Making its debut on PC via Steam back in June of 2016, Behaviour Interactive’s asymmetrical survival horror game Dead by Daylight pitted 4 survivors in a race against time to fix generators and escape the clutches of a deranged monster stalking their every move throughout a fixture of grisly, macabre surroundings. A year and a month later, the terrifying survival title finally claws its way onto consoles with a release on PS4 and Xbox One, but in doing so, puts itself directly into a fight with its only true competition, Gun Media’s recently released Friday the 13th: The Game.
Dead by Daylight: Special Edition: PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Publisher: Starbreeze Studios, 505 Games
Release Date: 20 June 2017
Price: £23.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Dead by Daylight unlike Friday the 13th boasts a collection of crazed killers rather than the lone figure of Jason Voorhees as its main spearhead. It also slashes the odds against survivors with only 4 players fighting to make it out alive, rather than the 7 afforded by Gun Media. Furthermore, whilst the camp counsellors of Crystal Lake can fight back against Jason to a degree, Dead by Daylight leaves its survivors in a helpless situation, unable to truly combat the evil looking to pin them to a meat hook to dangle like a prized trophy before attempting to wriggle free and eventually succumbing to death, unless of course a good Samaritan is near enough, brave enough or just about stupid enough to come and rescue them.
Long before players donned the infamous hockey mask to wave that bloody machete about as horror’s favourite mummy’s boy, there was Dead by Daylight. Even without the media coverage that comes from developing a game based on a blockbuster iconic 80’s slasher franchise, Dead by Daylight successfully landed its own bloody punch on PC with over a million active players sneaking their way through swamplands or enduring the madness of Crotus Prenn mental asylum in a collective attempt to repair busted generators and make it to safety, or of course, frighten the life out of 4 fragile-minded survivors as one of the game’s hideous looking mass murderers on their way to becoming video games very own version of the boogeyman.
Like Evolve, Dead by Daylight‘s initial concept and premise is an exciting one, if not exactly one that will keep you hooked for a significant length of time. Its premise is relatively simple. Survivors are tasked with locating and fixing a handful of broken down generators to power up 2 large gates which must then be opened manually before each player left alive can make a break for freedom. As one of 6 killers (discounting the Michael Myers DLC), your job is to track down those very same survivors, striking them with enough force to knock them to the dirt before scooping them up and attaching them to one of the many conveniently placed hooks laying around the killing field, where they will either endure a slow and lonely death or invite other players to come to their aid.
As a survivor, there is an addictive and uncomfortable excitement that comes from plotting your escape in Dead by Daylight. There is a real sense of nervousness as you slowly make your way through the mist and miserable scenery to reach a generator, then there’s the sheer weight of dread on your shoulders as you work tirelessly at reviving the broken machine all the while fighting to react quickly to random QTE’s, with the smallest mistake likely to alert the killer to your location in mere seconds. Of course, you are not alone in your fight, 3 other players or friends can help speed up the process if you band together, or of course, offer the killer more bodies to swing at if you or your allies happen to screw up an individual QTE.
If you happen to share your whereabouts with your potential killer you’ll begin to hear their heartbeat, which could be anything from a slow murmur to a fast paced pumping sound which means they’re either onto you or chasing another survivor nearby. Without any form of attack other than a flashlight beam bought with Bloodpoints (in-game currency), you’ll be doing plenty of running throughout Dead by Daylight. Heavy wooden pallets can be pushed over to halt a killer’s progress and windows can be vaulted through to speed up a getaway, but it often isn’t enough to dissuade most players, sometimes you need a bit of luck or rely on sheer laziness on the killers part to continue the chase.
One strike from a killer and you’ll begin to hobble injured, not only does it slow you down, your panicked staggering leaves marks on the ground that can be tracked. A second hit while still injured will force you to the ground where you’ll likely be plucked up and paraded around like a piece of meat on the shoulder of a maniac. All is not entirely lost here though, if the killer dwindles for too long while attempting to get you to a hook, survivors can wriggle free allowing them to make another break for it, or to be hit again and restart the process. Failing that then a rusty hook is your likely destination where you can stay and wait in agony for a friend or ally to pull you down or speed up your own death attempting to free yourself with a 4% chance of freeing yourself manually.
Another of Dead by Daylight‘s terrifying draws is the not knowing who you’ll come face to face with in-game as a survivor. With the killer’s identity hidden in the pre-game lobby, survivors won’t know the true identity of their potential killer until they stumble into them out in the field or they track you down, a truly frightening prospect but one that delivers a good mixture of anxiety with a range of morbid monsters such as a chainsaw wielding hillbilly or heinous doctor hunting you down.
As fun as it is to be a survivor, there is a lot to be said for testing yourself out as a killer in Dead by Daylight. Each variation of killer comes with its very own set of gruesome tools of torture. From methodically positioned bear traps that maim ankles to mind shuddering shockwaves that can send a fleeing victim into a state of madness whereupon they begin seeing hallucinations of their attacker as they try to escape; learning how and when to frighten and ultimately eliminate the 4 survivors is utterly satisfying and fun to play around with. Walking in the shoes of a killer is at its most gratifying when you disturb a survivor or more as they fix a generator or when pulling open a wooden cupboard to find a poor soul hiding in terror inside.
Reacting to that fear with unrelenting brutality and aggression pays off as the killer in Dead by Daylight. Forcing players onto the backfoot through a series of frantic chase scenes as you look to grab them as they hurdle an opening or crush the wooden pallet they pushed into your path with your feet can leave them disorientated, and if performed correctly, will have them at your mercy as they take a wrong turn into a dead-end or linger behind a tree to patch themselves up, allowing you to pick them off with relative ease.
With each successful escape or sacrifice, players are duly rewarded with Bloodpoints. Essentially Dead by Daylight‘s main source of currency, Bloodpoints allow both survivors and killers to level up their various characters by purchasing perks and special items that can help greatly during any match. For a survivor, this could range from a med kit to patch up the wounded or a tool box to sabotage a hook. It also benefits the side of the killer who can strengthen that menacing bear trap to make it harder to escape from or teleport from longer range to spring surprise a survivor. Through the maze of items that is the Bloodweb, these items become available along with burn cards that when selected pre-game can take you to a realm of your choosing or start you as far away from the killer as possible when the game begins.
Unfortunately, despite boasting many in-game positives, you’ll find yourself up against more than the gut-churning sight of a terrifying band of lunatics in Dead by Daylight. Firstly, there is no single player option whatsoever to help players find their way in what is largely a bloodied and brutal game of cat and mouse. In its place, a god-awful text tutorial which will either bore you to tears in seconds as you flick through the endless pages or see you reading far too many words than any player should ever have to in order to learn the fundamentals and mechanics of the game for both survivor and killer. Evidently, trial and error is the likely outcome if not at the very least to avoid the endless pages of how-to’s for sacrificing your targets correctly or escaping your chosen hell through a hatch, if you can find one.
Additionally, technical difficulties mar the experience with connection issues affecting both in-lobby and active matches, preventing many from either starting or finishing as they should with a loss of connection a frequent annoyance. Rather unnervingly, Dead by Daylight also possesses the ability to throw you around maps like a mangled, bleeding ragdoll at times with randomly occurring bursts of lag that can inadvertently throw you directly into the path of a killer and get you killed or a wall or building or any other object it so chooses.
Visually Dead by Daylight succeeds at looking grisly and gloomy; its grindhouse-style aesthetic fits surprisingly well with the horror film theme but its graphics and character animations are unlikely to wow most players looking for a better-looking game on an eighth generation console. Where Dead by Daylight does excel, however, is with its eerie soundtrack that brilliantly yet subtly adds another layer of tension and drama to proceedings, much as you would see in a classic 80’s slasher movie as the masked killer shadows its unfortunate victim.
Like Friday the 13th: The Game, Dead by Daylight suffers from a series of launch issues that blight what is at times a thoroughly enjoyable and addictive experience. Its concept works well as 4 players battle it out against a masked murderer to survive and escape terrifying locales and the eerie soundtrack and horror movie feel makes Dead by Daylight a game that will certainly appeal to many fans of the horror genre. As a video game experience on an eight generation console though, it lacks many facets required to give it long lasting appeal and the technical difficulties endured sadly undermine what potential it had.