When Capcom politely asked Invader Studios (InvaderGames at the time) to pull the pin on its fan remake of Resident Evil 2 I was disappointed to see what was created seemingly go to waste. Alas, the disappointment wouldn’t last long – after all we got one of the best remakes ever made in Capcom’s RE2 remake, and from the ashes of Invader’s cancelled RE2 project Daymare 1998 was born. Right from the start the inspiration is obvious (I mean upon booting the game you’re greeted with the iconic ‘This game contains scenes of explicit violence and gore’ screen). The problem is that following up to Capcom’s impressive remake was always going to be a tough ask, and while Daymare delivers a faithful take on the survival horror games of yore, it’s sometimes does so to its detriment.
Iconic survival horror warning
Set in August of 1998, Daymare plays out in the city of Keen Sight, a town not too dissimilar to Raccoon City. You start your journey as Liev, a disgruntled H.A.D.E.S (Hexacore Advanced Division For Extraction and Search) member who has been tasked with retrieving a sample from a research facility owned by the Hexacore Company (aka Umbrella Corp.) where things have gone horribly wrong, with zombies and other creatures roaming the halls.
Things continue to go wrong and your quest for survival changes between three separate characters (Liev, Sam, and Raven), each with their own story threads. Each character will explore various parts of Keen Sight (sometimes the same areas) as they try and stay alive. As you’re exploring, it’s hard not to see the game as a mere reskin at times, especially when walking through the city streets. There is some fun and trepidation to be had though.
Much like its 90s counterparts, Daymare is full of cringey dialogue and terrible voice acting, and while that is part of the charm, the novelty does wear off eventually and you wonder if Invader would have been better served with using more serious voice acting to give the characters some depth, a bit like the RE2 remake did. The same could be said for the story, which is basically a carbon copy of the RE premise. Again, if you’re looking to relive the good old days then you won’t have any issues here.
Doctor, Doctor, give me the news
Like Capcom’s remake, Daymare utilises a third-person over-the-shoulder view, bringing you nice and close to the action. Each character can yield three weapons, however unlike in RE2 there are no weapon upgrades, which is a disappointing and somewhat odd omission. Furthermore, there are inconsistencies with how much it takes to put a zombie down – sometimes it can take up five shotgun blasts while other times it can require as little as two handgun headshots. Bosses are also nothing more than bullet sponges, and in some cases the difficulty spike borders on excessive. In saying that, using the shotgun is especially satisfying when you manage to blow off a zombie’s head.
It was probably expected that Daymare wouldn’t be as polished as Capcom’s RE2 remake given the budgetary differences. Nonetheless, Invader Studios has done an impressive job of making Daymare look, sound and feel like a trip down memory lane, so it’s a shame that the gameplay feels like a cheap knockoff at times. Clunky player movement and aim mechanics, an unintuitive control scheme (sprint is pinned to the left bumper for instance) and tedious inventory management make it a frustrating affair.
One thing that Daymare does do differently is the way that you access your inventory. Utilising a smartphone of sorts attached to your character’s wrist, players manage their inventory and other items via menus. Here players can equip weapons, combine or consume items, as well as view files and the map. This feature, while neat, is one that is cool on paper but fails in its execution for a variety of reasons.
Those magazines aren’t going to load themselves
Firstly, the game world does not stop around you – time waits for no person as we all know – and while this isn’t inherently bad, it’s a feature that wouldn’t be so annoying if it wasn’t so laborious. Which brings us to the second reason: reloading. Reloading is done a little differently in Daymare. Each time you want to reload your character will drop the clip inside the weapon whether it’s empty or not, and each clip needs to be manually refilled via your inventory. So whenever your clips are empty or running low you need to boot up your inventory and manually combine the two items (or combine bullets with your equipped weapon), and given the frequency which you can be doing this it becomes quite tedious after a while. There is a fast reload option that does mitigate this somewhat, but ultimately you’ll still need to refill your clips at some point.
I’m sure it’ll surprise you to hear that puzzle solving is a decent part of the game. They’re all fairly simple to solve, except for one or two more frustrating puzzles. In typical RE formula you’ll need to pay attention to your surroundings and notes if you want to find the answers or solutions.
Enemy design is well detailed and the zombie’s movement has been done well, but the same issue with the RE2 remake is present here, with a lack of variety in zombie designs. On the other hand, the main character models all look a little budget and uncanny valley sometimes.
While the technical performance couldn’t really be faulted, I did get stuck in the environment on a number of occasions which forced restarts, sometimes losing enough progress to hinder the enjoyment. However on the flip side I managed to find a way to glitch zombies inside doors, saving ammo in the process.
It’s merely a flesh wound
For better or worse, Daymare 1998 is a throwback to the survival horror glory days of the 90s and early 2000s. It proudly wears its influences and inspirations on its sleeve, almost like a badge of honour. And while there’s plenty to admire about Invader Studio’s efforts, enjoying the experience will largely depend on your desire for nostalgia. If you’re looking for more RE2 I’d say give it a chance, however if you’re new to survival horror I’d say check out the series that pioneered the genre.
Reviewed on PC via Steam // Review code supplied by publisher