There are few games that flawlessly incorporate laundry lists of mechanics and features into a game; the end result is almost always a trainwreck in one area, if not all of them. Chernobylite is an exception to the rule. If it’s something that’s been done in a game in the past decade or so, it’s probably something that is included, and more often than not, it works really damn well. Want a shooter? It has you covered. Base and relationship management? Yup. How about crafting? Absolutely. Horror elements? You bet your gasmask it does. Choices that matter? Absofreakinglutely. I may be premature in saying this, as we still have three months left of the year, but for me, Chernobylite is going to be Game of the Year for 2021.
Before I get into the amazingness that is Chernobylite, I’ll give you my issues, which were mostly resolved by moving the game from my external hard drive to the internal SSD on my Xbox Series X. The biggest and most problematic issue was how the game would spit and stutter at a framerate of about two every time I was greeted by a loading screen, which I came to find out includes some sort of flashback or hallucination, depending on who you ask. It normally culminated in me being booted to the dashboard, where the Xbox just didn’t want to reload the game again until I hard reset the entire console. Additionally, each and every time I reloaded into the game, it would reset any options I had changed to the default, which was easily remedied, but at times resulted in missing out on some narrative bits, as I would load right into a story segment and I don’t know any Russian whatsoever, which is the default language option. Finally, when you hit “continue” from the main menu, the game loads a random save most of the time, rarely your most recent; easily resolved by manually reloading, but a mild annoyance nonetheless.
The title places you into the radiation suit of Igor, a scientist who worked at the Chernobyl site. He believes the key to saving his long-lost love that is still alive and well lies within the confines of the reactor, which is held down by a military force. Igor must gather a team, keep his sanity, and attempt to pull off a St. Petersburg size heist of the century. All of this is told in a non-linear way, where you pick and choose what mission you will embark on, as well as send your ever-growing team of comrades on to recover supplies needed to upgrade your equipment and base in an effort to be as prepared as humanly possible for what awaits you within the goal, which can be attempted at any time from the safety of your base.
The characters you meet are varied, each with their own backstory, motivations, and feelings toward Igor, which teeters and totters depending on his actions. Your choices really feel like they matter, and in most cases, helping one means pissing off another, so you’re constantly playing to balance the scales and keep everyone happy. Kind of. As happy as you can be in a radiation-filled Hellscape. All of the cast, your conspirators and otherwise, are well written, but many of the English voice actors are a little bit over the top, almost coming across as if Charlie Day was voicing them while channeling his It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia character.
In most cases, the choices and morality depicted in video games are hit or miss, usually with “good” and “bad” choices that almost have bright neon signs above them signaling which is which. In this, it’s very grey and vague enough where the outcomes are a surprise, but a surprise that can be changed upon death, as you are transported to what I would describe as a Lovecraftian style area that permits you to review and modify key moments from the story thus far. Since I am Irish, I am generally content with living with my bad choices, but the option is there if you elect to use it. The choices you make also impact the open areas you visit, as the majority of the game is broken up into smaller, open-world areas – cause too much havoc and you’ll find an increased enemy presence. The same can be said for Igor’s sanity – as you explore to find additional intel and resources, how you handle encounters will impact his sanity, resulting in more of the various creatures appearing.
The title looks, sounds (outside of the previously mentioned voice-over issues), and controls like a dream. Aside from some occasional clipping and translucent items that shouldn’t be, Chernobyl looks astounding thanks to The Farm 51 actually visiting the location and 3D scanning assets. It’s a creepy, desolate location that feels just like I imagined exploring it would be. Everything is just caked with age, dirt, and grime that looks beautiful in a depressing kind of way. It’s a world that feels both empty and full of terror all at the same time.
Chernobylite is like playing with a dozen jigsaw puzzles that were taken out of the box, dumped into a trash bag, shaken, and then put back together in an almost perfect way. If you want the psychological horror from Silent Hill, the base and relationship management aspects from State of Decay, the gunplay of Call of Duty, Dishonored style stealth, Fallout-ish enemies, Mass Effect style choices, and a setting that makes Metro 2033 look like Frogger, this is the game for you.
10 out of 10
- A Beautifully Depressing World to Explore
- Astounding Picture Perfect Visuals
- A Well Written Story
- Huge Variety of Gameplay Mechanics
- Meaningful Choices (and the Ability to Change Them)
- Will Not Run Correctly Via an External Hard Drive
- Some Minor Issues Within the Menus
- The English Voice Overs are Rough at Times
Chernobylite was developed by The Farm 51 and published by All in! Games SA. The game is available for PC, PS4, PS5, X1, and XSX. The game was provided to us for review on X1 and played on XSX. If you’d like to see more of Chernobylite, check out the developer’s site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.