Chernobylite | PS4 Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
It can't just be me who has spent massive amounts of time watching documentaries about Chernobyl, learning about it in history or reading the various accounts from scientists and historians of the massive effect that the catastrophe had. And now we have Chernobylite, a game based in this dark and grim location allowing us to delve into this place that basically feels like its a totally different planet to where we live when in retrospect, it's essentially on our doorstep. Chernobylite is an ambitious first-person shooter, RPG, survival horror game with some base building aspects and pivotal choices that will change the dynamic of your team and impact your survival greatly. Chernobylite wears many hats in terms of genre and here I hope to answer the question of how well it wears all of these hats. Developed by The Farm 51 and published by All In! Games, Chernobylite has finally made its way to console after being released initially exclusively on Windows PC, and will also be available on PlayStation 4 and XBox One with a next-gen upgrade also in the works. For the purpose of this review I was playing the PlayStation 4 version.
Chernobylite is set in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and is set roughly 30 years after the massive nuclear disaster. After this disaster, a bizarre material known as "Chernobylite" started to appear throughout the zone and scientists were noticing that it was attracting strange shadows and other creatures from alternate dimensions that were certainly less than friendly to humans. A military branch then decided to effectively rent the Exclusion Zone so that they could carry out experiments to try and figure out exactly what this mysterious compound was. As I'm sure you could imagine on such a site the security is extremely high. You play as a physicist, Igor Khymynuk, who previously worked in the Exclusion Zone with his wife, Tatyana, who went missing at some point after the incident. After receiving a picture of his missing wife and dreaming of her often, Igor decides to travel back to the now highly secure Exclusion Zone where he once worked to find his wife. Igor quickly finds a piece of Chernobylite after breaking into the Exclusion Zone and he uses this to power up a portal gun that he created. To carry out this daring mission to find Tatyana, Igor can enlist the help of various others, who you can use to complete missions and develop resources whilst all aiming for the final goal which is to break into the compound and uncover the mysteries of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Chernobylite is a very interesting mash-up of ideas and I feel like each of these aspects are fairly well implemented and dealt with. There's a variety of missions available throughout the game and, as you grow your party, you can send different people to do the missions. Some of the missions will be to get things like food or medical supplies that will prove essential to your overall success and time in the Exclusion Zone as without food supplies, the health, motivation, and general well being of your party will suffer. This is where the team building aspects come into play. If your party's health is low or they don't feel confident in your leadership then the chances of them succeeding in the mission you send them on are lower than normal. Equally as well, the game will force you to constantly make decisions that will massively impact the story. That person that you choose to trust could very easily come back to bite you later on but on the flip side, you don't want to be too cynical of everyone just in case you're ruthlessly killing a pivotal member of your team. I feel like the decision making is very well handled and truly feels meaningful rather than just being throwaway decisions that you can simply move on and forget about. Your choices will highly likely impact later areas where you may have to lie to cover up your mishaps or choose to be honest about your cold hearted murders and ultimately, you have to hope that they will join your cause.
This takes us nicely into another game mechanic that I found fascinating - whenever you die, you're essentially transported through a wormhole into a psychedelic dream sequence where you can see how specific decisions are connected and how they impact each other and you're able to go through and change those choices. I quite appreciated this aspect because it's become a bit of meme in my Twitch streams that I make absolutely horrible choices in games and usually they are unfixable and I'm forced to live with the guilt of all those poor innocents that are banished to hell because of my rash and hot-headed decision making - to be given this time loop mechanic that allows me to clearly see how things are related and right my wrongs was a welcome change and stopped me from needlessly killing people and finding myself sitting in the corner alone like a billy-no-mates. When I say that your choices affect everything - I mean it. You can gain alliances with a specific faction and then when you go into your next mission there could be increased enemy activity in that area or decreased depending on the allies that you have.
Next, there's an interesting base building dynamic. Between missions you have a safe house where you can use the resources you gather throughout your adventures into the Exclusion Zone to build beds, generators and a variety of other things too. These things impact your team's comfort, happiness and motivation. You also use this space to cook, learn new skills from members of your team and you can also chat to other members of the team to find out more about their lives.
Whilst the game seems open world, it actually isn't. Instead each mission takes place in a set area of the Exclusion Zone so the missions are kind of scenario based. Usually you'd expect this to mean the maps are quite small and linear however the areas are actually a considerable size and there's been great work and thought put into the entire map. The Farm 51 actually used 3D scanners across the real life cartography of the Exclusion Zone to fully recreate the terrain and the buildings which really gives this intense feeling of realism and a massive respect to the rich and tragic history of Chernobyl. Throughout the game you'll find yourself searching through realistic looking Soviet apartments with remnants from the communist utopia. This really gives the game such a wonderful feel and was a fantastic touch by the developers to create yet another avenue for a truly immersive experience.
On the surface, Chernobylite looks like a first person shooter - however I'd heavily argue that the combat very much takes a back seat as you have to maintain Igor's sanity. If you're ruthlessly running around killing every patrol you see, you'll eventually find yourself going insane so the game really encourages stealth as much as it can. Generally, the biggest thing I struggle with in games is stealth and I usually find myself just wanting to go and throw myself at every enemy guns blazing. I managed to survive a fair amount of time in the Exclusion Zone without too much bloodshed mostly due to the stealth mechanics being fairly easy. The AI enemies are generally pretty rigid and stick to their exact patrol routes that follow very specific paths making it very easy to bypass them without the need for bloodshed. Fans of other stealth games will find this far too easy and I could totally respect that opinion, however for me, the stealth was a perfect difficulty and if it was any harder than I'd likely feel like it would detract from the overall experience for me.
With all this said, I feel like with there being so many aspects at play within Chernobylite that some of them suffered in some way shape or form. The combat felt basic and unimportant but on the other hand, combat isn't necessarily the focus. The wormhole mechanic to an extent also takes some urgency away from your decisions, however on the other hand it really goes to showcase how deep and well made the story is. With these things in mind, it's fair to say that Chernobylite's flaws are very minimal and just proves how diverse the game is in terms of what it can offer the player.
Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying Chernobylite and would highly recommend it to mostly anyone. I'm not big into resource management or stealth nor do I make particularly good choices in games, but I never felt like I was struggling or like I was doing a bad job and it was inhibiting my enjoyment. I can safely say I'm eagerly awaiting the PlayStation 5 release and am very intrigued to see what next-gen features they add when the time is right. As of the time of writing, I know Chernobylite has been delayed until now, however I believe that speaks volumes about the developers and their desire to release a finished game instead of a half-baked glitchy mess. Throughout my time playing Chernobylite I had zero issues and they have announced there will be a Day One patch to fix the last issues for release. I plan to update this review in the future with any developments that should come and hope many others can find the same enjoyment that I found from this wonderful game of many talents.
Lj's Rating: 4.5 Chernobylite chunks out of 5.
For more information on Chernobylite please use the following links...
Many thanks to Plan of Attack for the Review Key.