While many fans appreciate the conveniences of the modern survival-horror game, others yearn for the days of fixed camera angles and tank controls found in the PS1 Resident Evil titles. Various indie developers have tried to emulate the classic survival-horror style of gameplay with varying degrees of success, with the latest effort being the PS4-exclusive Dawn of Fear. Dawn of Fear does a decent enough job of looking and playing like an old-school survival-horror game, but unfortunately, it’s completely and utterly broken in its current state.
Full disclosure, we never finished Dawn of Fear because of its bugs. We restarted the game three separate times, and each time we ran into a bug that made it absolutely impossible to continue. Resetting the game or loading an old save did nothing to alleviate the issues, with the only course of action being to completely start over from scratch.
The first game-breaking bug we ran into when trying to complete Dawn of Fear was a weird one where room textures wouldn’t load. Everything is just a black abyss – the camera is stuck in position, enemies are invisible, and other sections of the game world are visible in the distance. This is a consistent issue with the game, though it usually corrects itself after waiting a while. However, there was one instance where this was not done, and it made it impossible to properly navigate the room and advance the story.
The second game-breaking bug we encountered in Dawn of Fear was when an item needed for a puzzle didn’t appear. We know we need the item because we’ve already completed that puzzle in the previous playthrough attempt, and so there’s literally nothing we can do to continue the game.
The third game-breaking bug in Dawn of Fear comes when encountering a door blocked by chains. Players must use scissors to cut the chains and enter the door, but the chains stayed firmly in place when we used the scissors. After a few more attempts, the scissors eventually just disappeared from the inventory menu, with the chains still blocking the door and forcing us to start all over again.
Dawn of Fear is in such a broken state that it’s unbelievable that it even made it to the PlayStation Store. Sony has been criticized in recent years for being a bit lax when it comes to the quality of games it allows into the PlayStation Store, but Dawn of Fear is especially terrible.
Beyond the game-breaking bugs, Dawn of Fear has many other issues to note as well. That is, it is running very slowly. The frame rate can be so bad that it looks like the player character Alex is teleporting around the room, and when he’s not doing that, he’s frozen in place. When exploring the basement area of the greenhouse, the frame rate drops so much it’s like playing in slow motion. These are pretty glaring flaws, and it’s clear from them that Dawn of Fear just isn’t a finished product.
It’s a shame too, because there aren’t many games like Dawn of Fear available. The game successfully recreates the feeling of playing an old-school Resident Evil or Silent Hill game thanks to its puzzle solving and exploration elements, the game surrounding these things is simply broken making it impossible to enjoy them.
But even if Dawn of Fear doesn’t have serious technical issues, the game’s combat still keeps it from being great. The game uses the classic Resident Evil combat style, meaning players are rooted in place instead of being able to move and shoot. The classic Resident Evil games did this by having weapons that blast the nearest enemy when aimed, but Dawn of Fear didn’t deal with this, with weapons that didn’t even point in the direction Alex was facing. Players can prepare themselves to shoot down an incoming horde of zombies, only to point their weapon and have Alex do a complete 180.
Ammo is scarce and enemies are deadly if they can get the player. However, there is some definite inconsistency when it comes to the damage done to Alex. For example, there was one instance where the zombies only bit Alex twice and he fell, but another time they did four zombie bites in a row. Players can manually check their health by opening their notebook, but that’s not always practical when trying to survive against the game’s enemies.
When players get hurt, the notebook gets covered in blood. It’s an interesting way to show health, but when health still seems imprecise, it doesn’t matter. Alex will sometimes offer a visual representation of being hurt by limping, though the animation is inconsistent as well. Meanwhile, the notebook is where players manage their items. However, the images of the item in the notebook blend into its white background, making it hard to see what one has without some eyes.
Dawn of Fear’s menus are poorly executed in general. Not only is the notebook hard to look at, but players will also find they can’t use the Options button on the DualShock 4 to un-pause the game. Instead, there’s a dedicated “Return” menu selection to use, which seems like a nitpick, but it’s a good example of how clean this game is. Players cannot unpause it by pressing the pause button like they can with almost any other video game ever made. The menus are also unresponsive most of the time, with the save menu taking upwards of 10 or more clicks of the X button before it reads what the player is trying to do. There are also several misspellings in the menus, with one of the most obvious being “candle” spelled “candle” (candles save points in Dawn of Fear, so players often encountered an error). It’s possible this was done on purpose, but it’s hard to see why.
Even if players are able to stay in the game and push through it all, they’ll also have to contend with its frustrating boss battles. The first boss in Dawn of Fear, for example, can hurt the player without ever hitting their character. Alex will start dying for no reason, and there will be no hit animations or anything to let the player know they’ve taken damage. The boss’s hit box, meanwhile, is large enough that players are able to hit it without actually doing so. This boss is very easy once players figure out how to cheese the fight, but until then they’re left dealing with invisible attacks and ridiculous hitboxes.
Dawn of Fear is too broken in its current state to recommend it to anyone. Those desperate for an old-school survival-horror experience might want to hope that other upcoming Resident Evil and Silent Hill-inspired games do better because Dawn of Fear is a mess.
Dawn of Fear is out now, exclusively on PS4. Today Technology was provided with a code for this review.