The latest asymmetric multiplayer game might offer something different than others, but it’s not enough to forgive an unpolished console release.
After releasing on PC last summer, Dead By Daylight debuted on Xbox One and PS4 last week. Unfortunately for console gamers, developer Behaviour Interactive didn’t spend much time refining the experience on gamepad.
The gameplay loop of Dead By Daylight is simple: One killer tries to sacrifice four survivors who are turning on generators that will help them escape the area. After knocking a survivor down, the killer must carry the survivor to a hook where they will slowly bleed out if they aren’t saved by an ally. The role of a survivor has its own twist: a third-person perspective gives them a leg up against the killer’s first-person perspective, but they’re also slower. Survivors must depend on friends to act as distractions as they turn on five generators. The method of turning on generators is a little clunky and repetitive using what’s essentially a quick-time event. Making matches unique is the game’s procedurally generated maps that move things around each time you play. Due to what feels like a small pool of assets, levels feel somewhat familiar despite the layout changed.
Although the comradery of trying to survive with three friends might seem alluring, the bulk of Dead By Daylight’s fun comes from playing as one of the game’s many killers. Each has their own abilities that makes them easy to play but tough to master, and an elaborate (and somewhat confusing) perk system gives each killer a bit a flexibility.
The various perks that both survivors and killers have are really where Dead By Daylight shines compared to other games in the genre. Some killers hit harder than others while others move faster. Some survivors can heal allies quicker while others can stun the killer temporarily. These trade-offs make picking characters fun. Using in-game chat and parties to create a squad of survivors with complimentary perks can be essential to making it out of a match alive.
While avoiding the killer is brutal, what’s tougher is the game’s myriad of performance issues. Playing from the game’s first-person perspective makes framerate drops while turning corners or chasing survivors particularly disorienting and can be downright nauseating. Just from being in the third-person perspective, playing as a survivor is much more palatable, but framerate drop is still present and feels a little sloppy to control.
Another issue I ran into off-and-on during my review sessions was matchmaking hiccups. In fact, there was a period of time where the only way to play as a survivor was to begin matchmaking as a killer and change to a survivor once the game started searching for other players. If I started matchmaking as a survivor, the game would continuously search for players without result. One of my early tests of survivor matchmaking was over ten minutes without connecting to a single other player.
General UI also doesn’t feel optimized for Xbox One and PS4 controllers with Destiny-esque cursors that move around the menu without feeling all that precise. Additionally, a reliance on the D-pad, bumpers and triggers makes general navigation a chore.
The aforementioned procedurally generated levels might keep environments fresh, but I also found that they lead to some bizarre layouts that can work entirely for or against players. For example, one match I played had three generators very close to each other making it very easy for a killer to patrol while another had the two escape doors on opposite sides of the map making survivors’ escape almost inevitable. Additionally, the procedurally generated areas can create dead ends and traps that feel like they’re trolling the players rather than making things interesting. There are rooms, for example, where survivors can continuously mantle back and forth over a wall where they can’t be reached by the killer allowing for some serious griefing.
Dead By Daylight has a lot going for it compared to other recently-released asymmetric multiplayer games. Procedurally generated maps keep things from feeling stale, perks and unlocks give you a reason to perfect a character and an array of survivors and killers is great. Still, hardly a moment goes by where Dead By Daylight doesn’t feel like it’s an unpolished rush job aiming to scratch the same itch as its competitors. Turning on generators can border on mundane, matchmaking can be a chore, controls can feel sloppy and the framerate is all over the place.
The game might have personality and variability, but there simply isn’t enough optimization and polish to make Dead By Daylight feel like anything more than another rushed PC port.
Like Evolve and Friday the 13th, Dead By Daylight has moments that show gamers what the asymmetric multiplayer genre is capable of, but there’s just not enough time and care put into the port to make it anything more than a forgettable summer slasher.
Dead By Daylight was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of Starbreeze Studios and Behaviour Interactive.
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