☢️ Chernobylite Xbox Series X Review 7/10 "Events of 1986 Resulted in Far Weirder Things Than Just Nuclear Fallout..." ☢️ @ChernobylGame #IndieGame #GameDev

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Coincidentally, I was given Chernobylite to review the same week I finished the brilliant Chernobyl mini-series, so I was in the perfect frame of mind for this. Saying that you get about five seconds into the game before it diverges far, far from reality and into a world where the events of 26th April 1986 resulted in far weirder things than just nuclear fallout.

You are Igor Khymynyuk, a scientist who was at the power plant on the night in question, during which his fiancee Tatyana disappeared. Thirty years later, Igor returns to the Chornobyl exclusion zone in search of Tatiana and answers, armed with a portal gun and not much else.

You turn up half-dead to an empty warehouse to meet a slightly mental ex-soldier, and as you progress through the game you recruit more companions, complete missions, gather resources and generally get ready for the final mission, a journey into the power plant itself to get the truth about what really happened in 1986.
You can attempt one mission per in-game day, and there's a mix of story missions and resource gathering to move you forward. You can send your companions on missions as well, with varying chances of success. You can improve the odds by gearing them up with weapons and armour, although they might still fail and come back injured or psychologically damaged, which can happen to you too. You also need to keep an eye on your base, as failure to improve the facilities has negative effects on the group.

The missions themselves take place in one of five or six areas around Chornobyl, all 3D-modelled on the real thing. If there's a particular objective it's marked on your compass along with the distance, and you can ping the surrounding area to find resources like ammo and supplies. NPCs and random events also appear on your compass, but enemies don't, and they also don't show up on ping, meaning you have to sneak around unless you're feeling supremely confident in your shooting skills. Sadly, the shooting elements feel a bit stiff and outdated, so hiding in the shadows is the better option. You can sneak up behind enemies and silently take them out, although there's no way to hide the bodies, meaning you have to keep moving.
Progressing through the missions nets you clues to some of the game's key mysteries: who is the mysterious, deadly Black Stalker that follows you around, what really happened to Tatyana and what's the link between Chernobylite - the mysterious element that powers your portal gun - and the supernatural enemies that teleport in and cause you trouble? Once you gather enough clues and info you can use an in-game VR helmet to play through special levels to find the answers.

As already hinted at, here's a large mix of gameplay elements in this game: base building, shooting, stealth, crafting, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R-esque supernatural elements, all wrapped up in a survival horror shooter/RPG. This adds to the longevity but means that the game suffers a little from a lack of focus and polish. 

For example, you can build facilities like sleeping areas, seating, TVs and radios to upgrade your base stats, but your companions just stand around and don't interact with them. This makes you feel you're doing it for the sake of it - so should it even be in the game? 
That said, crafting upgrades for your weapons is really well implemented. You can improve lots of aspects of your gun, like triggers, stocks, magazines, sights and barrels, to arrive at the perfect specs for your next mission.

One thing the game has in spades is atmosphere. The levels are dark and quiet for the most part, which leads to tense moments where you're tiptoeing around hoping the soldier three feet away won't spot you and open fire. On top of this, the default language is Russian with subtitles, which really adds to the immersion.

I never played the original, previous-generation version of Chernobylite, but some research suggests big improvements in stability and framerate, although I did get kicked to the main menu a couple of times when exiting missions. Luckily I never lost any progress, as some of the missions are tough, or annoying to get through.

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