We're going to set our stall out right from the start: Daymare: 1998 is disappointing. It's sad we have to say that because, on the one hand, we massively support indie game developers like Invader Studios, but on the other, we have a responsibility to give you, dear readers, a meaningful review. And so, without further ado, here's what we thought of Daymare:
To give you a bit of backstory if you don't know its origins, Daymare: 1998 started life as a fan-made Resident Evil 2 remake (we guess that's why the title still contains the "1998"). Capcom shut the project down, later revealing that they were developing their own version of the game. The developer ploughed on with making its own version, but it's an obvious homage to the RE series.
You start the game as a HADES elite soldier sent into a facility on a search and retrieve mission. Nearly every single scientist and security guard is dead... but predictably they're not dead-dead. The character looks like Hunk from RE2 and it would be easy to write it off at the start. Luckily, the game takes an unexpected swerve in the story (that we'll talk about later). Before long the dead start coming back to life and when that happens, we're treated to one of the worst zombie experiences we've had in a while. The only issue we have now is where to start.
OK. Ammo... there isn't enough. We've seen difficult survival horror games in the past, but even on Normal that experience is gruelling and punishing to the point that it loses all fun. The bullet physics don't feel satisfying when they hit their targets, and the game has a reload system where you have to manually reload the bullets and sort them into their clips. We get realism, but why bother? Then there is one of the worst inventories we have ever seen. There's a clunky system on the character's arm accessed via a series of menus - all in real-time - meaning that while you're messing around, a zombie can chew your face off.
The game takes place in a little town in Idaho where a sinister company called Hexacore Biogenetics has a major influence on the local area. You can see where this is going. You have to visit a series of locations around the town as the story begins to reveal itself and Hexacore's plan unfolds. It's just a bit too hard, though, and the frustrating challenge is made worse not only by the clunky inventory system but also voice acting so bad that it feels like it must have been a homage to the original voice acting - the dialogue is wooden and it's very difficult to connect with the characters in any way.
To give it a more positive spin, the game does look good at times. In fact, it can look great with scary zombies and great environments. The zombie models all look different and are well-designed, and there are moments when it looks really polished and you can tell that this was a real labour of love. However, there are glitches and a few additional issues that let it down once more, for example, the reflections are awful (step near a mirror or sheet of glass and you'll see). There's also a Minecraftesque steam effect that would probably have been better left out.
Then we should also mention the dossiers. Much like Resident Evil, there are a number of documents that tell the story and fill in the gaps that you just don't get to see during normal gameplay. However, when we played the game on PS4, we couldn't read them at all. We heard the noise of the page-turning, but nothing showed up on our screen. Sad to say, by this point, we weren't engaged enough to really care.
The last blow comes from the fact that hand-to-hand combat feels ineffective. We mentioned earlier that there's next to no ammo, but then after it has run out you can't really defend yourself very well anyway. It doesn't seem to stop the undead from biting you, though, and overall the fussy melee combat was just another frustrating element that added to our overall negative impression.
Now, we mentioned earlier that there is an unexpected swerve in the story. The HADES soldier is just the prologue and after that, you take charge of a small-time character in rural America. It's a nice change to the usual characters and setting, but it's not enough to save it from our final judgement. In fact, you can take control of a few different characters including HADES soldiers and a Forest Ranger called Sam. However, the gameplay doesn't alter for any of the characters you take control of, shining a light on something else that could have been interesting but ultimately wasn't.
With its brutal difficulty, annoying inventory system, constant glitches, bad animations, and dreadful voice acting glossing over any of its positive aspects, Daymare: 1998 is probably one to avoid. If you're looking for a zombie-filled experience that evokes the spirit of the '90s classics, replay one of the new Resident Evil remakes instead.