undeadpool's Dead by Daylight: Special Edition (PlayStation 4) review

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Kill and Kill Again. Die and Die Again.

Dead By Daylight was free for PS+, so I decided what-the-hell, and picked it up. I've never been one for asymmetrical multiplayer games as I don't have a friend group I can get online with consistently, and hate the idea of rolling the dice to be the 1 in 1v4. Dead by Daylight, on the other hand, has me hooked like a survivor being sacrificed to an unseen, eldritch god. Unfortunately, it's not all funny games when it comes down to this nightmare.

Four of the players take on the roles of various survivors: wanderers, the darkly curious, or those cast out from society who found their way to a cursed wood and entangled in the twisted game of a dark, spider-like eldritch entity that feeds upon the hope and suffering of those drawn into its dark realm. To enact said suffering, the Entity has conjured a Killer, a slasher film archetype, to hunt down and sacrifice the Survivors. To make sure they never run out of hope, the Survivors are given a couple of ways to escape back to the relative safety of their campfire. And on and on the cycle goes.

The actual brass tacks of the game are simple: as the killer, hook and sacrifice as many survivors as you can. As a survivor: your only goal is to escape and here is where this game flourishes while others of its type flounder: simplicity. There's no built-in chat, so the survivors have to rely on VERY basic emotes ("Come here/Go there") to communicate, but all they're trying to do at the end of the day is: fix 5 generators and open an exit to leave. That's it. Because the task can be accomplished by any single one of them, but goes exponentially faster with more helpers, the game can be played very cooperatively or unaccompanied.

The Killer, for its part, sees in 1st person, limiting its view and making for some genuinely excellent slasher-movie moments. I've been crouched behind some rubble, watching as the killer, eyes glowing with horrible intent, stalks around the area, only to go looking elsewhere, assuming I escaped. Survivors can hear a heartbeat alerting them to the Killer's proximity, while the Killer has to rely on their own eyes. On the other hand, there are moments of pure comedy in which Yakkety Sax wouldn't be out-of-place as experienced Survivors will lead the killer to places where they are forced to chase them in circles until they either catch up or tire of the chase and go off in search of other prey, and that leads to one of the problems with this game: a total lack of feedback or preparation.

As a Survivor, you have NO idea what you're up against if you haven't done research ahead of time. As a Killer, you have NO idea how your abilities feel or work until you're mid-match, and if you're up against Survivors who know what they're doing, it can take multiple matches to even know the basics, which brings us to the other issue: researching online and in the community. The Wiki is good for facts, but light on tips or tactics. And the forums can have some great information, but it's often buried in among useless inside-jokes and slang. And, stop me if you've heard this one, somehow both the Killers AND Survivors have it easier and need massive adjustments. The game also suffers from a lack of dedicated servers, so if the host/Killer decides you're all surviving just a LITTLE too well, they can disconnect the game at any time, giving a flat reward of currency and refunding any equipped items. Apparently there are penalties in place, and on PS4, at least, I haven't had many problems with people disconnection en masse, fortunately.

There are a ton of killers and survivors to choose from, each with their own equippable and unlockable perks, as well as several of each available for purchase at around $8 for a pair or $5 each. I got a lot of playtime before getting the itch to take Michael "The Shape" Meyers out for a spin after watching the original Halloween, and the buyable characters seem entirely on-par with the ones you get free. "Perks" and other abilities are all unlocked with a currency earnable in-game and unavailable for purchase even with the premium. Premium/paid currencies can only be used to buy cosmetic items or unlock new characters. Oh, and in a radical new idea for 2018: you buy the items you want. No loot boxes. No wheel spinning, though some of the more ornate cosmetics are locked up behind paid currency, as are characters. But honestly, the more ornate stuff CAN make your character stand out more, and whichever role you're playing, that's not something you want to do.

There is absolutely ZERO single-player content outside of a very brief tutorial. The fact that it can be easily played as a loner does a great deal to alleviate some of that, but it's still very worth mentioning. You can choose whether to play as a Killer or Survivor as well, thus taking out the guesswork and eliminating the problem of people immediately disconnecting if they're not their chosen role. The loop of this game is incredibly satisfying, with each round only lasting 10-20 minutes and matchmaking happening at a decent clip and pace. There's a lot being added, much of it free or earnable with free currency, so it's well worth the price of admission, particularly if that price is zero dollars through a subscription service.

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