If I was to tell you that we are here to jump into a review of a survival-horror game set in 1998 where an outbreak occurs with a chemical weapon made by a shady biochemical company in a secret lab, you’d assume that we are here to cover one of the first three Resident Evil games. Well, dear readers, what’s that age-old saying? Never “assume” as it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. We are not here to cover Resident Evil. Instead, we are here to review a game that started life out as a Resident Evil remake but has now been transformed and released into a homage to Capcom’s franchise and, well, survival-horror as a genre itself. Daymare: 1998 did start life as the fan-made remake of Resident Evil 2. After a while creating that game, Capcom, of course, swooped in, halted Invader Studios’ progress and made the game themselves. Instead of throwing away the progress they had made, Invader turned the game from a complete remake of Resident Evil 2 and turned it into a homage of the series, and Daymare: 1998 was born.
People often say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, don’t they? This is not the case if that imitation is, well, garbage. So, is Daymare: 1998 a flattering initiation or a pile of chemical waste? The answer, much like a plot to a Resident Evil game, is not that simple.
Story-wise, it is nothing original. A chemical agent that turns people into zombies leaks from a secret lab. You’ll start as a member of an elite soldier from a division called H.A.D.E.S. as you are sent into this lab to secure samples of the virus and take care of a few other bits and pieces. This will not be the setting of the entire journey through Daymare: 1998 as you’ll switch settings and also characters, taking control of another member of H.A.D.E.S. and also a forest ranger named Sam. The story, while not original, does enough to keep your interest as you progress through Daymare: 1998. In true Resident Evil fashion, there are numerous documents/journals to collect along the way, presumably to dive deeper into the story.
I say presumably because, unfortunately, I was unable to open any documents during my playthrough. A quick search via Reddit shows that it wasn’t just me being a bit thick and not knowing how to read the documents, it seems to be an issue amongst several people trying to play Daymare: 1998. The audiotapes work fine, but it is incredibly frustrating not being able to read all the documents you pick up. Hopefully, Invader can sort this bug out quickly.
While the story is interesting enough, the voice acting is as you would expect it to be from a game of this type: dreadful. Resident Evil’s writing and dialogue might be some of the cheesiest around, but the voice acting is superb, especially in the recent releases. Daymare: 1998 is just a complete chore having to listen to the comically bad lines delivered with as much enthusiasm as a shark that has given up its life as a hunter and has a 9 to 5 job in an office.
Controlling the playable characters in Daymare: 1998 is, well, okay. With the camera being in a familiar over-the-shoulder third-person view, it won’t take anyone long to come to grips with the basic controls here. The camera is slightly close to the character, but the camera controls are responsive, so it is easy to check around the area to see if there are any undead chaps ready to eat a bullet. Aiming works okay too, but it’s nowhere near as precise as the vast majority of other third-person shooters many of you would have played. What will take you a while to work out is the quite bizarre inventory system installed in Daymare: 1998. It seems the team at Invader wanted to create a realistic inventory system, which is a bit of a miss rather than a hit here. The ideas are well thought out, but the actual execution makes it a bit frustrating. Reloading, for example, is not as simple as pressing one button.
To reload a weapon, you’ll have to bring up a quick item menu by pressing triangle. Here you’ll see if you have ammo for the currently equipped weapon. Okay, I hear you say. Yeah, but that isn’t the end. You then have a decision to make. You can choose to press square, which will give you a fast reload, but your character will drop the empty magazine (this is important, but we’ll get to that shortly) on the floor. You can retrieve the magazine, but that will depend on if you can get to it from either being surrounded by zombies or glitched into the floor, which is what happened to me. Now, long-pressing square will do a long reload where your character will change magazines but put the empty one in your bag. Why is it important to keep the empty magazines, I hear you ask? Well, you’ll need to refill them from boxes of ammo you have in your inventory. It’s a system that on paper might sound great, but implementing it in a game just creates an awkward and frustrating task that you have to constantly repeat.
There is enough in Daymare: 1998 for survival-horror enthusiasts to get a bit of a kick out of the 10 or so hour campaign. It’s gruesome, constrains a good few jump scares, and ammo and other resources are scarce. Puzzles are also a big part of survival-horror, and they are here in Daymare: 1998. They are the usual sort we’ve all become accustomed to: turn the power back on to so and so, unlock this and that. Some of them can take a little while to work out, but for the vast majority of them, the answers are never far away. Graphics is something that Daymare does nail pretty much without any major flaws. Lip-syncing issues are a problem, but the zombies look gruesome, and the environments you explore generally look good.
I want to like Daymare: 1998. I love survival-horror games, and Resident Evil is my favourite franchise. You can tell that this is a game made from love, but a lot of the time, love is never enough.
Developer: Invader Studios
Publisher: Invader Stuidos
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 28th April 2020