Daymare: 1998 Review

Recently a friend of mine came over and although I usually exploit his strength and youth to move things around in my house instead of tweaking my back, this particular visit I asked him if he wanted to do some Xbox couch co-op. I had been going through my monstrous Xbox 360 collection and (roughly 900 games or so – yikes!) and for some reason I had a crazy compulsion to play Fuse, a game that came out in 2013 right around the time that the original Xbox One did. I remember playing the demo/beta online before Fuse shipped and honestly, I still remember how much I enjoyed it.

Fast-forward seven years to 4K graphics, a much bigger screen, and frankly, two dudes spoiled by 2020 game standards. Our gaming experience was mostly frustrating: the graphics were dated (I mean, were textures really so bad back then? I couldn’t discern anything requiring detail), the gameplay was janky, goals were undefined and not obvious, and the list goes on. 

I know that I occasionally go down this path of yore, almost like I’m not writing a review of a game you were expecting to read about – but actually I am. It isn’t a trick. This review really is about Daymare: 1998 and I just described it to you. Yeah.

The developers at Destructive Creations have put together an ambitious third-person horror shooter that hearkens back to the old days. Yes, it’s clunky, has atypical mechanics (I’ll give some detail), and it looks like it belongs on the last generation of consoles. So here’s a question: When Resident Evil came out, was it good? Unless you’re a troll, you’re probably nodding your head yes and saying to yourself, “Why Rob, of course it was. But man, that was 1996!”. Well, what about Diablo II, Animal Crossing, or any gems of yesteryear? 

My point is that yes, it’s all of those things that I mentioned above, but unlike Fuse, those factors somehow don’t sink Daymare: 1998. To truly enjoy it though it will require two things. The first is to manage your expectations. Hopefully I’m doing a good job of that. Just because it’s nearly a decade too late doesn’t make Daymare a bad experience. Despite it being frustrating, overly complicated, and oddly paced, it’s a fun experience overall. It remains fun even when it’s coupled with the requirement to manually reload the magazines used in your gun. When is the last time in a game that your guns had to be reloaded manually? More still, if you slap in a new magazine without taking the time to put the old one away, the old one gets tossed onto the floor and there it’ll stay. Eventually you’ll run out of magazines to reload, and then you’ll be in a world of hurt. Hopefully this makes my point that a game can be (overly) complicated but still be enjoyable. 

The second thing to keep in mind to enjoy Daymare is to allow yourself to do so. Permit yourself the time to give it a chance. Since becoming a reviewer for Xbox Tavern I have personally realized an appreciation for games and genres that in the past I would have skipped or not gone back to because of my initial impressions. Now I know that I’ve been robbing myself of some great experiences. As an example, after a brief play period in 2015 I recently restarted playing Mad Max last week and I’m better for it.

What I haven’t done though is, I haven’t peppered this review with much of the usual review stuff such as details about the story. If you’re like me you’ve probably seen the eye-catching icon in your Microsoft store queue and possibly even played the trailer. If so, I can tell you that what you see is pretty much what you get. Soldiers ride on helicopters, go into buildings, encounter zombies, shoot them (while also carefully reloading and remembering to save the magazines for future reloads), do some light puzzle solving, and so on.

Conclusion

Daymare: 1998 will push your nostalgia button for horror shooters of days gone and is an enjoyable experience provided you keep your expectations in check. The developers almost certainly could have gone the easy route and built a by-the-books zombie FPS (it was built using Unreal 4) but decided instead to create something uniquely theirs. These choices come together well. I for one appreciated their vision.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • The enemies are hard to hit and not in a "git gud" way. I eventually adjusted to it but it was frustrating at first
  • The levels were linear. I guess this could be filed under bad as well but I personally like it
  • Atmospheric setting was well-done and appropriate for the survival horror genre
  • The efforts of the developers to create something different gives Daymare 1998 a unique personality
Bad
  • Patience is required to acclimate to the way Destructive Creations requires the gamers play their game
  • Puzzles are hit or miss
  • Inventory/inventory mechanics are overly convoluted in execution (in terms of the controls - what button sequences or combination of buttons to use to get to something or to use it)
7
Good
Gameplay - 7
Graphics - 7
Audio - 7.5
Longevity - 6.5
Written by
I was gaming way before it was cool or accepted, when games were sold in ziplock bags and gaming clues required a letter and a SASE to the actual developer. I’m not saying that like it’s a credential or an odd badge of honor, but as a statement that video games can be fun and engaging independent of graphics, the number of player choices allowed, or game mechanics. I felt the same sense of joy and exhilaration with text-based games of yore as I do playing the most advanced games of today.

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