark. The weird blue hue and the depth of the doll floating made for a creepy experience. Despite the clearly supernatural and disconcerting vibe of the room, grabbing the doll did not produce any immediate consequences. With key in hand, it was simply about backtracking to the locked door and unlocking it. A simple enough task, but using whatever bizarre magic the doll had to unlock the door lead to a ghastly specter flying out ending the demo.
Daylight is extremely promising. It is doing some interesting work with lighting and sound design that should create for some tense psychological horror prospects. There seems to be a good balance between atmosphere and outright creepy supernatural stuff occurring in the background. The procedural generated level element is the most exciting aspect because it might add a huge well of replayability to the game. It is a good time to be a horror fan because there is no shortage of terrifying games coming out. Next year will see the release of Daylight on both the PC and PS4. It will be joined by the recently announced Soma from Amnesia creators (PS4 and PC) and the PS4 release of Outlast. In early 2014, horror fans will be able to experience what Daylight has to offer.