A Return to Classic Survival Horror… Maybe.
Check out my in depth Trophy Guide that details every file, audio log, deer statue, hidden room and ID Tag in the game. I’ve also written exactly where and how you can earn almost every single trophy and if you’re struggling with “Daymare” difficulty, there’s a handy Boss Guide and Tips section at the bottom.
I feel like I’ve said this too much in recent years, but Survival Horror games are my absolute favourite, and chief among those games sits the Resident Evil series. Imagine my reaction when I spotted Daymare: 1998, a game which promises to “return to the roots of survival horror”, whilst trawling the “New” section on the PSN Store.
It’s clear from the trailer that Invader Studios has a crush on the Resident Evil series and they’re proud to admit it. However, Daymare: 1998 is more than just an homage to classic survival horror the RE games. It actually started life as a fan-remake of Resident Evil 2, until 2015 when Capcom announced their remake and Invader Studios was forced to pivot to an entirely new game. The team claims to have worked closely with Kazuhiro Aoyama (Resident Evil 3: NEMESIS Director) and Satoshi Nakai (Enemy Lead Designer for the Resident Evil Series) on Daymare: 1998 with them even visiting Capcom’s headquarters in Osaka, Japan. Not bad for a small indie team.
So, we have a small group of developers, with an intense passion for survival horror, all working on a game, that takes a hearty dose of inspiration from Resident Evil, that’s trying to recapture the survival horror glory days. But does the game accomplish what it set out to do, and is the game worth it?
Survival of the Horriblest
Daymare: 1998 takes place, well… In 1998. Which is the year Resident Evil 2 came out. Coincidence? No, not at all. The developers don’t try to hide their infatuation with Resident Evil 2, which results in some painfully obvious design. The main bad guy is a pharmaceutical company looking to expand their portfolio by creating bioweapons. This company is called Hexacore and their logo is… a white and red hexagon… hmm, that seems familiar. One day, a deadly virus is released inside a secret Umbrella Hexacore lab and the staff are turned into… Zombies? Okay. Luckily for the survivors, Hexacore has their own private group of mercenaries, called U.B.C.S—wait, let me check my notes… H.A.D.E.S, they’re called H.A.D.ES—who is dispatched to contain the situation and retrieve a sample of the deadly virus for science reasons and profit, I guess?
Okay, so all goofs aside, Daymare: 1998 takes a lot of elements from Resident Evil and doesn’t really do anything new with them. There’s a faceless evil corporation, a group of shady mercenaries, and a deadly virus outbreak and an innocent, yet capable, civilian who becomes entangled in the chaos. However, since the game did originally start off as a fan-remake of RE2 and it’s possible to copy a formula and still end up with some amazing, I’ll lay off the comparisons to Resident Evil and judge Daymare: 1998 fairly.
You play as Liev, a member of H.A.D.E.S, who is tasked with heading inside the Hexacore facility and extracting the virus sample. Upon entering and coming across your first survivor, the game forces you to execute the poor guy, thus letting you know that you’re not the good guy here. Further into the facility and you come across your first collectible. A file that details a revenge scheme by the Japanese, shortly after the truly horrendous end to WWII. Clearly this revenge never panned out because the Japanese submarine carrying the virus they planned to release on the American population ended up in the hands of Hexacore. Sadly, we never really learn more as the only time the game brings it back up again is after Liev spots the submarine on the way back from turning the power on.
I must admit, the game is quite janky, but I was expecting a fair bit of jank before I even booted the game. What surprised me though was the atmosphere of Chapter 1. Invader Studios manages to capture a terrifying sense of dread as you creep around a dead facility that, just a few hours ago, was vibrant and filled with colleagues drinking coffee, conversing and going about their day. Sadly the chapter is quite short and is plagued with the worst line of dialogue I have ever heard in a video game. When Liev spots the Japanese Submarine and reports it to his comrades, a weirdly angry Sandman replies with “Focus on the mission Agent! I don’t care what titter-ridden cow curdles the milk those pasteurizing big shots call us in to mop up.”. I… What?
The dialogue is often really bad in this game. Not like the original Resident Evil bad where it’s actually quite funny and cartoonish, but bad like you wrote a script that makes sense in your native language but absolute nonsense when you run it through Google Translate. Most characters have weird accents and deliver their lines as if they’re reading them for the first time. There’s also the case of the subtitles not matching up with what’s actually being said. In Chapter 2, Samuel is wronged by Sandman and discovers he’s heading to the Hospital. Samuel’s subtitles read, “The Sacred Heart Hospital… Here’s going there… and then I’ll be there” but what Samuel actually says is “The Sacred Heart Hospital… he’s going there… and then he’ll be there” which, again… What?
Speaking of Chapter 2, it’s by far the best chapter in the whole game. It perfectly nails the Survival Horror genre with it’s cramped hospital interior and backtracking from place to place to complete puzzles and open new areas to explore. The only problem—which plagues the whole game, not just chapter 2—is that the location of every item you need is as far away from the place you need to use it as possible. I could probably shave off 30 minutes to an hour off my final time if I didn’t retread so much ground.
The story is actually quite interesting. Hexacore is clearly the big villain—everything that happened is entirely their fault—but the story instead chooses to focus on the smaller plights of the 3 main characters. Raven is a H.A.D.E.S pilot who ends up stranded from his team and helicopter. Liev is a loyal soldier who does his absolute best to see the mission through and Samuel is just a bystander caught up in a revenge story. These three character’s stories feel much more personal than anything Hexacore is involved in. I mean, how many people can empathise with fighting a corrupt pharmaceutical corporation responsible for murdering a small town “by accident”?
Hands down, the best thing that Daymare: 1998 does, is with its reload system. You still have to press to reload all weapons, but if you quickly tap it then your character ejects the magazine, throws it to the ground and jams a new one in there as fast as they can. You can then go pick the mag back up when you’ve dealt with the threat. Or, if there is no threat, you can hold and your character will slowly eject the mag, pocket it and calmly put a new one into the weapon. This little mechanic opens the game, strategically speaking. During a boss fight, it’s probably better if you use quick reload since the boss could easily close the gap in the time it takes to properly reload your gun.
So, is Daymare: 1998 worth it? Based on the story and the gameplay, I would have to say yes. It’s not groundbreaking, the character performances are wooden and the framerate is less than stable, but if you take a peek under the few messy layers, Daymare: 1998 is actually quite fun and enjoyable. Sure, fans of Survival horror will likely get more of a kick out of it than the average gamer, but I’d still argue that there’s fun to be found here for everyone.
Okay, so I’ve mentioned that Daymare: 1998 stinks of the old jank juice, but I feel obligated to detail just how janky it can be.
If you have 3 mags for your pistol and you manually reload, putting the now empty mag back into your inventory, then reloading a 2nd time tells you that “you cannot reload an empty mag”. You have to press to switch to the full mag before you can reload. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but it seems a bit pointless regardless.
The framerate often drops way below 30fps and the game can freeze for up to 10 seconds if you run through an area faster than it can load. Your character also seems to bob up and down in a jagged pattern every now and then as if you’re stuck on something.
The vertical and horizontal camera movement is set to 83 and the aim sensitivity is 80% by default. This is way too high and you end up overshooting everything you try to aim at. I figured this isn’t a problem on the PC version and the developers never bothered to test it on consoles.
Suspending the game is where you can cause the most damage. I had to restart from scratch twice because I suspended the application before I got the ability to manually save part way through Chapter 2. All the buildings, cars and other scenery completely despawned and upon reaching the next checkpoint, they all came back, but not in their original places. This caused a huge building to intersect with the main path and completely blocked me from progressing. The 2nd time I suspended the application, the game completely robbed me of all my ammo and items and took all my health off me.
Luckily the developers released a patch while I was playing which seemed to fix some of the janky performance. However, you still can’t suspend the app.
My Daymare: 1998 Platinum Trophy Journey
Since I’m no slouch when it comes to hard games and Survival Horror, I immediately launched the game in “Daymare” difficulty. Ammo is scarce, even the weakest enemies do considerable damage and everything takes a billion bullets to kill. Sounds perfect.
During my first playthrough, I tried to get as many of the collectibles as I could and after being forced to restart from scratch twice by the glitches mentioned above, I had a pretty good idea of where everything was. Still, I managed to miss a file. It was also important that I didn’t die during this playthrough to get the Immortal trophy out of the way so I could focus on just playing the game on my next run.
After beating the absolute bullet sponge of a boss and finishing the game, I reloaded an earlier checkpoint and farmed 100 quick reloads, 100 slow reloads and traded in items 10 times. This was all I really needed to do before I started my inevitable speedrun.
For my speedrun, I chose Easy mode. Don’t judge. I just wanted to get through the game as fast as possible which is actually attainable on Easy mode as most zombies take 2 rounds to the torso to kill. My speedrun time ended up being about 2h 30m since I forgot some puzzles and the location of the damned closet in Chapter 2 (it’s on the 3rd floor near where you 1st enter the Hospital) but I managed to finish in under 4 hours as the trophy required.
The only thing I had to do now was sit through the end credits sequence and wait for my well deserved platinum.
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