Survival horror’s roots usually take us back to a few staples of the genre: a small town, a virus or outbreak of some sort, and creatures that require both strategy and cunning to take down. From these ingredients, some of the best horror experiences in gaming have emerged.
DAYMARE: 1998 is an upcoming third-person survival horror game that promises to incorporate all of these things into a familiar, but simultaneously fresh experience. After sitting down to play the first two levels, I must say, there’s a lot to like. Let’s find out if this game could potentially stand among the all time greats in the halls of horror.
Killer Atmosphere and Unique Mechanics
The setup of DAYMARE: 1998 will feel very familiar to anyone who has played their fair share of survival horror. It takes place in a small town, plagued by a chemical weapon that has somehow escaped from the depths of a research facility. The compound turns people into bloodthirsty monsters.
You will play as three different characters in the full game: a H.A.D.E.S operative working for the Hexacore Biogenetics company responsible for the outbreak, a helicopter pilot, and a forest ranger. In the preview I played, I was able to experience one of these perspectives playing as the operative sent into the depths of the research facility to recover a sample and remove any and all incriminating evidence.
Right off the bat, DAYMARE: 1998 really captures the look and feel of classic survival horror. The Unreal Engine 4 does a phenomenal job of capturing the dark environments, flickering lights, and dancing shadows of areas illuminated by flaming wreckage. Just walking into the research facility brings to mind some of the best in the genre in terms of atmosphere.
While playing from multiple perspectives is nothing new, starting the game out as what could arguably be called the “bad guy,” immediately places you in some intense and morally uncomfortable positions. Not only is the operative, Liev, quite unlikable, but he has no qualms with helping his employers cover up their involvement in this outbreak.
Working my way through the research facility, it was clear that a lot of thought went into giving DAYMARE: 1998 its own identity. Coming from the same team that once worked on a Resident Evil 2 remake (before Capcom shut them down), you can see the influences plainly here.
Even so, beyond a similar premise, the rich amount of collectible documents and attention to detail in the environment helped me quickly feel like DAYMARE: 1998 had its own identity. This is further showcased in the gameplay, which offers a few intriguing mechanics of its own.
For starters, reloading is done by ensuring you have a clip in your quick slot (which can be filled in your inventory menu. A separate quick slot is assigned to your designated health item. When you go to reload, a press of the button will cause you to drop the clip in the weapon and slam another one inside. You can pick up the clip you dropped, but otherwise you lose the bullets you had left.
Now, holding the reload button gives you a more traditional reload animation and conserves any remaining bullets. This choice is important, because if you’re surrounding or cornered, a quick reload could save your life. It also requires you to manage your inventory well by placing bullets from boxes into the clip you have assigned to your quickslot.
A Similar attention to detail is shown in the health menu, which has an overdose meter. Using too many health items in quick succession can lead to an overdose, which has negative effects of its own. Finally, the game allows you to distinguish between jogging or full on sprinting, offering plenty of mobility.
Once you’re outside, you’ll also need to content with the viral gas in the air. You can only last so long before you need to find shelter, so this time mechanic adds a nice level of tension to exploration in outdoor areas.
While the aiming did feel a little loose to me, the overall mechanics and controls felt very solid for a preview build. There was a surprising level of polish to the graphics and gameplay that made me very confident in the upcoming console release.
If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it was the hacking mechanic. The concept is fine, stopping two moving lights in specific points, but it requires an item to initiate. If you fail, you lose the item and must find another before you can attempt the hack again. Personally, I think a more lenient system would fare better. After all, the game isn’t about hacking, so hitting a brick wall just because you don’t have any of the required items to hack seems like a poor reason to halt the pacing.
Other than that, I really enjoyed the puzzles which required observation and reading of the documents you find to reach the correct conclusions. It all felt very true to classic survival horror, with only a few minor missteps. Given the quality of the build I played, I could see this being a very successful homage to the horror greats, but time will tell.
The Best Kind of Déjà Vu
From a presentation standpoint, DAYMARE: 1998 excels in almost every way. The level of detail in the environments and enemies made for a superbly tense and gory experience. I will say that actual character models left a bit to be desired when compared to the surroundings, but it wasn’t enough to pull me out of the experience.
The sound design combines well with the atmospheric environments to really nail that feeling of uncertainty. With two difficulties to choose from, horror fans can also make the enemies suitably threatening if they are so inclined, along with limited resources to keep yourself alive.
I went into DAYMARE: 1998 expecting a solid survival horror experience, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how much the team has managed to nail the look and feel of much larger budget horror titles.
DAYMARE: 1998 is scheduled for a PC release in summer of 2019, with a console release to follow. This is one to keep your eye on, horror fans. You can bet that when the full title releases on PS4, we’ll be here to weigh in with our final verdict. In the meantime, stay safe! You never know when a biotech corporation may “accidentally” release their latest concoction.
An early version of DAYMARE: 1998 was provided to PS4 Experts for preview purposes and tested on a Windows 10 PC
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 7/8/19