I’m not sure I like the word “derivative”. It feels like the kind of word thrown around by YouTube essayists to sounds very clever; rather than saying Darksiders is like The Legend of Zelda, saying it’s derivative convinces your audience that maybe that degree in Linguistics actually might make you qualified to talk about game design.
It’s so difficult to truly make anything original these days that it’s often said that it’s impossible to create something that’s completely devoid of outside influence and to some extent I agree. Originality no longer describes the creation of something untouched by what came before it but should rather speak to something that interprets its influences in a way that’s unique and fresh.
That was the case with the recent Resident Evil 2 Remake: While it wasn’t exactly an original game, it interpreted the games that inspired it to create something that people are still enthralled by six months later. Daymare tries something similar to the RE 2 Remake but commits perhaps one of the cardinal sins of art: Being so influenced by something you inadvertently make a worse version of your inspiration.
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again because I think it bears repeating: I hate comparing games to other games in order to describe the experience. At best it’s a disrespect to the developers who built the game and at worst it’s lazy writing. Yet, and I cannot stress this enough, Daymare 1998 is the discount version of the Resident Evil 2 Remake. It bears so many overt and minute similarities to Capcom’s survival horror game that it seemingly forgets to really add anything new into the mix. Zombies? Check. Enclosed, claustrophobic levels? Check. A shady military organisation? Checkarino. A chemical weapon produced by a corporation that has an overtly evil name?
Yeah, Hexacore’s got you covered there. Following the different characters involved in Daymare’s split-perspective storyline feels like a Resident Evil game cranked out by the B-team of Capcom and while more Resident Evil isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, Daymare feels more like a fan-made mod someone thought to sell as an actual product.
And yet to call Daymare 1998 unplayable wouldn’t be fair. While the game is an unabashed clone of the Resident Evil 2 Remake, it’s one that’s still competently made. Levels are maze-like structures that will require backtracking to fully explore, weapons feel good to fire and at times the environments can really pop with some excellent lighting and special effects. Yet it does none of these things quite as competently as the folks over at Capcom. While the levels are indeed large and complicated, they’re often quite bland in their layout, meaning you’ll probably be stumbling around the dark longer than you’d like because your newly discovered pair of bolt cutters only work on one specific chain which kinda just looked like every other chain when you walked past it.
While the weapons do occasionally hit their mark with a satisfying explosion of blood, their impact never quite reaches the gory glory of a headshot in RE 2. Coupled with some issues around hitboxes and enemies that take just a few too many buckshot to the face to put down, combat always felt incredibly tense in a way that I don’t think was necessarily on purpose. Ammo was spread around enough that I never had a difficult time choosing which zombies to avoid or put down because I was confident I would be able to return at a later point with a full clip so whenever I encountered a small group, my muscles tensed up because I was scared the game wouldn’t register a headshot and I’d get swarmed.
Daymare 1998 also just lacks a lot of the flair and polish that made RE 2 stand out amongst the survival horror genre. It’s most glaringly obvious in many of the game’s pre-rendered cutscenes with animation that ranges from passable to painfully bad. The same can be said about the writing and voice-acting; the game wants to be taken incredibly seriously despite one revenge-driven character saying maybe my favourite line of the year:
“He will be at the hospital. Then he will be there.”
That’s the quality of writing we’re talking about here. I’m unsure whether it’s an issue of writing or translation gone wrong, but the performances were undoubtedly my favourite parts of the game. With such self-serious deliveries, the characters morphed into hollow clichés that seemed to all know their role in the unfolding personal drama of a betrayed soldier, sinister double agent and enraged civilian.
None of the characters play differently, all just offering up small differences in the weapons they incorporate in dispatching their infected, undead foes. The story should be enjoyed by anybody looking for a good “Troll 2-like” experience, besides some really off pacing during missions that make for chapters that feel overly bloated and just too long.
See, as I’m trying to wrap this review up, I’m torn. As a critic, it would be irresponsible for me to recommend you to buy Daymare 1998 when the Resident Evil 2 Remake already exists on such a high level of quality that spending a little extra for it just makes sense. Yet as a supporter of small dev teams, I applaud the effort the studio took in making Daymare. It’s not a bad game, it has certain moments where it just tickles the underbelly of success but everything it sets out to accomplish has already been done so much better. This isn’t a case of a game incorporating mechanics from a scattershot of different genres to a diluted effect, but a 1:1 comparison between two games that could almost be twins.
It’s just unfortunate that Daymare 1998 is the uglier twin that just hasn’t been able to achieve as much as their sibling.
Last Updated: September 17, 2019