Chernobylite PS5 Review
With an intriguing combination of FPS, base-building and RPG elements, Chernobylite was one of last year’s more bizarre outliers. It took the gorgeous aesthetic of the Metro series and ramped the supernatural dial up several notches, as well as feeling far more inviting. I’ll be honest, I didn’t get on with Metro 2033. At all. The thought of diving into another post-apocalyptic shooter didn’t really appeal, but Shaun found it engaging enough and given the release of both an Enhanced Edition on PC and the move to next-gen on console (which is free if you own the original), I figured it’d be worth firing up the PS5 to see if it was better than I hoped, or just a pretty mess. And after playing it, I’m still not sure.
What’s changed since July? Honestly, not a huge amount on console. For PlayStation, there’s Activity Card support and DualSense compatibility, while all versions have dynamic 4K resolution at 30 FPS or 1080p support at 60 FPS, as well as ray tracing. Otherwise, the content is as per the launch title. That will change with the release of the free Blue Flames DLC out shortly, but otherwise this is just a graphically shinier version of last year’s title.
If you haven’t played Chernobylite before, the concept can feel overwhelming to begin with. Your character, Igor, is a professor of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimeyness, and is looking for his lost partner Tatyana who speaks to him during loading screens. Set three decades after the Chernobyl disaster, this alternative timeline has resulted in the titular crystal growing in the radiated area, resulting in factions of humans warring over it (and other things) as well as aliens who have sprung up for reasons undetermined. Your ultimate goal is to commit a heist by recruiting members from across the wasteland to help you save the girl. We really haven’t moved on too far in terms of the damsel in distress, have we?
The game mashes up many, many different genres: FPS, base-building, resource management, RPG, crafting and survival sim and more. Some of these work well. Many of them do not. I don’t get along with project management in life, let alone in gaming, so the constant juggling of inventories, ensuring my crew were happy and well fed, scavenging the land for resources to do just that, then assigning people to different missions proved to be a lot of admin. Too much admin, to be blunt. There are a lot of different systems at play here but I found that many of them were undercooked. Base-building in particular — making your base comfortable for the gang, growing food, generating resources and so on — felt like busywork. The FPS elements didn’t really vibe with me either; while the guns felt brutal and hefty to use, the aiming system seemed more like pot luck. And as for the menu system… wow. Using the D-pad to switch between weapons is one (awful) thing, but combined with a map that needs two clicks to open, a horrible inventory, and a series of base additions that are buried two or three layers deep? The only thing you can craft from that is a UI mess.
As time moves on in the game, the areas you revisit feel like they have noticeably crumbled in your absence. It’s worth mentioning that the game looks stunning and runs very smoothly, as long as you don’t mind muted colours and variations on grey, brown and green. The setting is atmospheric, which makes it even more frustrating when you’re yanked out of it by Igor getting stuck on a bush, or unable to find an objective location even though you’re literally sitting on top of the map marker. Enemies tend to wander around in packs of two which makes sneak assassinations a much easier premise than using the erratic guns. The green alien shadows take more rounds to down but feel humanoid, like a reskinned enemy operative who is glitching in and out of a bottle of Mountain Dew. The voice acting is either Russian or English, and I can state categorically that even though I don’t speak Russian, it’s far preferable to listen to that than the English track.
RPG-wise, the Chernobylite crystal allows you to move between areas using a glorified portal gun, and in some cases even traverse dimensions. There are lots of different conversations and decisions you’ll make during play and the outcome of many of these can be altered should you so desire. This is a genuinely interesting aspect of the game, one which could have spawned its own title if it had been focused on. Unfortunately, it’s lost among the other systems, which is indicative of Chernobylite as a whole. There are plenty of good ideas here, but many of them are half-finished or simply do not mesh.
What this all means is that existing players who enjoyed the original release won’t find much to draw them back other than a different playthrough in slightly sparklier environments. New players should be warned: Chernobylite is an incredibly niche title which is as likely to turn off gamers as it is to light up the eyes of a specific, ahem, core.
You can subscribe to Jump Chat Roll on your favourite podcast players including:
Let us know in the comments if you enjoyed this podcast, and if there are any topics you'd like to hear us tackle in future episodes!