Invader Studios is a small development team from Italy that began working on a fanmade remake of Resident Evil 2 until Capcom got in touch and let them know they themselves were already working on an official release. Not wanting their hard work to go by the wayside, they turned their project into their very own game, which brings us to Daymare: 1998.
The Resident Evil influence is still heavily found throughout, from the viral outbreak storyline and over-the-shoulder combat of the fourth entry to the limited inventory system and environmental puzzle designs, but Daymare: 1998 still tries to be its own game. It doesn’t always succeed, mind you, but for being Invader Studios’ maiden voyage, the level of environmental detail is stunning and I did find myself mostly enjoying the game.
Daymare: 1998 has a rotating cast of three playable characters, switching off chapter by chapter. As the game begins, you play as Liev, a cocky (see; asshole) member of the mercenary group H.A.D.E.S., who shows his true colors early on. After completing part of his mission, you’ll be thrust into the shoes of Sam, a park ranger in search of his wife, before finally controlling Raven, another member of H.A.D.E.S. whose hometown is where both the outbreak and game takes place.
None of them are incredibly interesting and they all play the same. Having some sort of distinguishing feature would have been nice, but all three are identical outside of their character models. Said character models are also where the game’s budget becomes readily apparent. They’re… not great. Or good, really.
The same can’t be said of the aforementioned environmental design — it’s fantastic. The amount of love poured into every street, room, and hallway is clearly noticeable, and I enjoyed all of the self-aware humor and parodies that fed into Daymare’s titular 1998 timeframe. The city felt lived in rather than being passed up as a terrible asset dump, and the game is certainly better for it. Honestly, the environments are so good that I’d say it’s the game’s best feature. The gameplay is passable and the story exists purely to push a play along, but I was never not impressed by what I saw.
On the gameplay side of things, Daymare: 1998 is fine. It feels very much like Resident Evil 4, which set the bar pretty high for survival horror way back when — so much so that it’s still being mimicked in 2020. In a nutshell, there are guns and you shoot shit with them. When you run out of bullets, you reload… kind of. Instead of just reloading bullets into your pew pew machine, you’re given a single clip that you manually combine bullets into. Should those run out mid-battle, you’re boned since the game doesn’t pause when you toggle the inventory app on your handy smartphone. So you basically have two clips.
If an enemy bites you or deliciously barfs into your mouth, there’s a button-mashing mini-game that lowers the amount of damage received… and this will happen a lot. Zombies seemingly lurk behind every corner and door and will sometimes say “fuck it” and attack you through them. It’s kind of frustrating.
Overall, though, Daymare: 1998 isn’t a bad effort from a small fledgling studio. It definitely feels like a diet Resident Evil game with most of its attention clearly focused on environmental detail, but everything else is at least passable.
I’m not sure I think it’s worth the $40 USD price tag, but if it ends up on Xbox GamePass or goes on sale during a dry spell, it is a game I think most horror fans would enjoy if they can overlook the cliches and inconsistent performance (on consoles, anyway).
Daymare: 1998 does show a lot of promise from Invader Studios and I’m definitely looking forward to whatever they do next. Even if it’s just to explore and stare at their beautiful level designs and pop culture references.
This review is based on the PS4 version, which was provided by the game’s publisher. It is also available on Xbox One and PC.