In Chernobylite you play Igor Khymynuk, a scientist who, when inexplicably returning to Chernobyl, seems to be haunted by the spirit of his girlfriend Tatayana, who disappeared 35 years ago just before the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster and subsequent evacuation of the city near the reactor, Pripyat (Prypyat). Tatya (for short) appears to you frequently in visions or hallucinations, it's not clear which, as breathing the Chernobylite gas is known to cause hallucinations… Oh yes, and of course there's the radiation to worry about... and death.
Flashbacks in the form of dream sequences slowly fill in the backstory. The first is a haunting scene in which you chase after Tatya, only to find that she vanishes as you reach her. It's an emotional start and the game keeps emotions high throughout. After a confusing few moments you return to "reality" in your workshop and are introduced in a very gentle way to the game's crafting element. Anyone put off by the very mention of "crafting" should know that the items required are easy to find and preparing your first item (the initially inoperable Portal Generator) takes mere seconds.
It's pretty obvious from the start that Chernobylite isn't a fast-paced first person shooter, and it soon becomes apparent that it's a plot-driven first person adventure with RPG elements, and is a real explorer's game. You'll be delighted that Igor was clever enough to invent his hand scanner, which will highlight useful pickups in your area. They won't all just be lying around though, and you will still have to figure out how to access many of them. This could be because they're behind a fence, or locked doors, or even appear to be underground. Picking stuff up (everything from electronic parts to weapons and mushrooms) soon becomes second nature, and thankfully you have a good-sized inventory.
Once settled at your refuge you can choose a mission to do each day and one for each of your team, which initially consists of just you and a bloke called Olivier. You have to keep both your health and psyche up, and your companions' too. This can be done in as simple a way as giving them a medikit, or such things as making machines to generate electricity or improve the refuge's air quality.
There's quite a bit of RPG-like micro management available, and a large number of upgrades that you can craft for the refuge; beds, lighting, partition walls, TVs, radios even a plant or two... and these all help keep the team healthy, rested and their morale up, as well as making the place look more homely.
Controls are pretty standard, movement on the left stick, aim/look on the right. Sprint is on the left stick button (L3), crouch-B, flashlight R3. Your inventory map and skills tree are available by pressing 'Y' and there's a quick menu on the D-pad for weapons and gadgets that you can assign as you wish.
Chernobylite is the "stuff" formed when the reactor meltdown occurred, and a chunk of it acts as an "exotic energy source" that powers Igor's Portal Generator, a device which appears to be a cordless drill with a hypodermic needle bodged on top and a jubilee clip around it. Looks aren't everything and this gadget rips a hole in time and space that allows Igor to teleport from location to location instantly (although this is usually only used to return to base after a mission.) You eventually discover that this Chernobylite substance can even enable you to time travel and re-write time. Any more than that and I'm heading into spoiler country, so I'll shut up now.
Your companions will attempt any mission and their health & psyche will have an effect on the likelihood of their success. They won't perform story missions for you though, but can perform a reconnaissance run on the mission which will make the mission easier when you attempt it.
All of the acting is a bit stilted, possibly due some dodgy dialogue and things getting lost in translation. I wasn't impressed by award-winning voice actor Ian Russell as the voice of Igor, he sounds far too English and a hint of a Russian accent wouldn't have gone amiss. You can of course play the game with the original Russian voices and subtitles, but I didn't fancy a reading game on my brand new PS5.
The weather is variable in Chernobyl and this can affect the gameplay. Rain mutes sounds and fog makes it easier for you to be sneaky. Sneaking through the thick undergrowth is very atmospheric and taking down enemies silently is very satisfying. There are plenty of opportunities for sniping (once you've upgraded your weapons with scopes) or "going Rambo" with an AK-47, but the game, and Igor's character, suits the subtle approach.
Chernobylite looks really nice, with a particularly pretty forest in which most of the gameplay is set. It does look gloomy at times (you'll be glad of your flashlight) but sunny and cheerful at others, and the structures and deserted and decaying buildings of Pripyat look suitably grotty. Although mostly solid I did have one silly glitch when I chambered into a building through a closed window and couldn't get back out. Fortunately I could use the Portal Generator to escape back to the refuge, but it resulted in a "Failed Mission" - all because I'd gone exploring before reaching the objective–lesson learned.
Chernobylite is an absorbing, good-looking adventure/RPG, and it didn't pass me by that it's set in recent times in Ukraine. It probably won't appeal to the CoD or Halo crowd looking for another "twitch" shooter, but if you want a first person sci-fi game that's a bit different, I can highly recommend it.