When you open Chernobylite, it looks like a plain first-person shooter: set in Chernobyl, Russian dialogue and AK-47s at the hip. Despite the generic aesthetic, the gameplay dives deep into some cool concepts and a gameplay loop that can blossom into something great.
The gameplay is by far the most interesting part of Chernobylite. The player is tasked to debunk a conspiracy about his wife Tatyana while surviving in the radiated Chernobyl radiation zone. In each mission, you would have to collect supplies such as ration, parts, medicine, herbs, and other essentials to keep you and your team fed and mentally stable.
Fighting is discouraged as it can cost the player's supplies that can be used in dire situations, on top of the mental instability that each shot can cause. As Igor becomes more mentally unstable, the world will begin to interact with the protagonist. Artifacts in the environment such as dolls will interact with Igor by talking to him. It worked so well that I hopped out of my seat the first time I encountered the jumpscare. However, this can lose its novelty as you rummage around for vodka to shut it off. Remaining sane will keep interruptions such as talking dolls to a minimum but that is easier said than done. Supplies and herbs are rare and do not regenerate, but can respawn in certain areas of the game world.
There are companions in the game that can help you complete missions and even train you, depending on their particular expertise. Olivier is your very first companion and can train the player on how to shoot the revolver more effectively. Several companions can be found in the game, each with their own set of skills and talents. Some of these skills and abilities have training sessions attached to them, while others are instantly learned when a skill point is used.
Radiation plays a major deterrence in the game by decreasing your overall health. The only way to detect radiation is by using the resource scanner. Radiation placement seemed to be configured for each mission to guide the players towards the objective.
There is also a simulation that is tied to the plot. The simulation is a gauntlet and will test the player's game knowledge as well as its mechanics. In the simulation, Igor will be going through an area similar to the Chernobylite tunnel. With limited supplies, Igor must go through hallways of enemies while grabbing items from crystal pylons. This is a true test of the player's skill. It's fun just to see how far you can go in one run.
Chernobylite uses a 3D-scanned recreation of the infamous Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The buildings and areas explored in the game are dilapidated and irradiated. The game has its own aesthetic additions, the powerful crystals called Chernobylite for example. Chernobylite can be found peppered throughout the board. These green crystals took center stage in the first 20 minutes and it is used by Igor, the protagonist, to teleport using a device he invented.
There are also small areas designed for specific characters and monsters but they are few and far between. The ambiance will capture the player with its chilling tone and often claustrophobic engagement zones. At night, all of this tension multiplies as you scramble to turn on your flashlight. The most intense moments of this game happen in darkness because of how similar each area is. It is very easy to get lost and get trapped if the player is not careful.
The user interface is the roughest area of Chernobylite. A select few items and equipment have misspelled or missing descriptions. The title screen was also underdeveloped. In the developer's defense, they have much bigger fish to fry as the game still has bugs. Small things such as missing descriptions and unsatisfying title screen make the game feel unprofessional, however.
Music & Sound Design
As an Early Access title, do not expect Chernobylite to have Gustavo Santolalla playing the score but it does the job. The best part about the Chernobylite sound design is the voice acting. There is a surprising amount of voice-acted characters in the game, upping its level of immersive experience but the voice would sometimes cut out as a result of a bug. The Russian voice was on by default and the actors did a good job.
Chernobylite is a good game but underdeveloped. The gameplay loop of collecting supplies, finding new companions, upgrading your gun and just surviving overall is fun. However, Chernobylite feels insufficient to the US$ 29.99 asking price, especially for a singleplayer game.
The game lacks enemy variety, missions, polished narrative, and many more. The psyche gauge and how it interacts with the player should be explored further, as it can lead to unexpected player-to-world interactions. Chernobylite has a decent base to build on but at its current state, this game is just not ready. This game can be really good in the future but for now, it needs more time in the oven.