Chernobyl has always been a fantastic setting for survival games. This harsh barren ghost town covered in radiation; it’s been a while since we have been there, and Chernobylite aims to scratch that radiation itch. Does it succeed, or is it just a horrid mutation?
Now, it’s a Ghost Town
Chernobylite sees you taking control of “Igor” who is very eager to get back to the Power Plant that malfunctioned and caused the Chernobyl incident. His fiancé went missing just before it and through visions, he believes she could still be there.
Igor hires two mercenaries and sets up a base of operations. Naturally, the first attempt to get back to the Plant ends in disaster. It’s up to you to make the choices to get back to full strength to tackle the trip once again.
The initial narrative of the game sounds good and is certainly something I could get behind. But with a bunch of technobabble, cryptic cutscenes, and characters that just appear with little explanation, you’ll find that it’s hard to care for the narrative as you progress.
You come across “ghosts” of the past of Chernobyl as well as many files that give further insight into what happened and what the different factions’ hands are in this plot; it harkens to the Immersive Sim genre but doesn’t quite nail the landing of its peers.
The Sum of All Fears
Chernobylite initially looks like a S.T.A.L.K.E.R clone for those who remember the classic PC hardcore survival game. While there are elements here of that inspiration Farm 51 have added a few more ingredients into this soup.
As previously mentioned the game takes inspiration from Immersive Sims in its environmental storytelling. The combat is that of a more traditional FPS and there is also the base management gameplay too, I’ll unpack these in this order.
Chernobylite has various aspects taken from the “Imm Sim” genre; the aforementioned environmental storytelling being one aspect, picking up every item for the crafting system is another one.
You’ll be constantly scavenging for supplies, be it for your personal use out in the zone, for the betterment of the camp, or to craft stuff back at the base or in the field. This is a lot of pointing at highlighted items and pressing collect all.
Dialogue and choices also make an impact. Throughout your time in Chernobylite you are tasked with heading up a team. Actions and words have effects on people and they will either like or dislike you, changing the course of the game and putting you in line with one of the many endings the game has.
Of course, there are sprinkles of RPG elements. Every action you take, the enemy that you kill, or the event that you encounter raises your skill bar. This allows you to put points into the skill tree, customizing Igor to your own style.
Take the Shot
Between the screenshots and what I’ve said so far, you can tell this is a first-person shooter. It’s one of those weird fusions where enemies have health bars and guns can be upgraded with some enemies being a little spongier than others. Fortunately, headshots tend to do the trick most of the time.
The game does feature the lost “lean” buttons from most shooters and this helps you take shots from cover. Sadly, overall the shooting didn’t feel all too great. Even when aiming down the sights, I didn’t feel it was too accurate at any point.
The final hook for Chernobylite is a base-building element. Each time you finish a mission, you can build items within your base. This unlocks more upgrades and directly affects your morale, health, and psyche.
You can only build an item once per night in-game and to progress this you go on missions. This adds an element of planning. Do you have enough food to cover you and your team or do you need more beds before your team loses it? While the system was a good inclusion it didn’t seem as intrusive as it first felt and was rather lenient in punishing poor choices.
What I did enjoy and found unique to Chernobylite was the fact you can use Chernobylite, the special material that gives the game its name, to open a wormhole and change any outcomes of your choices. While you can’t please everyone all the time, certain actions which you really regret can be “mended”. With that said, always be wary of the knock-on effect it could have.
It’s a Big Gun. Can You Handle It?
Now onto my real bugbear with this title and that is the graphics and performance. It isn’t the best looking or performing on the PlayStation 4 and I feel that it’s a mix of the game having a smaller development team and porting to consoles.
Regrettably, I can’t confirm if the issues translate over to the PlayStation 5 but with my time I found the game frame rate to be wildly inconsistent. I experienced several crashes in addition. Even the A.I. caused issues with pathfinding, so progress would halt. The latter I would assume isn’t a console-specific issue.
I understand the game didn’t have the largest development team or budget and what they have created here is great under ideal conditions, the PlayStation 4 port unfortunately isn’t an ideal situation and it held me back from loving a game that on paper is really up my alley.
The voice acting in Chernobylite is ideal in Russian. It’s a shame when it doesn’t transfer over to the English dub. The phoned-in lines and awkward phrasing show a lack of quality here.
Musically the game features ambient sound, but I’d be lying if I said anything stuck with me from my time with the game. The sound design on the other hand is fantastic, helping with immersion and is essential when stealing your way around the Power Plant and surrounding areas.
Chernobylite is a great game that has suffered through the porting process. While held back by some ideas that were only partially baked, it still offers a good ol’ Chernobyl time. I would just suggest playing it on a PC and using mods to tidy up aspects, along with hopefully much better performance.
WAIT FOR SALE ON CHERNOBYLITE
Many thanks go to All in! Games S.A. who provided a PlayStation 4 review code for this title.
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